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'This is real and I see it': Georgia doctor grapples with COVID-19 professionally and personally

Healthcare workers are at high risk for catching the coronavirus. Dr. Jesse Cannon knows first hand.

ATLANTA — As hospitalizations rise in Georgia, healthcare workers are at a greater risk of getting COVID-19

Just ask Dr. Jesse Cannon, who contracted the virus in early July. 

“You know, it’s like the worst flu season that just doesn’t stop,” said Cannon.

The Atlanta emergency room physician says he’s now recovered, but he experienced fatigue and lost his sense of smell and taste for weeks.

“I had actually cooked dinner for me and my husband and we were eating and I thought I had just made a really bad meal because it was just so bland,” said Cannon.

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Credit: WXIA

Cannon considers himself lucky because some of his colleagues, also infected, have had worse experiences. Some were admitted into the hospital in serious conditions.

The 42-year-old doctor is one of more than 9,600 health care workers in Georgia who have been infected, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The numbers continue to rise.

Health care workers make up, on average, between seven to 10 percent of new cases each day. That’s about 68 infections, making them among the state’s high risk groups.

“Several of my colleagues have been hospitalized and that is something that we think about,” said Cannon.

Stress and anxiety are impacting them too. Cannon says he’s so busy, there is no down-time to decompress.

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Credit: WXIA

Hospital workers are worried the more they get sick, the more difficult it will be to care for patients – not to mention their own families. 

“Some of my colleagues will strip outside of their house and not even bring their clothes into the house that they wore at work," explained Cannon.

After testing positive, Cannon posted about his infection on Facebook writing, “This is real folks,” to help convince doubters to take the virus seriously. “People are dying from this. I see it every day and not only are they dying, they’re having terrible pneumonia. They’re having strokes, they’re having kidney failure,” said Cannon.

The doctor believes a state-wide mask mandate could help curb hospitalizations. 

“We have mandate that people go out in public wearing pants. I don’t see how we can’t have a mandate that people can’t wear a mask during a pandemic,” said Cannon. “This is real and I see it. I wish people could see what I see in the ER every day.”

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