Houston doctor hugs COVID-19 patient in ICU on Thanksgiving in viral photo

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Officials already prepare for a post-holiday surge in COVID case
"Good Morning America's" report on the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, Nov. 29.

HOUSTON, Texas -- A photo of a Houston doctor has gone viral after it showed him hugging and comforting a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit on Thanksgiving.

The photo of Dr. Joseph Varon and the patient was taken in the ICU at United Memorial Medical Center.

Health officials and city leaders have repeatedly urged now that we're in the holiday season, people should stay away from crowded spaces, wear masks and wash their hands. They also fear things will get worse.

"I truly believe that the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest weeks in modern American medical history," Varon said.

Texas set a new record high for cases the day before Thanksgiving.

Varon says the holiday was his 252nd workday in a row.

"I have nurses who, in the middle of the day, are crying because, you know, they keep on getting patients, and there are just not enough nurses that can help us," Varon described.

With more than half the United States recording record-high daily hospitalizations this past week, significant restrictions are on the way.

A three week, stay-at-home order starts Monday in Los Angeles. Restaurants there are already limited to takeout and delivery only.

While vaccine breakthroughs are showing hope on the horizon, extensive work is underway to prepare the supply chain.

For example, Pfizer's vaccine needs to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, around 94 degrees below zero. That means niche freezer companies like Stirling Ultracold have to substantially step up their output to match the demand.

"The two-dose scenario, 14 billion vaccines globally, that in itself starts to add up," said Stirling Ultracold CEO Dusty Tenney.

But more big vaccine news could come this week.

A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.