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The 82-year-old girl from Ridgewood, Queens got here to Wyckoff Heights Medical Middle, simply throughout the Brooklyn/Queens border, on March 3, 2020 with respiration problem. She had emphysema, and shortness of breath isn’t uncommon amongst sufferers with the lung illness that usually impacts people who smoke.
Shortness of breath, nonetheless, can be one of many extra frequent signs of COVID-19 — and the girl’s underlying situation made her significantly susceptible to a virus that tends to assault the lungs and induce critical, even deadly, instances of pneumonia and lung scarring.
Certain sufficient, she examined optimistic. Her situation was important, and solely deteriorated additional.
A group of emergency medical technicians, nurses and doctors tended to the woman and did the best they could to treat her — whereas concurrently exposing themselves to a contagion for which there was no identified treatment, therapy or vaccine, as much as that time.
Sadly, their efforts weren’t sufficient to avoid wasting her; she died on March 13 — becoming the first New York City resident to officially succumb to COVID-19.
Near 30,000 extra New Yorkers would endure an identical destiny within the yr that adopted.
Lower than a month after it suffered the primary COVID-19 loss of life in New York Metropolis, in early April, photographers outside Wyckoff Heights Medical Center captured images that showed just how badly the pandemic had struck the hospital, and others prefer it throughout town.
All day and evening, hospital employees in hazmat gear pushed gurneys carrying the bagged our bodies of COVID-19 victims from the hospital, transporting them to a number of refrigerated vehicles parked simply outdoors the emergency room, alongside Stanhope Road. The hospital’s morgue overflowed with useless sufferers to the purpose that these trailers served as short-term morgues to retailer the our bodies till funeral administrators might come to say them on the households’ behalf.
The state of affairs wasn’t distinctive to Wyckoff Hospital. Nearly each medical middle in New York, by the week of April 12, had one or a number of of those trailers-turned-temporary morgues parked outdoors.
Every single day, on the top of the disaster, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Invoice de Blasio reported the statistics about COVID-19 — what number of have been sick, what number of examined optimistic, what number of have been useless, and so forth.
However nothing might higher exhibit the horrific toll COVID-19 reaped on New York Metropolis between late March and early April than the sight of these trailers — and the belief that so many households have been in mourning, and concern.
The wrestle to outlive
As peculiar life ceased throughout New York Metropolis with shutdown and social distancing orders in place, hospital rooms have been filling up with sick sufferers. Senior residents 75 years of age and older suffered the worst, and comprised a lot of the fatalities — however the virus additionally focused youthful sufferers with compromised immune signs or pre-existing situations corresponding to most cancers, coronary heart illness or diabetes.
COVID-19 additionally wound up hitting Black and Latino New Yorkers harder than different communities throughout town — exposing large inequities within the well being care system that have been lengthy ignored. As this actuality emerged, public officers on town and state stage labored to develop sources corresponding to COVID-19 testing to assist higher detect and deal with sufferers who grew to become unwell.
To an individual, nonetheless, no two COVID-19 instances gave the impression to be the identical.
Some who contracted COVID-19 by no means developed a symptom; most suffered a case of fever, chills, fatigue, lack of style and/or odor, aches and congestion that dissipated after a couple of days. Plenty of folks, referred to as “long-haulers,” wound up struggling the ill-effects of COVID-19 for weeks, even months, after the an infection ended.
However far too many received such a extreme case that it required extra strong medical care that solely hospitalization might present.
Although most individuals recovered and went house, too many who went to the hospital didn’t enhance, no matter no matter therapeutic remedies the employees offered. That compelled docs to place most of the most severely sick sufferers on a ventilator — the survival charge as soon as somebody was intubated was simply 11%.
As COVID-19 unfold like hearth throughout New York Metropolis throughout March and April, hospitals throughout the 5 boroughs couldn’t sustain with the demand. Regardless of the most effective preparations made to unencumber hospital house and open up further beds, they rapidly crammed up. Medical doctors, nurses and different members of the hospital employees have been strained and examined like by no means earlier than.
Medical employees additionally exhausted their PPE and different provides rapidly. They have been working out of accessible ventilators to deal with sufferers in intensive care.
Cuomo and de Blasio appealed for support from the federal authorities — which was painfully gradual to reach below the Trump administration. Then-President Trump had initially denied the severity of COVID-19, and as soon as it hit New York, he was not quick to assist his former home state. Issues would enhance in April when Trump dispatched a naval hospital ship to the city and provided additional resources.
