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Illumination from an NYC emergency room RN

The year is 2020. In the day and age of lightening fast internet (most the time), availability of food delivery, clothes, and whatever else you can possibly think simply at the click of a button, our world has changed essentially overnight.

The covid 19 virus spreads like wildfire across the globe nearing close to 550,000 individuals infected and killing 24,000 so far. Regardless of poor planning by the government and a scramble to ‘fix their mistake’, issues have been made to stay indoors save for emergencies and grocery runs. Social distancing of 6+ feet from other people is being taken as a suggestion instead of a rule. Not abiding by the recommendation is pure ignorance in my opinion.

Im an Rn working in NYC. The city that has quickly become the hub and epicenter of the virus in the Western Hemisphere. Our number of infected individuals is 39,140. And the numbers jump by the thousands within 24 hours. The second state with most number infected is New Jersey with 6,876 people. That’s a pretty significant difference if you ask me.

When the whole covid 19 crisis began in the US, I was on my first vacation in three years. Because of the turmoil and confusion regarding the spread of the virus and subsequent shutting down of borders, I cut my vacation short and booked the first flight home. Coming back to work has been a shock. Of course we are all hearing the same news, reading the same websites and updates. But when I reported for duty nothing could have prepared me for what I saw and learned. Hospitals are converting regular medical floors into Intensive care units, emergency rooms are overflowing, there’s no room!!!

To add to this, we were wholly unprepared in regards to availability of personal protective equipment. Face masks that have always been DISPOSABLE after each use are now being reused five to seven times! They DO lose efficacy! It isn’t safe to wear them so many times and expect them to work as they’re designed to. One ER is using garbage bags as gowns to protect clothing!

A little information on the virus, we are being told the transmission is droplet and contact. Meaning if someone sneezes or coughs near or around you you risk contracting the virus. It can also live on areas like tables and doorknobs etc. However, we are also taking airborne precautions when at work. This means the virus can live IN THE AIR as well. This all just serves the fact that we know very little about this virus and what else it can do.

The suggested quarantine of a possibly infected hospital worker has now been cut down to 5-7 days instead of the original 14. We are being implored by the mayor to volunteer and work in high incidence areas where the nurses are in quarantine and are sick themselves! This is crazy! What about the nurse who has a newborn or small children at home? What about the nurse who cares for her elderly parents?

Walking through an er now, it’s not abnormal to see patients laying on the floor on a sheet in droves, lining the hallways, some on their phones, others talking to each other. People. I cannot stress this enough, the only time you should be coming to the emergency room or calling an ambulance is when you’re having DIFFICULTY BREATHING. If you just want to get tested for covid, you’ll likely put yourself at unnecessary increased risk of contracting it by going to the Ed.

The public needs to listen and listen WELL. China got their outbreak under control in 2 months. How? THEY STAYED INSIDE. I still hear children playing in the street where I live, I still see people congregating and socializing way closer than the recommended space and there are still people coming to the ER expecting to be seen immediately and they complain and text or talk on their phones in no apparent medical distress at all!!!

To the people who continue to come to the Er when they are not sick, to the people who are requesting testing, to the people who are still out in public uncaring of the recommendations set forth by leading healthcare persons and our government, I want you to know this. Our reality is changing. We are being prepared for the possibility of practicing war time medicine. There are units being made solely for the purpose of keeping covid positive patients for end of life care. Meaning they are there to die. There are mobile units being placed outside hospitals and ers across the city to serve as addition morgue space. This is how scary it is becoming. Be vigilant, you are not special in that you’re not going to get sick. This can happen to anyone and everyone and already HAS. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and healthy or old with health problems. It’s effecting all people alike. Sure there are many cases of people recovering from covid 19 but there are FAR more who are not and those people are dying.

In case I’ve been remiss in explaining a few essential points. Essential travel means JUST THAT. Food. A quick walk with a pet. The bank. Only places of high importance. Do NOT underestimate this virus. Healthy young people are being intubated, people are dying, and still the virus is mutating and spreading. The people caring for you are overworked and don’t have the proper equipment. Do you due diligence and keep in mind the infrastructure of our healthcare system is teetering on the brink of collapse. Be responsible! It’s more important than ever to stay inside. Even if you are covid positive THERE IS NOTHING TO DO unless you can’t breathe! The doctor will send you home with an order to take your temperature twice a day and take Tylenol. There is nothing to do except to ride it out! Flooding the ER with demands of testing does absolutely nothing but tell you yes you have it now please go home before you infect everyone else here. It is highly contagious, please stay inside and keep yourself and everyone around you safe.

We need to come together as a whole and tackle it the best way we can. Staying inside is paramount. Social distancing is imperative. This is not a joke and it shouldn’t even be an option. Just the fact that there are now mobile morgues posted outside almost every healthcare facility through all of the boroughs should be enough to tell you that this pandemic is still only in its infancy. We are expecting the worst.

I am not saying these things to argue or insight fear, it’s just the opinion of a nurse who works every night in subpar conditions and has a family to come home to. It’s frustrating and upsetting to see people disregard what they’re being told or brushing it off as “yeah it’s crazy” then go and do all the things we’re advised not to do.

I, as well as many others are caring for the sicker people with this virus and putting ourselves at a ridiculous risk by having to come to work. I wish I could stay home quarantined myself but I cannot. We go to work for you, please stay home for us.

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