NEW ORLEANS — May 6 kicks off National Nurses Week, and since the coronavirus made its way into Louisiana, nurses have become even bigger heroes than they already were.
Last year was a time when Louisiana carried the worst coronavirus death rate in all 50 states for a period of time. A year later, along with a different president administration, Louisiana is the first state to open up vaccination to the general public.
On May 6, President Biden visited Louisiana, and the nurses of the Bayou State wanted to both welcome him and invite him to listen to their testimony, in hopes that it will inspire his administration to continue to fight.
Kristine New, a nurse in New Orleans says, “COVID-19 is one of those things that you learn how to deal with in nursing school, but you don’t necessarily expect to live through it. We are still living and fighting.”
Nurse New remembers those early days, when the hospital’s beds were full to capacity and nurses were at their emotional limit. During that time, New Orleans businesses showed their heart by giving to healthcare workers to keep their spirits fed.
“We need to provide aid to local businesses. They were here for us during the intense time of COVID-19. They donated food and donated supplies. It makes it important that we think of them and help them out by giving back, so we can get back to our new normal,” says Nurse New.
Dr. Sandra C. Brown is the Dean of the College of Nursing at the Historically Black College University, Southern University, and A&M College. Dr. Brown is also the co-chair of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce. The mission of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force is to offset the growing numbers of minorities who disproportionately die because of the coronavirus and to promote equity in vaccination.
Dr. Brown says, “We commend President Biden, for what he has done thus far. What the coronavirus did for the state of Louisiana was to pull a curtain down and we got to see what was behind the curtain and it wasn’t a very pretty picture. Louisiana continuously has ranked in the bottom with those who have pre-existing conditions. We need the President’s help to change the culture.”
Robbie Duncan is a nurse that continues to battle with a nation virus fatigued and says, “my experience this past year was disheartening, like so many others. What I would like the President to know is that even with the vaccine, the COVID-19 virus is still here. We need to keep our guard up and prepare for the future.”
Velma Johnson knows what lengths nurses would endure to help and says, “what I would like to see is to break down the systemic barriers that allowed certain populations to become vulnerable in the first place, that this never happens again. I would like the President to know that the nurses here gave one thousand percent. A nurse here at New Orleans East Hospital named Larrice Anderson died because she caught the virus as she was trying to take care of a patient.”
“Are we our brother’s keepers? Yes, we are! The only way we are going to get out of this pandemic is to do it together and we need this administration to keep on fighting,” says Dr. Sandra Brown.