The support for nurses demonstrating outside South Coast Global Medical Center is clear. It was one of four protests at Orange County hospitals. Nurses say that their safety and patient lives are at risk after the state allowed their hospital, part of KPC Health, to increase the patient to nurse ratio in the middle of a pandemic.
"So instead of giving us more nurses we got more work. Patients are going to die, nurses are gonna break, nurses are exhausted," says Karen Rodriguez, a registered nurse.
Nurses say that they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, shifts go as long as 16 hours, four to five days a week, code after code, leaving them exhausted, waking up anxious in the middle of the night.
"It might be surge after surge and who knows, and they're not preparing for the worst," says Irene Brown, South Coast Global Medical Center ICU nurse
"I don't have any more to give when I get home, and that's really unfair to my family and myself because I just want to rest," says Vanessa Aguilar
She says it's also unfair to patients. Aguilar had this heartbreaking admission: Some may have made it if we had more resources.
On the cracked country roads of Lexington, deep in the Mississippi delta, an empty yellow school bus drives slowly, making life-sustaining drop offs on the way.
Here, in the poorest county, in America’s poorest state, the coronavirus has yet to ravage the jurisdiction with infection. There has been one recorded Covid-19 death in the county, Clinton Cobbins, Lexington’s first African American mayor. But even now the coronavirus still poses a serious threat to life.
In Holmes county consolidated – the school district to which Lexington belongs – every single child qualifies for free school meals, a marker of pervasive poverty. For many, said superintendent Dr James L Henderson, breakfast and lunch at school are the only nutritious meals a student will eat in a day. For a few, they are the only meals.
When the coronavirus pandemic led to statewide school closures, Henderson, who was born in the county, left for most of his adult life, but returned in 2018 to assume his position, was left with a significant dilemma: how to feed the 3,000 children under his authority.
Evan Ruggiero has always moved to his own beat. At the age of 6, he fell in love with tap dancing. But, at age 19, a bone cancer diagnosis cost Evan his right leg and threatened to end his dancing dreams. Nevertheless, he kept his hopes up, fighting cancer one step at a time. Less than a week after his final chemo session, Evan was back in the studio, learning to dance with a prosthetic. Now, he’s lighting up the world with his unique brand of dance.