PORTLAND, Maine — COVID-19 fatigue is a term many of us have adopted into our vocabulary, as a result of the past 18 months and counting. The pandemic isn't over, though. Case counts are continuing to climb in Maine, which is why some people on the frontlines are speaking out about what they've been experiencing.
Shannon Calvert and Danielle Poulin are two nurses at Maine Medical Center (MMC) who work in the intensive care unit and have been doing so for the entire length of the pandemic. Calvert is 49 years old and has been working at MMC for 24 years -- four of them spent in the ICU. Poulin is 32 years old and has been working in MMC's ICU for seven years.
"It's hard to explain what we see and what we're going through," Poulin expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine about the job. "People can't obviously come in and visit the COVID ICUs."
Both women say they're exhausted and frustrated by recent COVID-19 trends. The most recent data from MMC as of Thursday, Sept. 2, indicates 29 people were hospitalized at the facility with COVID-19. Fourteen of them were in the ICU. Hospital officials say they couldn't break down those numbers by vaccination status, but Calvert believes whether someone is vaccinated makes a difference in how well they can fight the virus.
"People that have the vaccine and then get COVID -- they don't get ICU sick," Calvert said. "They're not up on a ventilator."
Poulin said at the beginning of the pandemic last year, COVID-19 was "relentless," but as people began staying home and wearing masks, the problem began to ease up. That trend continued when vaccines were made available to the general public -- but Poulin said hospitalization numbers are now back up, close to where they were about a year ago. She says the ICU is full.
"People are still dying. A lot of people are dying," Poulin said grimly.
She said in the past couple of weeks, the number of COVID-19 units at MMC has doubled to four.
"It's honestly a little scary because it's a new variant," Poulin noted. "There's different variables that come along with that."
Both women say they're exhausted and frustrated and wish more people would get the vaccine. The demographic of those in the ICU has apparently changed. Since most elderly people have been vaccinated in Maine, teenagers and 20- through 40-year-olds are generally the patients requiring help -- and the severity of their case is often worse. The main reason Calvert and Poulin said they want people to get vaccinated is to help others, like children and immuno-compromised individuals.
"It's scary that we're still in the summer seasons, and we're able to be outside -- and the numbers are this high," Poulin said, later adding, "I mean, I love nursing -- but I'll be honest, I'm getting burnt out. I'm tired. I'm exhausted coming into work now."
"The evidence has put itself out there," Calvert said. "I see this every day -- COVID is real. COVID is killing people."
These nurses said their best advice for Mainers is to get vaccinated and wear a mask even if you're vaccinated, since you can still be a carrier.