Doctors describe life at a New York hospital hit hard by coronavirus: 'It's apocalyptic'

People wait for coronavirus tests at Elmhurst Hospital.
(Image credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

The Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, New York, is at the center of the coronavirus crisis.

As of Wednesday evening, there are 20,011 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in New York City, with more than 3,922 patients hospitalized. Of those cases, 30 percent have been reported in Queens. At the 545-bed Elmhurst Hospital, which mostly serves low-income patients who do not have primary care doctors, almost everyone who has been admitted recently has coronavirus. Over the last 24 hours, 13 people have died at the hospital of COVID-19, New York City's public hospital system said in a statement.

"It's apocalyptic," Dr. Ashley Bray told The New York Times. She recently tried to reach the family of a 38-year-old patient that she knew was close to death, but learned that his mother was receiving treatment for coronavirus at another hospital. "We weren't able to get in touch with anybody," she said. There are so many people dying that a refrigerated truck has been parked outside to hold bodies, and there are constant worries that there won't be enough ventilators for patients.

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The coronavirus surge started at the hospital in early March, with more patients coming in with flu-like symptoms. Now, hundreds of people are filling the emergency room, biding time until they can be admitted; one man had to wait nearly 60 hours for a bed, the Times reports. People line up at 6 a.m. to get tested for coronavirus, with some waiting all day before being turned away, and doctors say they come back to check on patients, only to find they died while they were tending to others. Read more about how Elmhurst is handling the coronavirus crisis at The New York Times.

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