By ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News
(PITTSBURGH) — Nurse Carly Thomas was among the first health care workers assigned to her western Pennsylvania hospital’s COVID-19 unit in March.”That day, those nurses prayed,” Thomas, who has worked at Excela Westmoreland Hospital for nine years, told ABC News Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE-TV. “Then they just instantly started to plan what we were going to do and how we were going to take care of these patients.”Today, the 15-bed COVID-19 unit Thomas works in is full, and nurses are faced with an emotionally taxing responsibility: video-calling dying patients’ families so they can say goodbye.”I’ve held the patient’s hand while they die,” Thomas said. “I’ve FaceTimed with families so they could say goodbye to their loved ones. We just sit there and hold their hands. They want you to limit to 15 minutes in a room, but how do you walk away from someone that’s saying they want to die?”The hospital, located just outside of Pittsburgh, currently has 107 hospitalized patients, the highest number since the pandemic started. On the state level, hospitalizations, new COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising in Pennsylvania, according to an ABC News analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project.”Every day COVID continues to spread in the commonwealth, every day our numbers continue to rise, and that puts our health care system and our health care workers at greater risk,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.As of Tuesday, Pennsylvania had reported 375,431 infections and 10,757 deaths from COVID-19, according to the state health department.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.