MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (KABC) -- Tiffany Hughes said she saw it coming -- COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since the start of fall.
As an ICU registered nurse for the last decade, Hughes is familiar with severe illness and death, but on Friday she said she has "never seen people so sick in all my life."
Hughes has been in the COVID intensive care unit at Mission Hospital since March.
"Between wearing all of the PPE and our heavy helmets and everything else, this is the most physically exhausting I've been throughout my nursing career," Hughes said. "But it's what you do."
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The work is also emotionally taxing. Patient care is monthslong with COVID-19. Caregivers grow attached.
"It is a very strong, emotional process to say goodbye to some of them and also to help their families as well, because they can't come in here," Hughes said.
There are highs too, like saying goodbye to those who make it -- Hughes said most do -- and coming home to her daughter. Hughes said her community can help get her there with small sacrifices: maintaining physical distancing and using face coverings.
"We have to come together as a community, as a world, as humans to think about others and not just ourselves," she said. "I just beg them to please help be a part of that team, and to carry us through this pandemic and do what they can. It's such a small thing, because I want to be able to give my little girl a hug and send her to school one day. A 6-year-old should not be crying because she's depressed from not being able to be with her friends. So the quicker that we all get onboard and consistently, the better off we're all going to be."
Friday, Orange County saw 1,169 new positive COVID-19 cases -- the greatest number of daily positive cases reported by the county Health Care Agency to date.