'More stressed than normal': How North Carolina frontline workers are spending Thanksgiving amid COVID-19 pandemic

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- This Thanksgiving, it's business as usual for healthcare workers in North Carolina hospitals amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Lina Zabala cleans areas at WakeMed where COVID-19 patients are treated and Thanksgiving is no different.

"We need to sanitize every room after the patient (leaves) and now the cases (have) increased and (we're) short, sometimes, for people to help us," Zabala said. "We need to. We need to come."

Cindy Lewis, nursing supervisor at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh, is also working this holiday as COVID-19 cases increase in our state.

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"I think it is a lot busier than some of the Thanksgivings that I have worked and actually, we're probably quite a bit higher, you know, on our COVID numbers than we are just from last week," Lewis said. "We were, this time last week, at 27 patients. Today, we have 41 COVID positive patients at the present time."

"I think all of us are feeling a lot more stressed than normal," Lewis said. "This has been going on for a very long time and I think staff are working hard. They're working extra long hours. So I think the frontline staff are really getting very tired."

Lewis is working a 12-hour shift.

"Actually it's not that bad working on the holidays," Lewis said. "I think everybody comes together on holidays and know that they have a mission to take care of patients that are here. Our hospital is very full, our census is high."

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Lewis and Zabala are scaling back their Thanksgiving celebrations due to the pandemic.

Zabala is preparing a Thanksgiving meal with Dominican touches for her son and daughter instead of the usual gathering with extended family. Lewis is enjoying a traditional meal with her immediate family this weekend.

Despite a different Thanksgiving this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they say they have so much to be thankful for.

"I'm thankful for my family, of course, my children and my family and, you know, I'm thankful that I have a job that I can come to and that I can work and take care of people," Lewis said.

Zabala said she is also thankful for her family and her job.

"I'm working," Zabala said. "I'm happy because I have my job. A lot of people don't have a job, aren't working. It's a difficult year but for me, thank you, thank you God, for my job. I appreciate it."

Zabala and Lewis are encouraging everyone to take the COVID-19 safety precautions seriously during the holiday.

"Please in this season, please take care," Zabala said.

"Wear a mask and social distancing so that hopefully we can get a handle on this COVID because we are seeing it dramatically increase," Lewis said.
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