Omaha priest pleads for vaccinations as pandemic continues

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 12:18 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One Omaha priest on the frontlines at Nebraska Medicine says compassion fatigue is kicking in as vaccination rates stagnate and COVID-19 continues to kill.

Father Keith Winton has been helping on the church steps and in the COVID ICU.

“I think everyone at the hospital and other places too is suffering from what we call compassion fatigue,” said Father Keith Winton of All Saints Episcopal Church. “It’s just one component of the exhaustion that comes from too many hours, too many days, too many deaths.”

6 News first met Father Winton one year ago when he described the reality of the COVID-19 frontlines.

“It’s hard and sad and tragic,” he said last year. “And sad to see people spend their last days and hours mostly alone.”

At the time, there was no COVID vaccine. But now, he says there is nearly no excuse.

“Almost everyone who’s dying these days has not been vaccinated,” said Father Winton.

His compassion fatigue seemingly kicking in.

“Sometimes it’s hard if someone is dying and you’re ministering to them and their family and they say ‘If only I had been vaccinated,’ and it’s hard not to say ‘Yes, if only you had been vaccinated,’” Father Winton said.

Yet Father Winton remains there, by their side in those final hours, listening to what is often regret.

“Occasionally there’s a person who is still in denial and doesn’t believe it even as they’re dying,” he said. “But most of the people say they’ve been meaning to get vaccinated and they just hadn’t done it yet.”

Adding to the fatigue, Father Winton watches on as the ages of those in critical care get younger.

“These days it’s more younger people than earlier because most of the older people have been vaccinated,” Father Winton said.

In a single word, he describes it as heartbreaking.

And with holiday gatherings quickly approaching, he’s hoping and praying that more people get the shot.

“The hospitals in Omaha are 93 percent full on this very day,” he said. “We have to be better, we have to be better for each other.”

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