DOUBLEDUTY: Legislators who are also health care professionals are serving on two fronts these days.

Author:Weiss, Suzanne

Amid the nation's worst public health crisis in a century, a growing number of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals serving in state legislatures have answered the call to help on--and behind--the front lines.

Some are working 12-hour shifts doing triage and treating patients at beleaguered hospitals in their districts. Others are working as paramedics or volunteering at local clinics, and still others are playing key roles in coordinating their states' or counties' response to the crisis.

At the epicenter of the pandemic, New York Assemblywoman Karines Reyes (D) returned in early April to her job as a nurse at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx after she learned of the severe staffing shortage there. Around the same time, Tennessee Senator Katrina Robinson (D), an intensive-care nurse, left her home in Memphis to volunteer her services in New York City.

Hospitals Working at Capacity

In Colorado, which has among the highest rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the West, Kyle Mullica (D), a House freshman, has been working long shifts as an emergency room nurse at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, one of the state's largest hospitals.

Reyes and Mullica describe their experiences over the past several weeks as harrowing.

"It's like nothing I've ever seen," said Reyes, who participated in relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. In an interview with the New York Post, she described nightmarish conditions while working the medical/surgical units and said she was stunned by how quickly patients suffering from the virus deteriorated.

When asked how many of her patients have died, she answered simply, "Too many." She said the hospital is "at capacity" and most of the floors have been devoted entirely to treating coronavirus patients. Even family waiting areas had hospital beds in them after they were converted into medical rooms, Reyes told the newspaper.

"It's almost like you can see a tsunami coming--and there's nothing that you can do about it," Mullica said in an audio diary he recorded for The Colorado Sun, a Denver-based news outlet, in early April. "What's so scary about this is we have no tools. All hospitals are able to do--until they figure out antivirals--is treat those symptoms. And as a provider, for me at least, that's really scary. That scares the hell out of me."

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Some legislators are working where the battle...

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