Now, there are three.
He hasn’t done it yet.
At that time, ICU nurse Tanna Ingraham was battling the disease herself, after taking it from a patient, she thinks.
She recovered, but she did it again. “It’s like hell and back,” she says around 2020.
“The next six weeks will be the darkest in the history of modern American medicine,” says Varon. “We are right during Christmas, where people are not listening.”
Cases are exploding across Texas. The seven-day average of positive cases is at a record high – an average of more than 16,000 new cases daily, according to Johns Hopkins University. This average is 15% higher than last week.
Lone Star State is reeling
About 40% of Covid-19 patients in the hospital are from other parts of the state, recovering from the pandemic.
Walter Cuellar was transferred from western Texas, about 500 miles away. He thinks he and his wife caught the virus at the supermarket. She had mild symptoms. Today, he is recovering, but when he arrived he was almost put on the respirator.
“Where I live, there are many people who don’t wear a mask,” he says. “I often go to the store with my wife and she and I were the only ones wearing a mask and other people weren’t wearing a mask.”
Bri Smith works with exchange students and recently moved to Columbus, about 73 miles west of Houston. The wife and mother of three children also think she caught the virus while shopping.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life,” says Smith. “Aches and pains.”
Varon says patients are getting sicker now, having waited longer to seek medical attention.
“Our average patient spent about 20 days with symptoms before they reached us,” he says. In recent months, the hospital has used different means of treating the disease.
Richard Gonzales thought he could take it, so he resisted for a week to go to the hospital. He works two jobs, has a wife and five children and is not sure how he got the virus.
“I kind of blew it because those symptoms I have, when I got it, I should have gone to the hospital or emergency room right away, but I didn’t. I lay in bed thinking it was going to go away.”
‘It’s like we’ve been forgotten’
For Varon and the team, frustrations continue to escalate.
“Even if I give them holy water, it will be difficult for them to improve,” says Varon.
Varon – who was nicknamed “Covid’s hunter” and has a license plate that says the same – was the first to receive the Modern vaccine on Monday to assure employees and the minority community that the vaccine is safe.
Dr. John Okereke, director of emergency services, was also vaccinated. He is black and says it is essential that minorities seek treatment and get the vaccine when available.
Okereke says doctors are “ecstatic” about vaccines.
“When you watch television, you don’t really know what doctors are going through,” he says. “You have no idea what we have been through. Sometimes we are very afraid of getting the disease.”
Vaccines couldn’t come at a better time. Hospitalizations continued to rise across the state, with 10,000 patients through Monday, according to the COVID Screening Project – a level not seen since July.
Texas recorded 113,049 new cases of Covid-19 in just the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins. This is the second highest total in the state, behind California.
Ingraham, the nurse, says she is stressed from the ongoing fight against the disease and has a message about the price this has caused her and others in the hospital.
“It’s as if we are nonexistent,” she says. “You know we are still here taking care of those people who put my life at risk, my son’s life at risk, my mother’s life.
“I feel like we’ve been forgotten, literally.”
CNN’s Haley Brink contributed to this report.