Metro ER doctor explains what it’s like to be on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic

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“It’s a disrespect for humankind. Think about not only elderly people, we’re seeing young people dying of this. We don’t know who it’s affecting. We don’t know how this virus is mutating as it’s made its way across the world,” Dr. Giselle Zagari said.

Dr. Zagari is not a medical expert somewhere else in the world or even across the country. She is an emergency room doctor right here in Oklahoma City at the only level one trauma hospital in the state. She lives here. She works here. She is a married mother of two children – ages one and three.

“I’ve been journaling to my children about what’s going on in the world in case something happens to me so that they can understand what I do for a living,” she said.

And what she does to save lives. Right now, that is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oklahoma.

“It is very serious. Not because of the numbers we are reporting, but because of the numbers that we don’t know about,” Zagari said. “We don’t have enough tests out there to test everybody. So our numbers are deceivingly low. That’s very scary, because we know this incubates for two weeks, and anyone who is infected can be without symptoms and touching surfaces for two weeks. It’s terrifying.”

When her shift is over in the middle of the night, she goes home to her family after being exposed to a virus that has brought the entire country and nearly world to a halt.

“I’m worried as a health care worker that my increased risk, I might not make it through this, and they might not have a mother,” she said.

She has emailed the mayor, city council members and the governor begging for a shutdown. Her request was partially granted Tuesday, March 24, after Governor Kevin Stitt ordered nonessential businesses to close and encouraged at-risk Oklahomans to stay home.

“I think it should be everyone,” Zagari said. “You send one person to the grocery store once a week, wipe everything down.”

Right now there are positive patients inside Oklahoma hospitals who are awaiting test results, and there are patients who are sent home because there simply are not enough tests. If they have symptoms, they have to assume they have coronavirus and self-isolate. If Oklahomans continue business as usual, Zagari fears the worst.

“People are going to die, and we’re going to experience New York numbers here probably within the next week or two,” she said. “It lives on surfaces for up to a week, and people shed the virus for up to 30 days we’re finding. The whole point of closing schools and closing restaurants is that we don’t go out and do these things, and people are continuing to do it.”

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