A New York City nurse who had been treating coronavirus patients has died just one week after he was admitted to the hospital, and as personal protective equipment for those in the frontlines dwindles, concerns for the safety of medical professionals grow.
Mount Sinai West nursing manager Kious Jordan Kelly was hospitalized March 17 and he died Tuesday. He was in his 40s and colleagues described him as compassionate and devoted to his patients.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff. The safety of our staff and patients has never been of greater importance and we are taking every precaution possible to protect everyone," the hospital said in a statement.
Healthcare workers are in dire need of PPE such as masks, gowns and gloves. The New York Times reported that workers at Mount Sinai were seen on social media using trash bags as protective gear.
In a statement Thursday, Mount Sinai said the "troubling photo" most widely circulated shows the nurses in proper PPE underneath the garbage bags.
“The safety and protection of all Mount Sinai staff and patients is always – and will always be - our absolute top priority, but especially during the COVID-19 crisis," the statement said. "When it comes to staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the facts are very different than recent media reports. To be clear: we always provide all our staff with the critically important PPE they need to safely do their job."
“We know how challenging these conditions are, and how scared people have become but we are doing everything humanly possible to calm these fears and protect our staff and patients," Mount Sinai continued. "This is the greatest humanitarian crisis in a century, and we are all in this together. This week we lost a member of our family. We are grieving deeply for his loss, but we must carry on and continue to do what we do best: save lives."
Hospitals across the city have been overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said actual hospitalizations have moved at a higher rate than the projected models. New York City hospitals could reach the tipping point in three weeks.
Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and Brookdale Hospital in Queens have started constructing makeshift morgues to prepare for the worst. At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 13 people died in a 24-hour period but the hospital's spokesperson says the number is "consistent with the number of ICU patients being treated there."
"Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis, and it's the number one priority of our public hospital system right now. The frontline staff are going above and beyond in this crisis, and we continue surging supplies and personnel to this critical facility to keep pace with the crisis," NYC Health + Hospitals spokesperson Christopher Miller told NBC News.
About 16 percent of the city's cases to date have required hospitalization, around the same as the state's percentage, the mayor's office said. Twenty-three percent of the currently hospitalized patients are in ICUs.
So far, at least 385 have died from COVID-19 in New York.