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Essential employee burnout high amid increasing COVID-19 cases

"We're at a 10. A 10 or above," responded Liz Empson, a LPN at a nursing home in Dauphin County, when asked about burnout level.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Some hospitals and EMS companies are seeing more employees quarantining due to covid-19. In some cases, it is leading to more overtime work and additional burnout.

FOX43's Grace Griffaton asked essential workers how they feel on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of pandemic exhaustion. 

"We're at a 10. A 10 or above," responded Liz Empson, a LPN at a nursing home in Dauphin County.

Isolation can lead to depression, and depression can lead to cognitive issues, such as difficulty concentrating or memory loss. JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Hand to hand on cold glass: A heartbreaking photo shared online captures just about all Rose and Frank Brown have been able to do since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Joe Carr, a supervising paramedic for Lancaster EMS, says he think it's a 9 for his employees. The healthcare system? He says that is hurting on a whole other level.

"I ought to be honest with you -- I've been working in healthcare for probably 35 years, and just globally, the healthcare system is at its point of being overrun," said Carr.

He says there are less ambulances on the road for Lancaster EMS because more workers are contracting the virus. There are also more emergencies than before.

"Call after call after call," said Carr. "Normally, those calls would be spread out amongst 10 ambulances, but given our staffing, it's spread out amongst five. It's the same volume, if not higher volume, because of people getting sick with COVID-19. We do all the inner facility transports for LG [Lancaster General Health] too." 

"Our employees live and work in the community, and as a result of the impact, it does make challenging staffing," said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. "As a result of that, we have had to incentivize staff to work extra shifts which I think is only sustainable in the short term."

Hospitalizations are also on the rise. As officials determine the best path forward, they say they don't want to stop elective procedures. LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - The percent of positive COVID-19 tests has increased in Lancaster County as well as across the state. It's now at 12.7%, and officials are wary because COVID-19 hospitalizations are also rising.

"We have started offering double time on the weekends. I think initially it was helpful, but it seems it's starting to dwindle off, with the fatigue, etc. Our folks need time away, they're out there on the front lines, and we're seeing a lot of COVID-19 every day," added Carr.

Empson says her nursing home is seeing the same thing, and workers are getting sick... again.

"We just now starting our second round. The first round -- it wiped everybody out. All the staff members basically had it [COVID-19]," explained Empson. "I have two twins, 3-year-old grandkids, and I also brought it home to them... It felt terrible."

Empson didn't wish to identify which nursing home in Harrisburg she works at, but says workers are being asked to pull double duty but not being paid double.

"To my staff, no, and only to get people in their through agency, they have to," explained Empson.

Like so many, essential workers have their eyes on the vaccine. They're optimistic it could change the course of the pandemic.

"I can tell you I am going to get it- the benefit outweighs the risk," said Carr.

Starbucks is offering frontline responders free coffee throughout December.

In a statement Tuesday, coffee giant Starbucks said that people who identify as front-line responders at one of their participating stores will receive an iced or hot brewed coffee for free. Starbucks said the deal is for tall brewed coffees, and will be offered at U.S.

We have more information here.

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