As Hospitals Fill, Travel Nurses Race to Virus Hot Spots

“I’m taking care of this man and he said, ‘I can’t take wait for the election to be over so all this will all go away,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘That’s not happening. It’s real, I promise you, it’s real.’”

Others have all but shrugged when they receive a positive coronavirus result.

“A lot of people tend to have the response, when they’re told they have it, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve got the Covid,’” said Heather Ozmun, 46, a travel nurse in Green Bay. “They’re treating it like a rite of passage, like it’s their turn to have it.”

John Deaton, 27, has spent most of his nursing career so far as a traveler, as they are commonly called.

Throughout the pandemic, he has treated Covid-19 patients and even caught a mild case of the virus himself, working in El Centro, Calif., near the border with Mexico; Sacramento; and now Green Bay.

Places to stay in northeastern Wisconsin were difficult to find. He settled for renting the basement in a house while the owner lives upstairs, negotiating for shared use of the kitchen so he would have more than a microwave to use for cooking.

Mr. Deaton, who is from Akron, Ohio, was attracted to travel nursing because it pays so well — he estimated that he makes four times what he would earn if he accepted a staff position somewhere. There is a range of pay for such work, but a weekly paycheck could be more than $5,000 during the pandemic, by some of the nurses’ estimates, in addition to benefits.

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