Chicago COVID: ER nurse shares fatigue, frustration as delta variant spreads, cases climb again

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago emergency room nurse is sharing his story about COVID fatigue and concerns about the delta variant - and it comes with a plea for people to get vaccinated as cases continue to climb.

Bill Kneitz has been an ER nurse for more than two decades. He said the last 18 months have been among the most challenging of his career.

"You know, in the ER, we're used to working fast and working busy. But there are lulls where we have quiet and we haven't had one of those in the last, I'd say, the last six months have been some of the busiest I've had in my career," said Kneitz who works at Rush University Medical Center.

The Delta variant is a significant factor. And then there's concerns about diminishing antibodies from the vaccine.

"I got my first one in December and I got my second one in January. So we're coming up on, depending on what the CDC says, it's usually six to nine months where we're kind of immune, so we're getting kinda close to that window," Kneitz said.

When the pandemic first hit, frontline health care workers were widely hailed as heroes. Now, Kneitz says he's seeing attitudes change.

"Now we hear from patients, and I hear people on the street saying that, you know, we were the ones that are keeping this vaccine. We're the ones keeping COVID going. We're the ones that are spreading this because we're in the hospital. So it's very frustrating," Kneitz said.

Rush University Medical Center has notified staff that by October 1, everyone must be vaccinated. It's something that leaves Kneitz a bit torn.

"For those who don't want the vaccine if you mandate that and then we end up losing staff over it, I don't know if that makes us safer or if that makes us more unsafe," Kneitz said.

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And then there's the continued vaccine hesitancy among a certain portion of the general public, including people getting treated at Rush.

Even though there has not been a sharp rise in COVID hospitalizations in Chicago due to the delta variant, healthcare workers like Kneitz wish more people would get vaccinated.

"There's so much information out there that proves that these vaccinations work that we get a little frustrated. I mean, I'm not even gonna lie. We're a little frustrated that people aren't taking us as seriously as it as it is," Kneitz said.

But Kneitz says he and his colleagues will continue soldiering on, and wearing their masks.

"I do not ever see a day where I'm not gonna wear a mask. I just can't fathom that," Kneitz said.
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