Town and state, like many others throughout the US, needed to fend for themselves — competing with the remainder of the world to acquire masks, PPE and different provides for frontline hospital employees. New York state’s authorities scrambled to seek out ventilators for dying sufferers wherever they might.
The shortage of provides bore tragic outcomes as hospital workers treating COVID-19 patients got here down with the virus themselves. A lot of them wouldn’t survive the subsequent month.
The lethal peak
In the meantime, the disaster continued to deepen, together with the heartbreak.
By late March, the sounds of silence in a stilled New York have been reduce, virtually with out finish, with the sounds of sirens — as ambulances, hearth engines and police autos raced to the properties of sick COVID-19 sufferers and transported them to medical services.
The each day loss of life toll started to develop on an exponential scale. Twenty-seven folks died of COVID-19 on March 21, and the quantity rose virtually every single day there after for the subsequent three weeks.
On March 31, 417 folks died of COVID-19.
Then got here April 2020 — by far the deadliest month of the pandemic. New York remodeled into the epicenter of the worldwide well being disaster virtually in a single day.
The height of the outbreak occurred over a nine-day stretch between April 7-15. In these 9 days, roughly 8,788 New Yorkers died of COVID-19, in keeping with The New York Occasions; the each day loss of life charge for that interval averaged out to 976.
In these 9 days, the Empire State had suffered greater than 3 times the variety of deaths that resulted from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist assaults.
Well being care employees and different frontline important employees suffered mightily. EMS models have been stretched skinny, with most of the rank and file additionally getting sick. At one level, between March 31 and April 24, the FDNY had instituted an order limiting resuscitation efforts by EMS units for cardiac arrests victims at house as a result of thinning employees and crammed hospitals.
The NYPD, on April 6, had 20% of its total workforce out sick attributable to COVID-19; the division misplaced greater than 4 dozen of its employees to the virus, together with its Chief of Transportation.
Scores of MTA employees additionally grew to become sick and died of COVID-19 whereas their colleagues continued working the transit system at full tilt — even with subway ridership down 90% on the time — simply to maintain important employees transferring.
New York had by no means confronted such darkness. However glimmers of hope would quickly shine by way of.
To the rescue
The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, nonetheless, introduced out the most effective within the American folks.
Teams of medical workers voluntarily came to New York City to assist the overwhelmed hospitals. That included a convoy of ambulances and emergency medical technicians from each nook of the nation that drove into town to assist exhausted EMS crews.
Then got here the Navy. On March 31, the USNS Comfort — a floating hospital that final visited New York following the 9/11 assaults — rolled into New York Harbor and docked on the West Aspect, within the shadow of the Intrepid Sea Air and House Museum. Their medical employees and provides proved extra precious than the ship’s hospital mattress house in serving to town address the tragic pandemic.
Assist got here from all instructions, even when it wasn’t essentially welcome by everybody. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity based by the Reverend Franklin Graham, established a field hospital in Central Park, working in coordination with Mount Sinai Hospital.
Regardless of the help the sector hospital offered, plenty of New Yorkers questioned its presence due to Graham’s private politics in opposition to LGBTQ rights and help of then-President Trump.
When the federal authorities couldn’t rapidly reply New York’s name for medical provides, metropolis residents themselves stepped as much as reply. Cottage industries popped up in a single day throughout the 5 boroughs, as small companies rapidly transformed their operations to produce masks, face shields and PPE for medical employees desperately in want.
And amid the grief and strife got here a heartening ritual that sounded throughout your complete metropolis each night at 7 p.m.
Adopting a hastily-formed customized from virus-stricken Europe, New Yorkers belted out a nightly salute to the army of frontline health care workers combating to maintain town alive. They clanged pots and pans, applauded, cheered, hollered and shouted honors to the docs, nurses, lab technicians and others placing their very own lives in danger to avoid wasting these most affected by the virus.
The nightly salute doubled as an indication that town, although silent and grief-stricken, was alive — that there can be a restoration to return down the highway — and that the folks have been decided to beat the pandemic.
Town labored collectively to flatten the curve. All through Could, the an infection charge and deaths started to drop slowly, however steadily.
The darkish spring started to brighten — and as June approached, ideas turned to reopening town’s society, one piece at a time.