This Houston hospital is a perfect microcosm of how coronavirus escalates

Now there are three.

He still has not done so.

At the time, ICU nurse Tanna Ingraham even struggled with the disease after getting it from a patient, she believes.

She recovered, but got it again. “It’s like hell and back,” she says of 2020.

Dr.  Joseph Varon
From bad to worse, this hospital is a perfect microcosm of how the disease is escalating – even as vaccines are rolled out across the country.

“The next six weeks will be the darkest weeks in modern American medical history,” Varon says. “We are right at Christmas where people do not listen.”

Cases are exploding all over Texas. The seven-day average of positive cases is at a record high – averaging over 16,000 daily new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. This average has increased by 15% compared to last week.

Lone Star State rolls

Approximately 40% of Covid-19 patients in the hospital are from other parts of the state recovering from the pandemic.

Walter Cuellar was transferred from West Texas about 800 miles away. He thinks he and his wife picked up the virus at the supermarket. She had mild symptoms. Today he is fine, but when he arrived, he was almost put on a fan.

“Where I live, there are a lot of people where they don’t wear the mask,” he says. “There have been many times that I go to the store with my wife and she and I were the only ones who wore a mask and others had no mask on at all.”

Bri Smith works with foreign exchange students and recently moved to Columbus, approximately 117 miles west of Houston. Wife and mother of three also think she got the virus while shopping.

Dr.  Joseph Varon talks to a patient in the ICU unit during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life,” Smith says. “The pains and the pain.”

Varon says patients are getting sicker now, after waiting longer to seek medical attention.

“Our average patient has spent about 20 days with symptoms before they come to us,” he says. In the last few months, the hospital has used various ways to treat the disease.

Richard Gonzales thought he could challenge it, so he resisted going to the hospital for a week. He works two jobs, has a wife and five children and is not sure how he got the virus.

“I messed up a bit because I got the symptoms when I got it, I should have been in the hospital or ER right away, but I didn’t. I was lying in bed thinking it would go away.”

‘It’s like we’re forgotten’

For Varon and the staff, the frustrations continue.

“Even if I give them holy water, it will be hard for them to get better,” Varon says.

ICU nurse Tanna Ingraham when she was undergoing treatment.

Varon – who has been called a “Covid hunter” and has a license plate that says the same thing – first received the Moderna vaccine on Monday to assure staff and the minority community that the vaccine is safe.

Dr. John Okereke, director of emergency services, was also vaccinated. He is black and says it is crucial for minorities to seek treatment and take the vaccine when it is available.

Okereke says doctors are “ecstatic” about the vaccinations.

“When you watch television, you don’t really know what the doctors are going through,” he says. “You have no idea what we’m going through. Sometimes we’m really scared of getting the disease.”

The vaccines could not come at a better time. Hospital admissions have continued to climb across the state with 10,000 patients from Monday, according to the COVID Tracking Project – a level not seen since July.

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Texas has registered 113,049 new Covid-19 cases over the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins. This is the second highest state in all behind California.

Ingraham, the nurse, says she is stressed by the ongoing battle against the disease and she has a message about the toll it has inflicted on her and others at the hospital.

“It’s like we do not exist,” she says. “You are aware that we are still here and taking care of these people who are endangering my life, my child’s life, my mother’s life.

“I want to be forgotten, literally.”

CNN’s Haley Brink contributed to this report.