One uncontestable Election Day outcome was the death by COVID-19 of an esteemed and beloved emergency room doctor who leaves two young children.
Dr. Juan Fitz of Lubbock, Texas, had fallen ill in mid-October. He had been on a ventilator, fighting for his life, as President Trump went from rally to rally repeating a despicable and false allegation that doctors had been inflating the pandemic death count to “get more money.” That baseless claim brought cheers from largely maskless supporters who were following his heedless example in ignoring simple precautions that might have saved tens of thousands of lives and could still save tens of thousands more.
In-person voting was underway across the country when 67-year-old Fitz died in Claremont Medical Center, the hospital where he had saved so many lives. His was one of eight lives lost to the virus in Lubbock County, along with 1,122 others nationally on Election Day. He also leaves a wife, a grown daughter, and a host of fellow emergency medicine workers who held him in the highest regard.
“My specialty of emergency medicine just lost a leader, Dr. Juan Fitz, to COVID,” Dr. Esther Choo of Oregon tweeted. “He was an outstanding physician and a leader in the field, active in the Texas College of Emergency Physicians and the American College of Emergency Physicians.”
She went on, “My colleagues and I will go in for you every day until this thing is over, no matter what. As hospitals and ICUs fill beyond capacity, as we endure ongoing PPE and testing shortages, and face heartbreaking losses like this one.”
Back in 2008, the American College of Emergency Physicians honored Fitz as a “hero of emergency medicine.” He had been at it for 34 years this June, when the organization posted an interview with him about fighting on the front lines against COVID-19. He said that he drew upon his time in the Army.
“My previous military background causes me to prepare for each patient as if I were going on patrol, taking as many precautions as possible,” he reported.
“I find myself waking every night around 3 a.m. with worries that I have been infected and have brought it home to my immediate family. ”
— Dr. Juan Fitz
His foremost worry was his loved ones.
“I have two children at home, ages 5 years and 10 months. I find myself waking every night around 3 a.m. with worries that I have been infected and have brought it home to my immediate family. There is additional stress from other family members as well. I am fortunate that I have a strong faith.”
He was asked what was particularly unsettling about the pandemic.
“It’s the uncertainty of the symptoms,” he said. “So many patients present with so many different symptoms such as stroke or heart issues and are testing positive for the virus. There is no rhyme or reason. There are some that look as though they have symptoms of COVID-19 yet test negative while others we didn’t presume to have contracted the virus, test positive. It’s…