CHICAGO (CBS) — Coronavirus patients make up 35% of those currently using ICU beds, and nearly a quarter of those using ventilators.

Among those tasked with running the machines are respiratory therapists.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli shows us why the job is in such high demand.

Marren Culberson has been working as a respiratory therapist for more than 20 years. But never has his job been more in demand than during the time of COVID-19.

“We are the front lines of this pandemic,” Culberson said.

That’s because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. And when the virus attacks a persons ability to breathe, respiratory therapists like Culberson respond.

“They man the ventilators. They clear the airways,” he said.

Culberson is among more than 100,000 respiratory therapists working in the country right now.  Their job, he said is to monitor the ABC’s of resuscitation: airway, breathing and circulation.

Respiratory therapists are often within inches of a patient’s nose and mouth.

“I’m right up in the face of this disease but I’m protected,” he said.

That facility is La Rabida Children’s Hospital where for the past two days, they’ve had to send possible COVID-19 patients to acute care hospitals.

“We have chronic kids on ventilators,” Culberson said. “So if COVID-19 affects these kids, it could be very detrimental to these kids.”

And in the coming days and weeks, Culberson expect to see more children in the cross hairs of COVID-19. Although he knows his job has suddenly become life-threatening, he said he’s not about to back down now.

“I signed up for it. I’m all about patient care I’m all about making sure these kids are safe,” he said.

And with people like Culberson working in hospitals and emergency rooms all over the country we should all feel a little safer in the face of COVID-19.