Watch the health care workers treating the deluge of COVID-19 patients streaming through their doors in East Tennessee, and you’ll see the same careful professionalism and compassionate care they’ve provided throughout the long pandemic.

In private though, though, spirits are damaged, and morale is suffering.

“It looks like business as usual, nurses doing their jobs, people moving around the floors like normal,” Dr. John Callison, a pulmonologist at University of Tennessee Medical Center, told Knox News. But that normality vanishes when you go into the break rooms or talk to any of the staff. “There is an aura of sadness that just kind of permeates the rooms.”

With the delta variant driving more people into hospital care, nurses are working overtime even though the hospital had more than doubled the number of teams staffing the ICU during the pandemic. Callison, who mostly used to do administrative work, is back in the clinic. He’s moved the paperwork late into the night or early in the morning. 

Read more:Tennessee breaks COVID-19 hospitalization records

The numbers:Knox County COVID-19 case counts and vaccine numbers