Heartbreaking Photo Of ICU Doctor Embracing COVID-19 Patient Goes Viral

by Kristine Cannon
houston icu doctor embraces covid-19 patient
Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Thanksgiving marked Houston doctor Joseph Varon’s 252nd consecutive day of work

As millions of Americans hopped on flights to visit family this Thanksgiving — against the wishes of doctors and experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci — healthcare workers continued working in ICUs across the country as the COVID-19 virus rages on throughout the U.S. Thanksgiving Day for one such doctor, Dr. Joseph Varon at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, marked his 252nd consecutive day of work — and it was recognized via heartbreaking photo that’s since gone viral, showing the physician wearing full personal protective gear while embracing an elderly COVID-19 patient.

One day before the photo was taken, Varon sat down for an interview with CNN’s New Day, stating that he expects an influx of sick patients after Thanksgiving.

“My concerns for the next six to 12 weeks is that if we don’t do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” the chief medical officer said.

“My hospital is full,” Varon continued. “I just opened two new wings so that I can accommodate for the next few days, because I know that a lot of people are going to get sick after Thanksgiving.”

Varon added that he — much like countless other healthcare workers across the country — is “running out of fumes,” but that he can’t get a day off because “nobody cares for the patients that I can care for.”

“My nurses in the middle of the day, they will start crying … When they finish finally getting a patient in, they get a phone call from the ER that there is another patient that is being admitted,” Varon said. “How have I done it? I don’t know. I’m running out of fumes.”

Varon continued, addressing people not wearing masks, social distancing, or following other CDC-recommended guidelines. “You go outside, and it’s like nothing has happened,” he said. “People are out there, restaurants, bars, I mean, just name it.”

Last week, Dr. Fauci told USA Today that Thanksgiving may mark the beginning of a dark holiday season, especially as coronavirus cases continue to worsen through the winter months.

“If the surge takes a turn of continuing to go up and you have the sustained greater than 100,000 infections a day and 1,300 deaths per day and the count keeps going up and up … I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving,” he said.

Fauci, unlike the aforementioned millions of Americans, decided against gathering with his three daughters who live in different parts of the country and instead opted for a much smaller Thanksgiving celebration with his wife. And he’ll do the same for Christmas this year.

“For my own family, I’m saying we had a really great Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. We’re looking forward to a really great Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2021,” he said. “Let’s now make the best of the situation and show our love and affection for people by keeping them safe.”

As of Sunday, Johns Hopkins University reports more than 13.2 million confirmed cases and more than 266K deaths in the U.S. — far surpassing the second-most impacted country in the world, Brazil, which has more than 9.3 million cases and 172K deaths.

That said, wear a damn mask.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.