With US coronavirus cases surging, the AP Road Trip team met a Mississippi man longing for his wife, hospitalized with COVID-19 for four months. This is a love story. But also a story of the virus, who it strikes, and who takes it seriously. (Oct. 29)
The claim: This photo shows a doctor embracing a patient with COVID-19
People Magazine recently took to Instagram to share a striking photo of a doctor — clad in masks, goggles, face shield, gown, and gloves — embracing a coronavirus patient.
“In a heartbreaking photo, a doctor in full personal protective equipment hugs an elderly patient suffering from the novel coronavirus, serving as a reminder of the human toll and impact of the virus during the holiday season,” the caption read. “The photo, taken on Thanksgiving, marked Dr. Joseph Varon’s 252nd straight day of working in the hospital.”
People Magazine has not responded to a request from USA TODAY for comment.
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Patient was ‘vulnerable’ and ‘lonely’ when he received hug from doctor
Photographer Go Nakamura captured the image inside an intensive care unit in Houston on Nov. 26 — Thanksgiving Day.
He told USA TODAY he has visited the ICU at United Memorial Medical Center about 20 times to document “people suffering and dying” as a result of the pandemic.
Nakamura said the patient in the viral photo was clearly feeling “vulnerable” and “lonely” when he received an embrace from Dr. Joseph Varon, the hospital’s chief of staff.
“I am grateful to witness a wonderful moment and I thank all the medical staffs for their hard work even during the holiday season,” Nakamura wrote on Facebook.
Just a day before the photo was taken, Varon told CNN’s New Day that the pandemic had pushed him to work for 251 days straight.
“It’s taking a huge toll, not only on me,” he said. “My nurses in the middle of the day, they will start crying, because they are getting so many patients, and it’s a never-ending story.”
“How have I done it? I don’t know. I’m running out of fumes,” he added. “I can’t get a day off because nobody cares for the patients that I can care for.”
Varon also emphasized how critical the next few months will be in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“If we don’t do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” he said.
More snapshots of Varon, his staff, and his patients are available from Getty Images.
Our rating: True
Based on our research, the claim that this photo shows a doctor embracing a patient with COVID-19 is TRUE. Photographer Go Nakamura captured the image inside an intensive care unit in Houston on Thanksgiving Day. Details about its subject, Dr. Joseph Varon, are also true.
Our fact-check sources:
- People Magazine, Nov. 29, Instagram post
- USA TODAY, Nov. 30, Photo shows doctor embracing a ‘vulnerable,’ ‘lonely’ COVID-19 patient on Thanksgiving
- Go Nakamura, Nov. 26, Facebook post
- New Day, Nov. 25, tweet
- Getty Images, accessed Nov. 30, Go Nakamura
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