Fight against COVID-19 taking its toll on Northeast Florida health care workers on the front lines

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Consider the conundrum of health care professionals like emergency room doctors at hospitals like Orange Park Medical Center.

They have to balance their personal lives when they go home and what risks to expose their families to.

Thousands of doctors, nurses and medical technicians around the country are doing the opposite of what the rest of society is doing — they’re closing the distance and directly interacting with COVID-19 patients. It’s their job. But what happens when the workday is over?

The fight against the coronavirus is taking its toll on medical personnel’s family lives. Particularly personnel on the front lines who are directly interacting with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We have medical personnel knowingly putting themselves at risk to save lives,” Duval County Medical Society President Dr. James St. George said. “Just like soldiers, police officers, run toward danger every day, these individuals are on the front line every day taking care of patients.

St. George said some are making hard decisions.

“They’re separated from their families, children, spouses, aging parents. Indefinitely, of course,” he said. “Some are moving into separate quarters. Others are coming home, changing in the garage, showering. Living in separate parts of the houses. And every day with the worry they’ll bring the virus home to those most precious to them.”

The reality of this burden could be seen in a News4Jax story of a mother who’s also a paramedic and had to send her young child who has a heart defect to live with grandparents. She’s currently in quarantine so she can be reunited with her son after 14 days.

Every family is handling the situation differently.

One person who commented on a News4Jax Facebook post said, “I’m still coming home to my family. Where else would I go? What other choices do I have? I can’t afford a hotel room.”

Still, some aren’t working.

And Dr. St. George pointed out that this issue is worse for people who work in places like the ER, not necessarily a regular doctor’s office or medical lab where may have less risk of exposure.

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