At a New York City hospital in the center of the state’s coronavirus outbreak, at least 13 patients died in the span of 24 hours, local media reported.
Elmhurst Hospital, part of the city’s public hospital system, said the 13 deaths were consistent with the number of intensive care unit patients the hospital was treating at the time, according to the New York Times and NBC New York.
The deaths occurred from Tuesday to Wednesday at the Queens hospital as New York continues to battle COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
As of Wednesday evening, the city said it had 20,011 known cases, leading to 280 deaths.
“Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis,” hospital spokesperson Christopher Miller said in a statement to NBC New York. “It’s the number one priority of our public hospital system right now.”
Medical staff are operating at their limit as they’ve worked tirelessly to treat patients in the 545-bed facility, the hospital statement said. The Times reported some patients waiting for a bed died in the emergency room, and a refrigerated truck sits outside to hold bodies.
“It’s apocalyptic,” Dr. Ashley Bray, 27, a general medicine resident told the Times.
Elsewhere, the city’s convention center is being turned into a temporary hospital, and a makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
Earlier this week, White House officials warned that anyone who had traveled to the city in recent days should self-quarantine for two weeks after their departure.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city’s density and it being an international destination is what made such a hotbed for the outbreak.
“Our closeness makes us vulnerable,” he said. “But it’s true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. And our closeness is what makes us who we are. That is what New York is.”
The governor has ordered everyone to stay at home “to the maximum extent possible” and banned all nonessential gatherings “of any size for any reason.”
Cuomo has also said that the state has an adequate supply of masks and other protective equipment to last several days, but that the race to acquire respirators remained critical. He said they will be returned to states who donate them – and that his state will provide expertise on treatment as well.
“We are asking the country to help us,” he said. “We will return the favor.”