New York rushed to bring in an army of medical volunteers as the statewide death toll from the coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900, while the global number of people diagnosed with the illness edged closer to 1 million on Thursday.
As hot spots flared around the U.S. in places like New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city was the hardest hit of them all, with bodies loaded onto refrigerated morgue trucks by gurney and forklift outside overwhelmed hospitals.
The wail of ambulances in the otherwise eerily quiet streets of the city became the heartbreaking soundtrack of the crisis.
And the worst is yet to come.
“How does it end? And people want answers,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I want answers. The answer is nobody knows for sure.”
President Donald Trump acknowledged that the federal stockpile is nearly depleted of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses and warned of trying times to come.
“Difficult days are ahead for our nation,” he said. “We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now that are going to be horrific.”
Altogether, close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus.
The real figures are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, differences in counting the dead and large numbers of mild cases that have gone unreported.
More measures to control the spread of the virus rolled out Wednesday in the U.S. Under growing pressure, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis belatedly joined his counterparts in more than 30 states in issuing a statewide stay-home order. The governors of Pennsylvania, Nevada and Mississippi took similar steps.
The U.S. has recorded more than 216,000 infections and more than 5,100 deaths, with New York City accounting for about one out of four dead.
More than 80,000 people have volunteered as medical reinforcements in New York, including recent retirees and health care professionals taking a break from their regular jobs. A Navy hospital ship has docked in the harbor, a convention center has been turned into a hospital, and the tennis center that hosts the U.S. Open is being converted to one.
Those arriving to help have found a hospital system near the breaking point.
“It’s hard when you lose patients. It’s hard when you have to tell the family members: ‘I’m sorry, but we did everything that we could,’” said nurse Katherine Ramos of Cape Coral, Florida, who has been working at New York Presbyterian Hospital. “It’s even harder when we really don’t have the time to mourn, the time to talk about this.”
Cuomo said projections suggest the crisis in New York will peak at the end of April, with a high death rate continuing through July.