Echoes of 9/11 and temporary morgues: How New York City has become the epicentre of COVID-19.


The Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, has a stark warning for Australians.

“It is as serious as life and death. Act sooner and act more dramatically. Don’t procrastinate – there’ll be people who say ‘this is too dire, it won’t be that bad, this is media hype’. They are wrong.”

Governor Cuomo is in charge of the state with the United States’ highest number of COVID-19 cases. It’s the epicentre – ground zero – for the virus within the US, amid fears the nation could become ‘the next Italy’.

An American nurse describes her day working with COVID-19. Post continues below video.

Video by Supplied

“One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country, and now, we are looking at a bullet train because the numbers are going up that quickly,” he said on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday local time (Thursday AEDT), New York State has more than 30,000 cases – which accounts for half of the cases within America – and New York City is home more than 20,000 of these.


It’s believed the city’s high density and large numbers of travel and tourism have contributed to its rapid rise in numbers.

“It’s apocalyptic.”

Scenes from within NY hospitals, especially in densely populated NYC, are being likened to a war-zone.

With an infection rate five times that of the rest of their country, New York’s sleep deprived health workers are putting themselves at risk and working around the clock, rationed to one face mask a day and worrying about when the already rapidly dwindling number of available ventilators will run out.

Beds are squeezed in wherever spaces allow. Close to 3000 patients have been hospitalised in the city alone.

Gov. Cuomo said in a press conference on Tuesday that at the peak of the outbreak around 140,000 hospital beds will be needed, and the state has only 53,000.

Several temporary hospitals are planned in New York City, a Navy hospital ship is being deployed, and existing hospitals are increasing capacity by at least 50 per cent, ABC News reported.

Elmhurst Hopsital Center, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, is moving its non-coronavirus related patients to other facilities as it moves to become entirely dedicated to the outbreak.

The hospital has just a few dozen ventilators and patients have died in the emergency room while waiting for a bed.


Calls over a loudspeaker of ‘Team 700,’ the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift, the New York Times reported.

“It’s apocalyptic,” Dr Bray said, a general medicine resident at the hospital.

Outside the hospital sits a refrigerated truck. It holds bodies of the dead.

A temporary morgue.

At least two of New York City’s hospitals have filled up their morgues, with the rest predicted to reach capacity by the end of this week.

nyc coronavirus
An Air Force member exits a tent builded as makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital on March 25, 2020 in New York City. Image: Getty.

The city requested 45 refrigerated trailers to deal with the overflow. Each is capable of holding 44 bodies according to Bloomberg, bringing the city's capacity to hold bodies to 3600, with the addition of refrigerated tents.

"We're putting them out near major hospitals as a precautionary measure to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Aja Worthy-Davis from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told the publication. "We very much hope we don’t need them."

The New York Post reported the city is also building a temporary morgue in Manhattan, with a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio confirming the medical examiner’s office was enacting "emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome".

The medical examiner's office has used temporary morgues in the past, including in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

A shortage of safety gear.

A report by the New York Post, into the shortage of safety gear in New York hospitals, shows images of desperate nurses wearing rubbish bags at Mount Sinai West Hospital.

According to the Post's report, staffers at the hospital believed the lack of basic supplies led to the death of their colleague, assistant nursing manager Kios Kelly, 48, who tested positive for coronavirus about two weeks ago and died at Mount Sinai's flagship hospital on the Upper East Side on Tuesday night local time.


At least four of Kelly's colleagues have also tested positive for COVID-19.

The shortage is so dire, Mayor de Blasio called on individuals and philanthropists to send the required gear to NYC.


Quarantines and shut down.

White House officials on Tuesday advised anyone who passed through or left New York City to self-isolate themselves for 14 days.

Officials warned that the outbreak could reach its peak in New York City much sooner than expected and said they had begun treating the region as a coronavirus hot zone, similar to those in China and Europe.

"Anyone in the New York metropolitan area who has traveled: Our task force is encouraging you to monitor your temperature, be sensitive to symptoms, and we are asking anyone who has traveled out of the New York City metropolitan area to anywhere else in the country to self-isolate for 14 days," Vice President Mike Pence said.

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Image: Getty.

Over the weekend, Mayor de Blasio urged New York City to shut down at 5pm Sunday except for essential services and workers.

In his Wednesday morning press conference, Gov. Cuomo offered a rare bit of good news.

Though numbers continue to rise rapidly, he said projections of how many people would require hospital beds showed promising signs.

As of Sunday, he said, the projection was hospitalisations due to the coronavirus would double every two days. But on Monday, the projection shifted, with doubling expected every 3.4 days. The trend continued Tuesday, with doubling expected every 4.7 days.

"This is a very good sign and a positive sign. I’m not 100 per cent sure it holds or it’s accurate, but the arrows are headed in the right direction and that is always better than the arrows headed in the wrong direction."

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It's okay to feel this way, but it's also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus - How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.