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Pictures | Tue Nov 24, 2020 | 11:50am EST

COVID cases flood hospitals in America's heartland

Healthcare personnel prepare to discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. After pounding big U.S. cities in the spring, COVID-19 now has engulfed rural and small-town America, seeming to seep into the country's every nook and cranny. According to Reuters' interviews with more than a dozen medical care providers and public health officials in the nation's heartland, many hospitals are severely lacking in beds, equipment and - most critically - clinical staff, including specialists and nurses. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel prepare to discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. After pounding big U.S. cities in the spring, COVID-19 now has engulfed...more

Healthcare personnel prepare to discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. After pounding big U.S. cities in the spring, COVID-19 now has engulfed rural and small-town America, seeming to seep into the country's every nook and cranny. According to Reuters' interviews with more than a dozen medical care providers and public health officials in the nation's heartland, many hospitals are severely lacking in beds, equipment and - most critically - clinical staff, including specialists and nurses. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare personnel work with a patient inside a room for people with coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking nationally. But the Midwest - encompassing a dozen states between Ohio and the Dakotas - has been especially brutalized. Reported case rates are more than double that of any other region in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run data provider. From mid-June to mid-November, reported cases in the Midwest rose more than twentyfold. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel work with a patient inside a room for people with coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking nationally. But the Midwest - encompassing a dozen states...more

Healthcare personnel work with a patient inside a room for people with coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking nationally. But the Midwest - encompassing a dozen states between Ohio and the Dakotas - has been especially brutalized. Reported case rates are more than double that of any other region in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run data provider. From mid-June to mid-November, reported cases in the Midwest rose more than twentyfold. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Hospital officials in the Midwest told Reuters they're at capacity or nearly so. Most have tried to increase availability by repurposing wings or cramming multiple patients in a single room, and by asking staffers to work longer hours and more frequent shifts. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Hospital officials in the Midwest told Reuters they're at capacity or nearly so. Most have...more

Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Hospital officials in the Midwest told Reuters they're at capacity or nearly so. Most have tried to increase availability by repurposing wings or cramming multiple patients in a single room, and by asking staffers to work longer hours and more frequent shifts. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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A healthcare worker adjusts an oxygen tank for a patient with the coronavirus disease at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. As cases spike in many conservative states and counties, medical workers say they often face a challenge just in convincing patients and local leaders that the disease should be taken seriously and isn't a Democrat-perpetuated hoax.

Such viewpoints flow from the top. President Donald Trump often has held shoulder-to-shoulder rallies in the Midwest and elsewhere and treated masks as a matter of personal choice. Although Trump was not re-elected, about two months remain in his tenure, with little sign of change in his coronavirus strategy, even as the crisis grows.

The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A healthcare worker adjusts an oxygen tank for a patient with the coronavirus disease at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. As cases spike in many conservative states and counties, medical workers say they often face a challenge just in...more

A healthcare worker adjusts an oxygen tank for a patient with the coronavirus disease at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. As cases spike in many conservative states and counties, medical workers say they often face a challenge just in convincing patients and local leaders that the disease should be taken seriously and isn't a Democrat-perpetuated hoax. Such viewpoints flow from the top. President Donald Trump often has held shoulder-to-shoulder rallies in the Midwest and elsewhere and treated masks as a matter of personal choice. Although Trump was not re-elected, about two months remain in his tenure, with little sign of change in his coronavirus strategy, even as the crisis grows. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Daniel Benewiat, a patient with the coronavirus, is treated using a ventilator as his wife, Tammy, looks at him through a window at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Daniel Benewiat, a patient with the coronavirus, is treated using a ventilator as his wife, Tammy, looks at him through a window at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Daniel Benewiat, a patient with the coronavirus, is treated using a ventilator as his wife, Tammy, looks at him through a window at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Tammy Benewiat peers through a window at her husband, who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Tammy Benewiat peers through a window at her husband, who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Tammy Benewiat peers through a window at her husband, who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Some medical officials and hospital staffers find it hard to reconcile laissez-faire policies with the sickness and suffering they see.

"There's a disconnect in the community, where we're seeing people at bars and restaurants, or planning Thanksgiving dinners," said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As health workers, she said, "we feel kind of dejected." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Some medical officials and hospital staffers find it hard to reconcile laissez-faire...more

Jade Carabajal-Richter worries about a lack of beds for patients with the coronavirus as case numbers surge at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. Some medical officials and hospital staffers find it hard to reconcile laissez-faire policies with the sickness and suffering they see. "There's a disconnect in the community, where we're seeing people at bars and restaurants, or planning Thanksgiving dinners," said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As health workers, she said, "we feel kind of dejected." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare personnel prepare to rotate a patient who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Hospital leaders described demoralization among staffers struggling to reckon with overwork, grief and death.

