The New York coronavirus 'war zone': One doctor’s description of the front line

The lockdown of America is expanding by the day. Yesterday Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Georgia either imposed new shelter-in-place orders or tightened existing restrictions.

But New York remains the hotspot. Hundreds have died there within the last 24 hours, succumbing to the virus despite a huge effort by one of the finest health care systems in the world.

Doctors are struggling to cope with the volume of patients.

One of those doctors is Dr Erik Blutinger, fresh out of residency, on the frontline of the greatest medical challenge America has faced for a generation. He works in emergency medicine at the prestigious Mount Sinai hospital in Queen’s.

The great contrast is between the silence on the city’s streets and the frenzy in the emergency room. Credit: AP

When I spoke to him he gave me a startling account of what confronts him at the start of every shift.

The great contrast, Dr Blutinger told me, is between the silence on the city’s streets as he heads to the hospital and then the frenzy in the emergency room. It is filled with the sound of patients coughing into masks and of people taking their last breaths.

“The fear is palpable every day,” Dr Blutinger told me.

“It’s like going into war. It’s unimaginable. 300 people died today. It is really like a war zone but we are running out of ammo; hospitals are running out of ammo fast.”

But he also has a glimmer of hope. He feels America will eventually win the war, though perhaps at a heavy cost in American lives. And Dr Blutinger also believes that in the darkness of this moment there is a lesson.

He want this to be a learning curve for doctors and citizens alike, so that when the next pandemic hits, we will all be better prepared.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know