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Live updates on the coronavirus pandemic

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Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief medical officer at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, gets home after a long day at work.
Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief medical officer at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, gets home after a long day at work. Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Dr. Joseph Varon hasn’t had a day off in months.

Friday was his 134th consecutive day leading the coronavirus unit at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center.

“If you ask me how the hell have I been able to survive for 134 days nonstop, I guess it’s adrenaline,” he said. “But I’m running on fumes. It’s tough.”

And last week was his toughest yet. With Houston dealing with a surge in Covid-19 cases, he signed more death certificates than he has at any point in his career.

“People were dying every day,” he said.

Varon and his team go over patient files during a daily meeting. “I’m afraid that at some point in time I'm going have to make some very serious decisions,” Varon said in July. “I’m starting to get the idea that I cannot save everybody.”
Varon and his team go over patient files during a daily meeting. “I’m afraid that at some point in time I’m going have to make some very serious decisions,” Varon said in July. “I’m starting to get the idea that I cannot save everybody.” Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Varon’s workday starts early. Around 4:30 or 5 a.m., he heads to the hospital and goes straight to the coronavirus unit where he and his team go over each patient’s case.

Then he starts making the rounds.

“He’s involved with everything and very, very personal,” said photographer Callaghan O’Hare, who shadowed him several times over the past month. “He will sit on the bed with people and give them hugs and have a chat. It’s pretty incredible to watch.”

Caring for the coronavirus patients takes a minimum of 10 hours each day, Varon said. After that, he meets with his other patients in the hospital — the ones who don’t have coronavirus.

“If I am lucky, I get home before 10 o’clock at night. If I’m not lucky, which is most of the time, I make it home around midnight,” he said.

Read more here.



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