Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Coronavirus: Doctor who survived Ebola shares heartbreaking diary from a NYC emergency room

'There is a cacophony of coughing. You stop. Mask up. Walk in'

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 25 March 2020 16:11 GMT
New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the state's Covid-19 cases is 'spiking'

A doctor who survived Ebola while treating patients in West Africa has revealed what it's like to be an emergency room physician on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City.

Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia Medicine, posted a Twitter thread documenting a day in the life of an ER doctor during the Covid-19 outbreak in New York, which has more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus than any other state in the country.

He said he begins each morning by “making a big pot of coffee for the whole day, because the place by the hospital is closed” due to the city’s stay-at-home orders.

Once he enters the emergency room, Mr Spencer wrote that he’s “struck by how the calm of the early morning city streets is immediately transformed” and added: “There is a cacophony of coughing. You stop. Mask up. Walk in.”

Mr Spencer went on to share tragic details about Covid-19 patients and the severe symptoms they all seem to face when arriving in the emergency room.

“Nearly every patient is the same, young [and] old,” he wrote. “Cough, shortness of breath, fever.”

In one example, Mr Spencer said he was forced to “have a long and honest discussion” with a Covid-19 patient and their family over the phone about how he thought it was “best to put her on life support now, before things get much worse”.

As he was setting up to put the patient on life support, he said another patient in the room next door also immediately required life support as well.

“Two patients, in rooms right next to each other, both getting a breathing tube,” he wrote. “It’s not even 10am yet.”

“We were too late to stop this virus,” he added. “Full stop. But we can slow it's spread. The virus can't infect those it never meets. Stay inside. Social distancing is the only thing that will save us now. I don't care as much about the economic impact as I do about our ability to save lives.”

“I survived Ebola,” he said. “I fear #COVID-19.”

In an interview with NBC’s Today Show, Mr Spencer said the most important thing for people to do about Covid-19 was to “take it very seriously” and remember that “everyone can be impacted by this virus”.

“What we’re seeing in the emergency room is dire,” he added. “It’s only a matter of time before we see this spill out into the streets. Please stay home. Please protect yourself. Please protect your health care providers.”

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York surpassed 25,000 on Tuesday, with health officials warning the true number of cases was likely far higher due to significant issues in distributing testing kits across the country. At least 15,000 of those cases were in New York City.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in