A traveling ICU doctor blames politics, mixed messages for spiking coronavirus cases: 'These people really didn't need to die'

Jacquie Cosgrove
·4 mins read

As coronavirus cases in the US reach 2,545,250, Arizona broke the record with the highest single-day increase, with 3,591 new cases on June 27th.

Meanwhile, Scottsdale Councilman, Guy Phillips made headlines last week when he announced, “I can’t breathe” — the last words of Eric Garner and George Floyd that’s become a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement — before removing his face-mask during an anti-mask rally. This falls in line with a worrisome trend of public leaders speaking out against the use of protective face coverings, something that experts say is vital in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

“What bothers the healthcare workers is mixed messaging from our leaders,” traveling critical care specialist Dr. Luis Rosario tells Yahoo Life, “Why do you have to politicize a mask? I will never understand that.”

“Why do you have to politicize a mask? I will never understand that.” Dr. Luis Rosario

Rosario is currently working 12-hour night shifts in a Miami ICU, but since late March he has traveled to hospitals throughout the U.S., wherever critical care is needed most. Rosario tells Yahoo Life that while watching the virus travel from state to state, he has seen it devastate already struggling communities disproportionately.

During his time working in the ICU in Guilford County, North Carolina, Rosario said he witnessed the Black community being hit extremely hard by the virus. Patients of all ages filled the ICU, many of who didn’t make it out alive, he says.

“We would get three or four cardiac arrest per night,” he says, “and that was everyday, everyday, everyday, for weeks.”

During his time working in an ICU in Arizona, Rosario treated hundreds of patients from the Navajo Nation, a community filled with multi-generational households that have been ravaged by the coronavirus. Many of these individuals, Rosario says, don’t have their cases recorded, and no contact tracing takes place within their community.

Navajo elder Emerson Gorman with his family in Steamboat Arizona
Navajo elder Emerson Gorman with his family in Steamboat Arizona

“A family member told me that there were six people from their family that have died, including Navajo nation elders,” Rosario shares, “and they don't even count them in the statistics.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Arizona has seen an increase of 24,110 in just the last week, while Florida and Texas have seen 46,897 and 40,988 new cases in the last week, respectively.

“Phoenix and Miami have a lot of flights, a lot of connections.” Rosario tells Yahoo Life, “People are going to move and travel. So eventually, it's going to go somewhere else, too, which is why I'm so worried.”

What makes his plight all the more difficult, Rosario tells Yahoo Life, is that he feels many of these deaths were avoidable based on what should have been learned from the the surge in Northeastern states in March and April.

“I don't blame people for the surge in March and April, because we were not informed in time,” Rosario tells Yahoo Life. “But now we have all the facts, now there's no excuse. We know what to do, but we are just sitting around and watching it happen.”

Rosario urges individuals to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and social distance from others. He suggests Americans “not listen” to politicians and leaders who speak out against the use of masks and encourage crowded bars and restaurants to remain open.

“Decisions are being made irresponsibly, not following the science and the data,” he says. “We are the ones that are going to see these people suffer, and many of these people really didn’t need to die.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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