Elmhurst Hospital After the Coronavirus Surge: From Chaos to ‘Scary Silence’ | Coronavirus News

Elmhurst Hospital in Queens had been inundated by patients. The Times went back to see how the staff was recovering, and planning for the possibility of another wave.

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Elmhurst Hospital,
which is in Queens,was one of the epicenters of
coronavirus in New York City.It was the place that
went viral.There were fears about
running out of a lot of things:protective equipment,
ventilators — many, many, morepatients were dying every day
in the hospital than usual.It was a very scary situation.I’m Sheri Fink.I’m a correspondent
at The New York Times.Earlier this month,
we were able to spenda day at Elmhurst.The number of new
cases had dropped,but they had to figure
out a new normal.And they also had to deal with
the really, really difficultemotions that the
staff had afterhaving been in a situation
of crisis for many weeks.“It felt surrealwhen it was crazy, and it’s
real surreal a little bit nowI think too.”There’s almost a scary silencebecause normal operations
haven’t started yet,but yet new coronavirus
cases have gone down.When coronavirus
hit, people were notcoming for other emergencies.What doctors are
afraid of now isthat that’s still the case.People may be dying at
home because they’re notgoing to the hospital.“And it’s got the ability
to talk to the patientswithout going in the room.It’s got an intercom system.”They were rapidly scrambling
to try to reconfigure.There is a real urgency to
get these hospitals backto being able to care
for patients who did nothave coronavirus.But also, they haveto plan for the
possibility that therewill be another surge.So they are doing
things like constructingplexiglass barriers
for the registrars.They are taking
whole units thatwere used for treating
coronavirus patients, andthey’re turning them back into
regular intensive care unitsintended for people
who don’t have Covid.These ultraviolet
light emitters dispersethis ultraviolet light,
which can inactivateviruses and other pathogens.Early in the pandemic,they were worried that they
didn’t have the equipmentthat they needed.There was a lot of fear.Now they have an advanced
system for having P.P.E.,for distributing it.It was very well organized.“You would have your
bleach wipes, your sani-wipes,your gloves and
isolation gowns.”There’s a big global
demand for it.And so they try to use as
little as possible while alsostaying safe.They’re also still engagedin treating patients
with coronavirus.“The connections between
E.T.T. and ventilator are secure?”As the cases were going up,doctors didn’t know,
the staff didn’t knowhow long that would last.It wasn’t clear what kinds
of treatments might help.“All of us were like,
we’ll figure this out,and it’s just very
frustrating to realize thatto a certain extent
nobody’s figured it out.”It really has had an
impact on them — justseeing so many deaths and
feeling so, so helpless.All around the hospital,there are displays of cards
and messages of support.Some people seemed to really
appreciate all of the thanks.But I spoke with others
who have been telling methey also feel in some
ways, that they weren’table to save everybody.A lot of the health workers arestaying in hotels, and so
they arrive for their shiftson these buses.There is round of applause
for essential workers.That happens every
night at 7.And one of the nice
things at Elmhurstis that the staff —they arrive right
around 7 o’clock.And so some of these
providers walked off the bus,and there was the sound
of clapping and cheering,and people honking
their horns.And I was noticing
that their headswere down, most of them
didn’t really look upand acknowledge the applause.They have worked through
the peak of this coronavirus,and some of them are
exhausted, both physicallyand emotionally.And they’re also just
filled with the sensethat they don’t yet
know what lies ahead.

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