Candlelight vigil held for Bay Area nurses

Countless nurses who worked on the frontlines of the pandemic lost their lives to the virus they were fighting, and other nurses held vigils around the country Wednesday to honor them.

National Nurses United reports more than 400 nurses died of COVID nationwide, at least 23 of them in Florida and at least 6 of the 23 from Tampa Bay. The nurses’ union held candlelight vigils in several cities, including in Tampa.

The Tampa vigil was mainly virtual, with video after video of nurses reading the names of other nurses who lost their lives to the virus across the nation. It’s National Nurses Week and Wednesday marked International Nurses Day, giving even more weight to the event. A St. Pete nurse said they’ve dealt with so much during the pandemic.

"We were so scared at the beginning and to know that our colleagues were passing away, were dying from this and that could easily be us," said Marilena Santana, a nurse at St. Petersburg General Hospital. "I’m a single mother of four, and my biggest fear was taking that home to my children or not being there for them.  

The nurses’ union said Tampa Bay nurses came out over the last year protesting their work conditions, understaffing, and lack of personal protective equipment or PPE.  

Tampa Bay nurses said they want people to remember how serious the virus is, and that nurses are still on the frontlines of the fight.