Shortages of staff, rather than beds, are the biggest single problem in many hospitals, the health officials said. "Just because you can take a cot and put it in a room doesn't mean you have the appropriate nursing staff to care for a patient," said Dr. Anthony Hericks, director of critical care with Avera Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel prepare to rotate a patient who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Hospital leaders described demoralization among staffers struggling to...more

Healthcare personnel prepare to rotate a patient who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Hospital leaders described demoralization among staffers struggling to reckon with overwork, grief and death. Shortages of staff, rather than beds, are the biggest single problem in many hospitals, the health officials said. "Just because you can take a cot and put it in a room doesn't mean you have the appropriate nursing staff to care for a patient," said Dr. Anthony Hericks, director of critical care with Avera Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Melisa Hazell poses for a portrait as healthcare personnel work inside a coronavirus ward at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Nurses must observe COVID-19 patients even more closely than others, because of the potential for rapid decline, said Melisa Hazell, a critical care nurse at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, in Hutchinson, Kansas. She said she recently recovered from COVID-19 herself, returning to work as soon as she was certain she wouldn't spread the virus. "I was off for 12 days," she said. "Was I mentally and physically ready to go back to work? No, but my teammates needed me." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Melisa Hazell poses for a portrait as healthcare personnel work inside a coronavirus ward at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Nurses must observe COVID-19 patients even more closely than others, because of the potential for rapid...more

Melisa Hazell poses for a portrait as healthcare personnel work inside a coronavirus ward at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. Nurses must observe COVID-19 patients even more closely than others, because of the potential for rapid decline, said Melisa Hazell, a critical care nurse at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, in Hutchinson, Kansas. She said she recently recovered from COVID-19 herself, returning to work as soon as she was certain she wouldn't spread the virus. "I was off for 12 days," she said. "Was I mentally and physically ready to go back to work? No, but my teammates needed me." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, treats a patient inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has refused to mandate mask-wearing, and has not imposed restrictions on businesses or public gatherings, saying she would leave such matters to "individual responsibility." In July, she hosted an Independence Day celebration with Trump at Mt. Rushmore, where the crowd was close together and many attendees were maskless.

Doctors say trying to change such behavior can feel like a hopeless task. "Everyone [is] continuing to go about their lives," said Dr. Alison Schwartz, an infectious disease physician, but "we sort of feel like we're drowning." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, treats a patient inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has refused to mandate mask-wearing, and has not imposed...more

Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, treats a patient inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has refused to mandate mask-wearing, and has not imposed restrictions on businesses or public gatherings, saying she would leave such matters to "individual responsibility." In July, she hosted an Independence Day celebration with Trump at Mt. Rushmore, where the crowd was close together and many attendees were maskless. Doctors say trying to change such behavior can feel like a hopeless task. "Everyone [is] continuing to go about their lives," said Dr. Alison Schwartz, an infectious disease physician, but "we sort of feel like we're drowning." REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Jacqui Wood is screened for symptoms of the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Jacqui Wood is screened for symptoms of the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Jacqui Wood is screened for symptoms of the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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A healthcare worker takes Reina Perez’s temperature before testing her for the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A healthcare worker takes Reina Perez’s temperature before testing her for the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A healthcare worker takes Reina Perez’s temperature before testing her for the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Leopoldo Araiza speaks with a doctor as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Leopoldo Araiza speaks with a doctor as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Leopoldo Araiza speaks with a doctor as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, goes over a patient’s charts inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, goes over a patient’s charts inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, goes over a patient’s charts inside a room for people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Teresa Ngyuen, a respiratory therapist, treats Lynn Stansel, a patient with the coronavirus, at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Teresa Ngyuen, a respiratory therapist, treats Lynn Stansel, a patient with the coronavirus, at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Teresa Ngyuen, a respiratory therapist, treats Lynn Stansel, a patient with the coronavirus, at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Manuel Flores has his vitals taken as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Manuel Flores has his vitals taken as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Manuel Flores has his vitals taken as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel treat Daniel Benewiat, a patient who is on a ventilator, inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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A healthcare worker wearing protective equipment takes a breather as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A healthcare worker wearing protective equipment takes a breather as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A healthcare worker wearing protective equipment takes a breather as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Dr. Drew Miller treats a patient with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Dr. Drew Miller treats a patient with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Dr. Drew Miller treats a patient with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare workers prepare to take a chest X-ray of COVID-19 patient Troy Burrows as healthcare personnel treat people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare workers prepare to take a chest X-ray of COVID-19 patient Troy Burrows as healthcare personnel treat people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare workers prepare to take a chest X-ray of COVID-19 patient Troy Burrows as healthcare personnel treat people with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Connie Engelland sits inside a room for patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Kevin Hoover pretends to blow out a candle on his birthday as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Kevin Hoover pretends to blow out a candle on his birthday as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Kevin Hoover pretends to blow out a candle on his birthday as healthcare personnel treat patients with the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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Healthcare personnel discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Healthcare personnel discharge a patient who had been quarantining after a possible exposure to the coronavirus at a hospital in Lakin, Kansas, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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