“The massive COVID-19 outbreak in New York City demonstrated that dense urban environments are undesirable places for humans to live.”
By Alex P. Vidal
MY fellow journalist from Iloilo City, Ma. Regine Soliman-Algecera, complained that the loud siren from the passing ambulance distracted her while we were talking over the phone Sunday night (March 29).
“Ano ina sa background mo man? Kada 10 minutes may ambulance nga naga uwang (I heard a siren from an ambulance every 10 minutes in the background),” Regine, who was calling from the Long Island, pointed out.
|THE ELMHURST HOSPITAL|
|THE AUTHOR OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL|
She was referring to the ambulances that carried suspected coronavirus patients to the Elmhurst Hospital here in Queens.
Every now and then, an ambulance passed by our apartment—day and night non-stop since it was reported that Elmhurst Hospital became the epicenter of coronavirus cases in the world.
Some residents, fearing they had coronavirus, would call 911 if they weren’t feeling good or if they were coughing and having a fever.
One New Yorker or COVID-19 patient died every 17 minutes, according to reports here.
Elmhurst Hospital, located on corner Baxter and Broadway Streets in the most ethnically and linguistically diverse neighborhood in the borough of Queens, is where the biggest number of COVID-19 patients died over the week.
The death toll, the highest in the United States, has passed 1,000 as of this writing.
“At least you heard it; you’re a witness to what has been going on here in Elmhurst now,” I replied. “Our neighborhood has become like a war zone since five days ago.”
I informed Regine I visited the Elmhurst Hospital Saturday afternoon amid a slight downpour, but didn’t penetrate the emergency room and the area where coronavirus patients were placed.
For our own safety, we have been discouraged from going to that hospital unless we were coronavirus patients or health authorities.
Regine and I actually both live here in Elmhurst.
Her apartment is very near the hospital, or approximately five minutes away by walk.
My apartment is located four blocks away or 10 to 15 minutes (I mentioned 20 minutes in my previous articles) away by walk.
She was confined in the same hospital two years ago for hypertension.
Regine, formerly of Cable Star in Iloilo, had been stranded in the Long Island as a “stay-in” and was advised by her landlady “not to go home” because the government had imposed a strict lockdown order and Monday would be “very difficult” for all New Yorkers who would try to go out.
President Donald Trump has extended federal guidelines on social distancing until April 30 after a top health official warned more than 100,000 people could die from the coronavirus in the United States.
“The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks," Trump told reporters at the White House. "Therefore, the next two weeks and during this period it's very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines ... We will be extending our guidelines to April 30th to slow the spread."
The initial 15-day period had been due to expire on March 30.
The United States has 139,000 confirmed infections from the coronavirus, more than any other country in the world, while more than 2,400 people have died from the respiratory illness caused by the pathogen.
Worldwide, the number of cases has reached more than 718,000. Some 149,000 people have recovered, and more than 33,000 have died.
This developed as The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms and a full medical staff, was scheduled to arrive in New York City on March 30.
Crews on the West Side pier have been preparing over the weekend for its arrival.
Several city agencies have worked together to deepen the area in which the hospital ship can come in to dock.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)