March 28, 2020, By Michael Dorgan
Elmhurst has become the epicenter of the coronavirus with many residents being infected, according to a doctor who has worked at Elmhurst Hospital for 20 years and has dealt with a flood of patients this month.
The physician, who did not want to be named, said that the first patients to come down with coronavirus and go to the hospital reside in the immediate area.
She said that the hospital soon struggled to keep pace with the influx and most people carrying the virus were sent home because their life was not in danger. Furthermore, this started happening before the city shut down.
She said that many of the infected people would then walk the streets of Elmhurst– some without masks and gloves– and then return to their densely populated homes carrying the virus.
“An impending humanitarian crisis is about to happen in Elmhurst,” the doctor said. “The virus is absolutely rampant within the community and we have lines out the door of people who don’t feel well.”
The city has not released data pinpointing those neighborhoods hardest struck by the virus. Currently, the mayor’s office has only released raw data on a borough-wide basis despite multiple requests from many media outlets for this information. The city released a map Friday on the percentage of people testing positive in various sections of the borough– but not how many people had actually contracted the virus or that were tested.
Queens is the hardest-hit borough accounting for 92 out of New York City’s 281 deaths, according to New York City data released yesterday.
Elmhurst Hospital has become New York’s City’s ground zero in battling the deadly virus – with 13 patients dying there in a 24-hour span between Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said.
The doctor said that many Elmhurst residents live in cramped housing and it is nearly impossible for them to self-isolate or socially distance themselves from others. Additionally, some are not aware of the importance of social distancing in the first place.
“People are living in multigenerational units with lots of families of all ages crammed into small spaces,” she said. “If one family member is told to isolate…they really have nowhere to go.”
Therefore, an alarming number of Elmhurst residents have contracted the virus and are being treated at the hospital.
She said that about half of the patients seen at Elmhurst Hospital for viral symptoms are testing positive and only a small fraction of the community has been tested.
The doctor says that some Elmhurst residents are afraid to go to the hospital because of their immigration status, further exacerbating the problem.
The doctor is urging residents to heed to COVID-19 guidelines to help prevent the spread but feels the message is being lost due in part to language barriers.
She is appealing for the government to provide professional liaison officers to educate the population and to provide the entire community with masks and gloves.
“A mask doesn’t protect the person wearing it but it protects the other people from that person and so if every person wore a mask and gloves there would be a lot less of the disease,” she said.
“We don’t have the staff to cope with our in-patients but we need people like translators to get the message out to people, we don’t think the message is getting through,” she said.