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'This was never meant to be a vacation; It was meant to save lives' | Atlanta ER doctor pleads with people to stay home

An Atlanta ER doctor says that every single person in Atlanta has the power to stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.

ATLANTA — An emergency room physician is pleading with people in Atlanta to take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously.

For the past two weeks, Dr. Mehrdod Ehteshami has practically lived at the hospital as more and more cases come in, slowing the system down.

He said that every single person in Atlanta has the power to stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.

"It's been hectic. It's been mind-numbing," Ehteshami said. "It's been eye-opening -- hard."

Ehteshami has spent some of his time away from the ER over the past two weeks looking for N-95 masks that he can purchase on his own to help protect the people he works with.

His hospital has only so many of the masks, and they are running low.

"The information is lacking, the resources are lacking. We live in, I feel, the most wonderful nation on earth, but we can't support our front line troops in this war. This is in fact a war against an invisible enemy. And that's the way we ought to play this, that's how we should see this if we are going to save lives," he said.

While nurses and doctors are working around the clock, he says the most important thing everyone else can do is stay home and take this seriously.

"It was never intended to be a vacation. It was never intended to be a break from school," said Ehteshami. "It was meant to save people's lives. People are not seeing how important that is."

RELATED: Coronavirus in Georgia: 772 cases reported in state with 25 deaths

Dr. Ehteshami has two small children. He and his wife decided they would completely isolate themselves during this crisis.

"The decision that we made as a family is that at some point, I am going to have it, no matter how hard I try (to avoid it). So at some point, my family is going to have it -- and that doesn't really scare me as much," he said. "What wrecks me on the inside is the thought that I could be giving this to someone who could potentially die from this. That their livelihood could be wrecked because I was negligent and was selfish."

He said he is not willing to take that risk -- and he does not think anyone else should either.

"We can't protect our patients if we can't protect ourselves," he said. "If I get sick, and I have to stay home, then who is going to replace me? There are only so many of us that can do this. So, this is the ripple effect that people aren't seeing when they don't listen to the CDC."

While his hospital is still getting new cases of COVID-19 every day, he believes the country will pull through this.

"We have not lost hope. I am incredibly optimistic," Ehteshami said. "I believe in our nation. I believe in us as Americans." 

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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