Coronavirus Social: Faces of Exhaustion From the Front Line

Liz Neporent

March 31, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

On social media to start the week, people are tweeting out scenes of exhaustion from overloaded hospitals, artists are posting expressions of thanks to healthcare workers, and a new hashtag sends a message to "lower the base."

Faces on the Front Line

Social media is filled with reports of battle-weary hospital teams.

Along with notes of encouragement to the medical world, many of the posts include pictures of doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff clearly showing signs of physical and mental exhaustion. Many of the faces are bruised and marked from long hours of wearing tight-fitting masks. Others show workers dressed head-to-toe in protective gear huddled together, sleeping in hallways.

One especially emotional tweet shows an ICU nurse from Southeast Michigan who has broken down in tears after working a 13-hour shift treating critically ill COVID-19 patients on ventilators.

"It honestly felt like I was working in a war zone … I'm already breaking so people please take this seriously," she says in the video.


Artists Say Thanks to Medicine

People under quarantine in various parts of the world have taken to their balconies and fire escapes each evening to applaud medical professionals for their heroic efforts in fighting the coronavirus. On social media, visual artists have found their own way of paying tribute to medicine.

Street artist FAKE posted a spray-painted portrait entitled "Super Nurse" on his social media accounts this past weekend. He's given up the rights to the image, so anyone who wants to use it may download it at no cost. "Feel free to share it with healthcare professionals you know, or print it and give it as a gift," reads the message on his website.

Physician-artist C. Michael Gibson, MD, posted his oil painting entitled "The Last Thift" on his Twitter feed. The haunting image, which he painted on a wood board, depicts healthcare workers in a gray and faded landscape. The painting is up for private auction and already has received bids north of $20k, Gibson says in a tweet. All proceeds will go to purchase personal protective equipment for hospitals.


What's Beyond the Curve

Flattening the curve ― reducing the number of people who are sick with COVID-19 at the same time ― may not slow the spread of coronavirus fast enough, according to some Twitter users. The trending hashtag is now #LowerTheBaseline.

Lowering the baseline means staying at home to avoid getting sick and adding to the healthcare burden, the tweets explain. Users call for #RaisingtheLine by increasing the capacity of the healthcare system.

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at or  @ lizzyfit on Twitter.

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