By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
‘What do I have on? What is this? It’s a garbage bag.’
Kay, a nurse at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, describing her protective clothing
A calm has befallen New York City’s empty streets. Inside the city’s hospitals, however, there are scenes of organized chaos.
Some 10,056 of the 22,935 U.S. fatalities were in New York State, as of Monday; almost 7,000 of those deaths were in New York City. Nearly 189,000 of the 568,176 confirmed cases in the U.S. were in New York State.
Black and Latino New Yorkers are twice as likely to die as Asian or Caucasian people in New York City. There are currently 1,897,373 confirmed cases worldwide, and 118,304 deaths, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Kay, a nurse at The Brooklyn Hospital who did not want to give her last name for fear of reprisals from relatives of patients who are not allowed to visit their loved ones, told CBS reporter David Begnaud , who was covered in a hazmat decontamination suit and large face shield. “It’s like something out of the Twilight Zone. I don’t think any of us going through it will ever be the same.”
“I’d like a mask like yours,” she said. “We should all have masks like yours, and that white suit you have on? What do I have on? What is this?” Begnaud said it looked like she was wearing a garbage bag. Kay replied, "It is a garbage bag.” Another nurse wearing the same kind of transparent trash bag said she took time off with symptoms of coronavirus, and came back to work after recovering.
She’s not the only one. Nurses at other New York hospitals were have also been photographed wearing garbage bags due to the lack of personal protective equipment all tested positive to coronavirus. Three nurses at London’s Northwick Park Hospital, the first in the U.K. to declare a “critical incident” due to the influx of COVID-19 patients, the U.K. Telegraph reported .
“We can confirm that a number of staff members working in our COVID-19 positive areas have tested positive for the coronavirus,” a spokesman for the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust told the paper . “This is unfortunate but not unexpected, as it corresponds with the experience of health-care workers across the world.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state could be reaching the apex, as the rise in deaths appear to be leveling off as people who have been on ventilators for some time are now passing away. He also said New York City did not need additional ventilators, although medical-grade N95 surgical mask masks are in short supply at hospitals. He added, “It’s not a time to get complacent."
“A lot of our patients are presenting with severe respiratory distress,” Joshua Rosenberg, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, told a CBS crew, describing health-care workers’ attempts to deal with the influx of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “They were fine and they had some cough, and then they weren’t fine.”
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He said one patient who had no underlying health conditions experienced respiratory failure and kidney damage. “He’s relatively young. This gentleman, I believe, is in his early 50s. He’s requiring 100% oxygen and a lot of air to keep his lungs inflated.” Most of the patients were black men and on ventilators, he added. Another doctor said, “We're seeing a lot of younger, healthier patients.”
Joshua Rosenberg wore ski goggles and changed into a replaceable gown to switch a patient’s breathing tube. “This is serious,” he said. “People are dying from this. Old people. Young people. It is lethal.” At least 27 COVID-19 patients had died at that hospital as of last Friday, Begnaud said. After the broadcast, he said his team disinfected his mask and sent it to Kay.
The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits over 22,000 U.S. health-care services and programs, said in a statement that it “supports allowing staff to bring their own standard face masks or respirators to wear at work when their health-care organizations cannot routinely provide access to protective equipment that is commensurate with the risk to which they are exposed.”
‘We’re seeing a lot of younger, healthier patients.’
Another doctor at The Brooklyn Hospital on the situation at the intensive-care unit
“Hospitals must conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) when these items are in short supply to protect staff who perform high-risk procedures,” it added. “The degree to which privately-owned masks and respirators will increase the protection of health-care workers is uncertain, but the balance of evidence suggests that it is positive.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its policy on masks on Friday. It now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings such as pharmacies or supermarkets. It said asymptomatic transmission was “new evidence.” The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also reversed his position on masks, posting a Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +0.47% video on how to make them.
In the early days of the coronavirus in the U.S., the CDC, New York Department of Health and Human Services also asked the public not to wear face masks unless they were unwell or caring for someone who was sick, but has since reversed that position. New York City remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.