Across New York City, hospital workers are exhausted after three months of combating what was without question the worst outbreak in the country. Recent surveillance testing conducted by the state revealed, unsurprisingly, that as many as 1 in 4 New Yorkers might have caught the virus.
Assuming the official data represent a complete accounting of the city's infections and deaths, the ~30k confirmed deaths represent a mortality rate of ~0.35%. While a larger denominator (total cases) would likely lead to a reduction in the overall mortality rate, it's widely believed that thousands of deaths have also gone uncounted.
Dr. Nazish Ilyas, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, told WSJ during a recent interview that she was only just beginning to "process" the events of the last two months, which included treating patients as they confronted their own mortality, and even falling ill with the virus herself. Not only did she administer life-saving treatment, but for the patients who couldn't be saved, she held their hands, pressed cellphones to the faces of the dying as they breathed their last words to loved ones.
"It was constantly go, go, go...I think people are carrying a lot of emotion, and they’re carrying around heavy hearts," she said.
As states scramble to rebuild stockpiles of PPE, COVID tests and critical equipment like ventilators, Dr. Ilyas, who missed 2 weeks of work after catching the virus herself, told reporters that she, and many other doctors working in hospitals around the city, have come to a much different conclusion than experts and the WHO which, after opposing lockdowns in the US and Europe, has implied that countries are risking an immediate 'second wave' by reopening too quickly.
Dr. Ilyas believes that the virus will never go away, that humanity will simply need to adjust to the reality of living with it, until a vaccine is developed - however long that might take.
"To some extent, we’ve accepted that there will always be Covid patients," Dr. Ilyas said.
This is why most hospital systems around the country are rushing to assess what worked - for many, telemedicine has proven to be a powerful tool - while identifying areas where improvements are needed - like closing "care gaps" in minority communities. Personnel working in finance and other departments have successfully managed to handle their duties from home.
“We’ve all dealt with something extraordinary here," one doctor told the Journal. "We all have a new perspective on life.”
Across NYC, doctors described the aftermath of the flood of patients, which started to subside more than a month ago. Hospitals are dealing with 1/5th of the patients seen during the initial wave. Newcomers just arriving aren't as sick; those who remain in the ICU - more often than not - are patients who have been there for a long time, who are at high risk of not recovering.
When factoring in only those patients who are admitted to the hospital, coronavirus is an astonishingly deadly virus: Lenox Hill's mortality rate for COVID-19 is just 14%, while the citywide average is around 27%.
In some areas of the hospital, things are slowly returning to normal. Patients are trickling in for non-emergency surgeries for the first timethat were converted to handle the surge of patients with Covid-19 are returning to their regular pre-coronavirus use. Patients are trickling in for the critical surgeries that had been delayed.
As the popular meme goes, nature is healing.