lines

health

On the front lines of Europe’s surging 2nd COVID crisis: Reporter’s Notebook

I’ve just left the intensive care unit of a hospital in Liege, Belgium. It’s impossible to know of course, but this is quite possibly the epicenter of Europe’s new coronavirus crisis.



a person standing in front of a refrigerator: A health worker standing in an intensive care unit treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker standing in an intensive care unit treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.

The city of about 200,000 residents nestled in eastern Belgium is at around a 41% infection rate, and the hospital is at full capacity. Intensive care unit numbers have tripled in three weeks. Belgium, which had 100 to 200 cases per day throughout June and early July, is now marking north of 10,000. On Oct. 25, it set a daily record with 17,709.

We stood outside one room — which patients are now forced to share due to overcrowding — to hear the groans of an elderly man who was just admitted. As doctors and nurses attended to him another ambulance swept up outside the window with another case.

MORE: Europe struggling with 2nd surge of COVID-19 case, and it may be worse than the 1st

The doctor guiding us on a tour admitted a chilling fact: health workers here (including himself) are now treating patients knowing they themselves have COVID-19.



a group of people standing in a room: Health workers take care of patients suffering from the coronavirus disease in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for COVID-19 patients, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
Health workers take care of patients suffering from the coronavirus disease in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for COVID-19 patients, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.



a person taking a selfie in a room: A health worker looks on in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker looks on in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.

It’s an ethical dilemma, but not a choice this doctor could make. He now tests negative, but he said if he and others like him do not continue working, the health system here would go under. The toll on health workers, already exhausted from the first wave, about to be exacerbated by the second.

Why is it so bad? COVID fatigue, he says. Belgium relaxed the measures that had kept the country safe and now are going to pay a price. Lots of testing, yes. But not so much tracing.

MORE: Further restrictions, curfews imposed in Europe as continent fights ‘second wave’ of coronavirus cases

But they have learned some important lessons from the first wave.



A health worker picks up utensils in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker picks up utensils in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.



a close up of a woman: A woman takes part in a demonstration at the hospital MontLegia, in Liege, gathering employees, and called by the Belgian trade union National Center of Employees, on Oct. 29, 2020 as the country faces a second wave of infections from COVID-19.


© John Thys/AFP via Getty Images
A woman takes part in a demonstration at the hospital MontLegia, in Liege, gathering employees, and called by the Belgian trade union National Center of Employees, on Oct. 29, 2020 as the country faces a second wave of infections from COVID-19.

We came across Florent, a 75-year-old man in the ICU who said he wanted to speak to us. Back in March, he

Read More
health

Long lines as Missouri medical marijuana dispensaries open

ST. LOUIS — Missouri’s first licensed marijuana dispensaries opened this weekend in the St. Louis area with long lines.

The two dispensaries run by N’Bliss opened Saturday in Ellisville and Manchester. Another dispensary is expected to open Monday in the Kansas City area nearly two years after Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow the sale of medical marijuana.

To buy the drug, people need approval from a doctor and a state medical marijuana card. Prices are expected to be high initially because the supply is limited in the state at this stage. N’Bliss was charging $125 for an eighth of an ounce of marijuana when it opened Saturday.

Kim Haller said she stood in line Saturday because she has long been frustrated with the high cost of medications and injections she uses to treat her multiple sclerosis. Recently, Haller said she had been buying marijuana from a licensed caregiver.

“It helps with my spasticity, which means my muscles don’t move like I like them to, and sleep,” Haller, 54, of St. Peters, said of the marijuana treatment.

In the Kansas City area, Brenda Dougherty said she hopes to be one of Fresh Green’s first customers when it opens this week in Lee’s Summit. The 57-year-old from Warrensburg said she believes marijuana will help relieve her chronic pain condition.

“I don’t want to take any more pills,” she said. “I know this will help. To be quite honest, I have tried it and, yes, it does help.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services expects most of the state’s 192 approved dispensaries to be open by the end of the year.

“Missouri patients have always been our North Star as we work to implement the state’s medical marijuana program,” Dr. Randall Williams, department director, said in a news release. “We greatly appreciate how hard everyone has worked so that patients can begin accessing a safe and well-regulated program.”

Read More