From New York to Arizona, traveling nurse stays vigilant during COVID-19 pandemic

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After working eight weeks in the coronavirus ICU at NYU, registered nurse Sharlene Jenkins is traveling to Arizona. She says she’s nervous but prepared. Photo by Holly Fain.

LA County broke another record in new cases on Tuesday, with more than 4200. Hospitalizations are also at the highest rate ever here, with about 2000 people being treated. Nationally, the picture looks worse. The country is on its way to topping 70,000 new cases a day. The number of people dying is ticking up too. 

Remember the images of hospitals lined with body bags and the death toll from New York? Even with COVID-19 deaths on the rise, they don’t compare to the number of deaths the Tri-State area saw. 

Traveling nurse Sharlene Jenkins was in New York during this time. She spoke to KCRW just before she took an assignment in the COVID Intensive Care Unit at NYU. 

“Every shift you would see the carts that carry the dead bodies down to the morgue rolling by. It’d be like, ‘Oh, somebody else died.’ And I would see that a few times per shift.”

She spent eight weeks in New York. Her next COVID assignment is in her home state of Arizona, which has become another hotspot of the pandemic. She expects it to be similar to her experience in New York, and she feels nervous but prepared.

“It’s always that thing in the back of my mind of ‘Oh my God, what if I get it?’” she says. “But I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and … stay vigilant.”

She says she thinks the country opened too fast, and needs to shut down again. “The nurse in me, and the mother in me, is like, ‘Please, really? Just go home.’”