Memphis Nurse Pleads With Residents to Take Coronavirus Seriously

A Memphis nurse urged residents to take the novel coronavirus pandemic seriously after working in New York City and seeing the effects of the virus.

"I don't think people are taking it as seriously as they should be...I don't think people are wearing masks like they should be. I don't think they're social distancing like they should be," Elizabeth Cromwell, a nurse who resides in Shelby County, told WREG News Channel 3 in Memphis. "Sometimes, I'm the only person wearing a mask in Target and in the grocery store."

Cromwell realized the severity of the pandemic after she decided to go up to New York, against the wishes of people close to her, in order to help out in the hardest-hit area in the country.

"My first instinct was, of course, I got to be up there...That's what I'm supposed to be doing. That's why I became a nurse. That's why I took the oath. That's why I got in the program," Cromwell said in the interview.

The nurse worked for 21 straight days after going in April, and witnessed firsthand the toll COVID-19 took on people.

"It was still horrible. It was still 102, 103 [-degree] fevers the Tylenol couldn't touch. I mean, we give them Tylenol on the clock and ice packs, and it doesn't go down. It's insane. I've never seen that before," Cromwell said.

Upon returning back to her home state, Cromwell saw there was not as much urgency among the residents about the pandemic. While she does not want people to "live in fear," the nurse said the public should be much more considerate due to her experience in battling the novel coronavirus.

"I don't say it to scare people because I don't think we should live in fear, but I think we should take into consideration that there are people that are elderly and immune-compromised and there are people who won't survive COVID if they get it. They absolutely won't," Cromwell said.

Shelby County, where Memphis is located, has the most confirmed cases in Tennessee with 7,320 cases. The county has also seen 154 deaths attributed to COVID-19, also the most in the state. The Memphis City Council voted on Tuesday to make face masks a requirement in certain places in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Tennessee as a whole has seen 32,143 confirmed cases and 497 deaths, along with 21,282 recoveries, since the start of the pandemic, according to the Tennessee Department of Health website. The state has seen a slight increase in coronavirus hospitalizations as the number of patients with COVID-19 grew from 381 on June 14 to 416 on June 17, and has 216 cases currently pending confirmation. The state is currently undergoing a phased reopening.

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A waitress takes a groups order while they dine-in at a restaurant on May 2, 2020 in Franklin, Tennessee. A nurse urged residents to take the coronavirus seriously. Brett Carlsen/Getty