Health care workers across the country have been under tremendous strain as they grapple with surging coronavirus caseloads — with no end to the pandemic in sight.
This month, the U.S. hit a staggering new record of more than 302,500 new cases daily, according to Johns Hopkins University. Just this week, the country reached an all-time single-day high of 4,462 deaths.
Lydia Mobley, an intensive care unit nurse, has witnessed the abysmal human toll firsthand.
NPR last spoke with Mobley in November, when she had just started working at a hospital in central Michigan. Back then, at the start of her 10-week contract with Fastaff Travel Nursing, she said her co-workers were already burned out.
It wasn't until some of her patients fell ill that they expressed regret for not heeding the health warnings, she said.
Now, even in the pandemic's deadliest days, Mobley says many people in her community haven't changed their attitudes or behaviors.
"It's really a slap in the face to be honest," she says in an interview on Thursday with All Things Considered. "You know, we see these commercials — 'Thank you health care heroes' — or see these billboards, and then you go to the grocery store, the gas station when you have to, and you see people not wearing masks. And then you go to work and you watch people die."
"I think if the public really wants to thank us, that they will start taking things seriously and just start wearing their masks and start social distancing," she says.
Although the initial distribution of the country's first coronavirus vaccines gave Mobley hope at first, her optimism has since faded as she watches what she describes as a "poorly managed" rollout.
This week, the Trump administration revised its vaccine distribution strategy in an attempt to accelerate a vaccination campaign that's been criticized for its sluggish pace.
In order to inoculate more Americans more quickly, the administration is now calling on states to administer a first dose to all people 65 and older and to those with underlying health conditions. The federal government's previous policy required holding millions of doses in reserve until a smaller pool of Americans could receive their second of two recommended doses.
The wait has been "frustrating" and "scary" for Mobley.
"By the time of my second vaccine I felt a lot less hope because, yes, I have my doses but none of my family or friends have theirs yet," says the ICU nurse. "It makes me mad that, we have all these doses, we should be a lot farther ahead of where we are and we're not."
Christopher Intagliata, Elena Burnett and Carol Klinger produced and edited the audio interview. Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.