February 27, 2024

She is often shocked by the interactions she has with Covid patients, many of them African American. She remembered a recent exchange with a woman in her forties who was having difficulty breathing. When Dr. Chopra asked if she was vaccinated, the woman defiantly shook her head and insisted that the vaccines were more harmful than the virus. The patient later died.

“It makes me angry, frustrated and sad,” said Dr. Chopra. “These unbelievers will never accept our point of view, and the result is that they put others at risk and overwhelm the health system.”

The emotional aftermath of the past 16 months has taken many forms, including a spate of early retirements and suicides among health care providers. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, an ambulance doctor at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, a largely pandemic-stricken working-class immigrant community, sees the toll around him.

He recently comforted a fellow doctor who blamed himself for infecting his in-laws. They died four days apart. “He just can’t get over the guilt,” said Dr. Rosenberg.

At a graduation ceremony for the hospital residents two weeks ago – the emergency room’s first social gathering in almost two years – the DJ read the room and decided not to play music, said Dr. Rosenberg. “The people in my department usually like to dance, but everyone just wanted to talk, meet and hug.”

Dr. Rosenberg, who is also president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, is processing his own losses. This includes his girlfriend Dr. Lorna Breen, who took her own life in the early months of the pandemic and whose death inspired federal legislation aimed at combating suicide and burnout among health professionals.

Most suffering remains invisible or is not recognized. Dr. Rosenberg compared the hidden trauma to what his father, a WWII veteran, experienced after the hostilities ended.