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Doctor who moved into his garage to protect newborn and family receives praise from Obama

Health care workers plead for safer measures
Health care workers plead for safer measures when treating coronavirus 06:00

Doctors and nurses struggling to keep up with the demands of the coronavirus pandemic are also fighting another battle, trying to keep themselves and their families safe. Many doctors are taking measures to help ensure they don't expose their families to the virus, and one doctor's story of vigilance has gained widespread attention — even a former president weighed in.

Dr. Rachel Patzer, an associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, wrote on Twitter that her husband, an emergency room doctor, is "actively treating coronavirus patients."

"We just made the difficult decision for him to isolate & move into our garage apartment for the foreseeable future as he continues to treat patients," Patzer's twitter thread reads.

She explained they have a 3-week-old newborn and two other young kids at home "and just can't risk it."

"As I attempt to home school my kids (alone) with a new baby who screams if she isn't held, I am worried about the health of my spouse and my family. This was not how I envisioned my maternity leave, but I know things could be worse," the thread continues.

"It pains me to wonder how many weeks will go by that he won't get to hold our new baby or see our older kids. This is one example of the sacrifice that healthcare workers are making for our communities," she writes. Patzer also issued an urgent plea for people take the threat seriously and practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of the virus.

"I hope the projections of infections and serious cases are incorrect. If not, our healthcare system will be overloaded," Patzer's thread continues. "And already we are seeing the strain. Please thank a healthcare worker for what they are doing and sacrificing."

Patzer's very real depiction of what it is like for a couple who works in the medical system and has young children during this time made an impact on thousands of people. Many parents replied that they too are struggling to juggle homeschooling their kids and their own work.

One person who made a point of highlighting the sacrifices of health care workers like Patzer's husband was former President Barack Obama. "We owe a profound debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and everybody who'll be on the front lines of this pandemic for a long while," Mr. Obama wrote, retweeting Patzer.

"They're giving everything. May we all model our own behavior on their selflessness and sacrifice as we help each other through this," his post reads.

The former president has been sharing resources and tips for dealing with the coronavirus via Twitter. His retweet of Patzer's story focuses attention on the human impact of this pandemic.

Many other doctors have expressed worries for their loved ones, knowing their work could expose them to the virus. Earlier this week, Dr. Zaheer Shah spoke to CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula about that looming anxiety. 

"Two of the most precious human beings in my life, my mother-in-law and my son, may also face potentially life-threatening consequences because of my decision to stay at my post, to stand on that wall, and protect my patients to the best of my ability," said Shah, who is a primary care physician in Arizona.

"As a parent, it's such a struggle to reconcile my professional duties and obligations with the fact that those very duties and obligations could hurt him," Shah said.

Dr. K. Kay Moody also spoke to Narula about the burden that has been placed on health care workers, who are risking their own lives to help others amid a shortage of masks and other protective supplies. "I think we forget that physicians and nurses and health care professionals are human too," Moody said. "We walk to the bedside, like we always do, but now we are knowing that we are not protected and we're facing our own death."

Moody, an emergency room physician in Washington, called for more personal protective equipment for health care workers to prevent them from succumbing to the illness. Otherwise, she cautioned, "our workforce is going to expose everyone who comes in." 

On Wednesday, President Trump announced he will invoke the Defense Production Act to help speed up and expand the production of medical supplies and equipment from the country's industrial base. The decision comes in response to concerns that the U.S. lacks a sufficient number of ventilators, masks, and other critical items needed to meet the demands of the pandemic.

After delays in rolling out widespread testing for the virus, Mr. Trump also announced that the country is ramping up capacity to test more people, a critical step to help protect health care workers and the public.

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