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Houston doctor hugs distraught COVID-19 patient in viral photo

Dr. Joseph Varon has gone viral for hugging a COVID-19 patient over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Dr. Joseph Varon, right, talks with patient Jose Tellez inside the Coronavirus Unit at United Memorial Medical Center, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Houston. Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Southern cities like Houston and leaving hospitals at a crisis point.
Dr. Joseph Varon, right, talks with patient Jose Tellez inside the coronavirus unit at United Memorial Medical Center on Monday, July 6, 2020, in Houston.
David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Dr. Joseph Varon, who takes care of COVID-19 patients at United Memorial Medical Center in Texas, recently went viral after hugging a distraught coronavirus patient in the hospital over the holiday weekend, WFAA reports.

The photo of the hug — snapped by photographer Go Nakamura — has since gone viral.

  • “I have never seen anything like that in front of my eye. I thought that was very special and I truly admire the doctor’s compassion and what he does,” Nakamura told KHOU.

Varon said he hugged the patient because of how worrying and depressing the hospital can be.

  • “A gentle touch, just telling them they’re going to be OK kind of encourages them,” Dr. Varon told KHOU. “Because, in those units, trust me they get depressed. It’s like being in a jail. Trust me, that’s what it looks like.”

Varon has worked 256 days straight with COVID-19 patients, according to WFAA.

  • “Unfortunately, I can’t take any days off because there’s nobody else that will do what I’m doing,” Varon told KHOU. “I see passion for caring for patients. I see myself. I truly see myself in the sense that this is what I was meant to do.”

Varon recently told CNN he doesn’t want to be put in this situation, hugging sick patients. He reminded the public to stay socially distant and safe during these trying times so that you don’t end up in the ICU.

  • “What people need to know is that — I don’t want to have to be hugging them. They need to do the basic things: keep your social distance; wear your mask; wash your hands and avoid going to places where there are a lot of people. Very simple. If people can do that health care workers like me will be able to — hopefully rest.”