Sharing Photos From the COVID-19 Front Lines

Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, putting their health and safety at risk daily to treat the dangerous disease. As the pandemic continues, hospital staff across the United States have found solidarity and strength among one another—particularly through sharing pictures.

That gave New York City ER doctor Lynn Jiang an idea.

“When all of this started, a lot of [healthcare workers] were sharing photos,” Jiang says. “It was a way for us to connect with one another, it was a way to keep in contact with people I trained with who are now spread across the country.”

As more photos were sent, Jiang and a fellow ER physician decided to create an Instagram account, @airitoutcovid19, to document her fellow healthcare workers’ fight against COVID-19. She’s always been interested in photography from a documentation perspective and thought this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.

“I thought it would be interesting to create a compilation of these photos, at least for our own memories,” she says. “But as it grew, more and more people were interested in participating.”

The account chronicles everything from selfies to life in emergency rooms in New York City and around the country. Jiang says it’s been cathartic for her and others participating to share their pictures, both to chronicle their day-to-day lives and provide updates for friends and relatives.

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@liza.harto @sari_benna @taylorwalsh22 “This is – we are – COVID19” — NY ER, MD #covid #frontline #flattenthecurve

A post shared by LJiang and SFlores (@airitoutcovid19) on

“As it’s grown, it’s also become a larger project, a way for us to share our day-to-day lives with loved ones,” Jiang says. “It’s one thing to send a text saying ‘I’m OK,’ but it’s another to send a picture of yourself smiling or showing what you’re dealing with.”

It’s also provided perspective for those outside of the healthcare community. The account has garnered nearly 8,000 followers and is a source of information, stories, and inspiration both inside hospitals and out.

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@emandthepen “We are not longer practicing Emergency Medicine. We are practicing Disaster Medicine” — NY ER, MD #frontline #covid

A post shared by LJiang and SFlores (@airitoutcovid19) on

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@cleavon_md “How many others have used this chair to deliver bad news…pieces of us healthcare providers scattered on this hallway floor” — NY ER, MD #frontline #covid #flattenthecurve

A post shared by LJiang and SFlores (@airitoutcovid19) on

“It almost grew out of the community and for one another, and then I realized how much support we were getting from everyone else,” Jiang says. “There’s been a big outpouring, both nationally and internationally, sending whatever words of encouragement, and that’s been a really positive thing to see.”

That support has helped Jiang and her fellow physicians as they continue their fight. COVID-19 presents a number of challenges, from equipment shortages to healthcare workers serving as the only point of contact between a patient and their family. Creating a sense of community around those in the fight, even through something as simple as sharing pictures, can help make a difference.