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A mother and daughter's Brief But Spectacular take on the pandemic — and each other


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Medical student Choumika Simonis is currently sheltering in place in Harlem in New York, but, in a few months, she will be a doctor on the front lines in New York City.

Her mother, Clemene Vertus, lives in Queens, and has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic as a certified nursing assistant at a VA nursing home.

Although the current health care crisis has kept them apart, we bring them together tonight for this installment of our Brief But Spectacular series.

Clemene Vertus: I live in Queens. I'm working from 3:30 to 12:00 midnight at a VA nursing home for the New York state. I'm working as a certified nursing assistant.

Choumika Simonis: My mom is from Haiti. She came over in the late 1980s. She loves the health profession and helping others in particular.

Clemene Vertus: Well, I love my daughter. That's my first child. She's very nice and she's very intelligent. She's a doctor. I'm happy for that.

Choumika Simonis: I'm currently a medical student at Loyola University, Chicago. I'm going to be an internal medicine resident in a few months.

Just hearing my mom talk about what she does at work, it is very stressful knowing that she's on the front lines and the risk that she puts herself when she goes into work every day.

Clemene Vertus: For me, God bless me, I'm not sick, but I'm still going, because I'm taking care of elderly people, people who cannot do anything for themselves.

The COVID people, I have so many in my floor, and so many die already. Yesterday, we have one died. The other day, one die. Every day, three of them die.

One patient who die, it hurt me so much. He was a policeman, and then he was in the Army. He used to sing for us, and then he was -- he used to give a story every day. It hurt me. That hurt me.

Choumika Simonis: I will be on the front lines in a couple of months myself. So I know, if my mom can do it, and she's been doing it for a long time, then I have nothing to fear.

Mommy, I love you. You have been working so hard for all three of us, and you instilled in us this incredible work ethic and resiliency. And I credit you in terms of where I am today.

So I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work that you have been doing. It has not gone unnoticed. And you mean a lot to me, so thank you.

Clemene Vertus: You're welcome.


Clemene Vertus: My name is Clemene Vertus.

Choumika Simonis: My name is Choumika Simonis, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take...

Clemene Vertus: On my daughter.

Choumika Simonis: On my mother.

Judy Woodruff: Wonderful, wonderful story.

And you can find all our Brief But Spectacular segments at

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