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The physical and emotional toll of coronavirus as it surges across states

The U.S. has hit another record for new daily cases of COVID-19, with more than 144,000 reported on Wednesday. Hospitalizations have topped 65,000 for the first time, and 22 states are reporting more hospitalizations than at any time since the pandemic began. With health care workers exhausted and no end in sight, we hear from Americans directly affected by the worsening coronavirus surge.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. hit a new daily record of COVID-19 infections, with more than 144,000 reported yesterday. Hospitalizations topped 65,000 for the first time; 22 states are reporting more hospitalizations than at any time since the pandemic began. Deaths are up by 22 percent from a week ago.

    Let's look at how this is hitting a number of states especially hard, no matter which region.

    In El Paso, Texas, makeshift clinics outside hospitals are opening up, mobile morgues are moving in, and a lockdown of nonessential businesses has been extended. Testing lines are growing in Wisconsin. Cases there have jumped from 700 a day to more than 6,000 in two months.

    To deal with its surge, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a 10-person limit on social gatherings and a stay-at-home advisory for nonessential needs starting next week.

    And in South Dakota, the highest hospitalization rate in the country — one out of every 1,600 residents is hospitalized with COVID.

    We asked a small group of Americans how these surges are affecting their lives.

  • Dave Cayton:

    My name is Dave Cayton. I am a registered nurse at the medical intensive care unit and the COVID intensive care unit at United Hospital in downtown St. Paul.

  • Valerie Skrdlant:

    My name is Valerie Skrdlant. I'm from Des Moines, Iowa, West Des Moines, to be exact. And I'm a stay-at-home mom.

  • Jared Berger:

    My name is Jared Berger. I work in the culinary department at a senior living community, and I am in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Jennifer Kary:

    My name is Jennifer Kary, and I'm a substitute teacher. I live in Mandan, North Dakota.

  • Caroline Long:

    My name is Caroline Long, and I am a special education teacher with Minneapolis Public Schools.

  • Marie Cheslik:

    My name is Marie Cheslik. I'm a registered nurse in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Dave Cayton:

    I feel like I'm drowning. It's gotten to the point where, in the last month for sure, we have been completely full in the hospital.

    Every single COVID-designated room has been full. And even last week, we had every room in the intensive care unit was full. And we would just get patients rolling onto the unit with no open room to go to.

  • Jennifer Kary:

    I got sick on October 13, and, within a week, I found out that my husband, daughter, his best friend and about 10 other people all became positive within a week's worth of time.

  • Jared Berger:

    Every potential exposure that I have is a potential exposure to every single one of the 140 residents that I have to help make food for. And at the end of the day, I have to — the way I think about it is, would I be able to sleep at night or live with myself knowing that I could have potentially given this to somebody who couldn't fight it off?

  • Marie Cheslik:

    I find myself running, running, running and not finding time for breaks, and, again, sort of normal on a perspective of being a nurse.

    But the way that it's happening with COVID right now is that it's nonstop.

  • Caroline Long:

    There have been all these reports that it has a negative impact on communities of color. And having preexisting health conditions myself, and then being a woman of color, then I really worry about that.

  • Valerie Skrdlant:

    In a family-oriented state like Iowa, it's very hard. It's very stressful. And it's — it makes you feel like there will be some days where I feel like I'm the only one on board, or maybe me and just a few hundred people that live here are taking it seriously.

  • Dave Cayton:

    It's only seeming like it's getting worse. And I'm afraid for the future. The burnout is from knowing that it's not getting better.

  • Jennifer Kary:

    We generally only see maybe 10 percent of people wearing masks. They do not social distance. In fact, if you do wear a mask, you're often looked at like, oh, it's that crazy person who doesn't know how to live life.

  • Caroline Long:

    It's unfortunate that this pandemic has been made so — such a political argument. And I don't think that that needed to happen, because it's really about the safety of lives, the safety of people.

  • Marie Cheslik:

    I can be there for my patients, but, more and more, it's less of bedside, being there emotionally and physically for that person. It's being there on a very strict medical level.

  • Valerie Skrdlant:

    I will have days at a time where I just don't even leave the house. All I do is literally drop my son off at school and then pick them up, because I just want one less body out in the world that can be potentially getting this or spreading this.

  • Dave Cayton:

    I have held the hands of patients as they are dying. And I have had to tell family members that they can't come see their family members because they could potentially get the virus or spread the virus. And it's awful.

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