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"Bravery, courage, and sacrifice": Photo shows health care workers on plane to New York to join coronavirus battle

Coronavirus and doctors on the frontline
Doctors treating coronavirus say they're doing their best, "but it feels like wartime" 13:33

As New York struggles to get ahead of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic, makeshift hospitals and volunteer health care workers are arriving in the city to help ease the burden. Officials in the state have put out a call for more supplies and personnel, and on Friday, a fleet of health care workers from Atlanta answered that plea.

More than a dozen health care professionals boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to New York, the airline announced on Instagram, sharing a photo from the plane. Southwest employee Dayartra Etheridge snapped the photo, which showed rows and rows of passengers holding up their hands to form a heart.

Virus Outbreak Plane Photo
This Friday, March 27, 2020, photo provided by Southwest Airlines employee Dayartra Etheridge shows health care workers, other passengers and flight crew aboard a Southwest flight from Atlanta to New York's LaGuardia Airport holding their hands in the shape of a heart, before the plane pushed back from the gate, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Dayartra Etheridge / AP

Some of the hands were gloved but everyone in the photo had one thing in common — they were all smiling. Southwest shared Etheridge's photo, writing that it "embodies it all: bravery, courage, and sacrifice."

"These brave souls soldier on in the midst of tremendous risk and exposure, constantly putting the needs of others above their own," Southwest wrote. "Their selfless sacrifice is a beacon of light during such a dark time in our world, and no amount of gratitude and praise would ever be enough."

"Because of their courage, our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, and more have a fighting chance," the post continued.

This plane full of health care workers is just a fraction of the additional 40,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals who have signed up to join the health care force in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this figure last Wednesday, saying mental health professionals are also volunteering to provide free counseling. "That's a big, big deal," he said.

Health care professionals on the front lines of this battle have faced several challenges, including a lack of personal protective equipment and the risk of contracting the virus themselves. Many individuals and companies have thanked health care workers in a number of unique ways.

Companies like Crocs, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme have announced they will give free goods to health care workers during this time. And some people are thanking workers by sending food to hospitals. Last week Bill and Hillary Clinton sent more than 400 pizzas to employees at every hospital in Westchester County, New York, to thank them for their tireless effort.

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