New York in the Time of Covid-19

In the YouTube clip, bodies from Brooklyn Hospital Center — a 464 bed teaching facility in downtown Brooklyn — are being loaded into a refrigerated truck. The coronavirus has killed over 5,000 people in the United States so far, and the worst-hit area in the country is New York City.

‘They Are Putting Bodies in the 18-Wheeler’

“This is for real,” The unidentified man shooting the film can be heard to call out, his voice breaking with emotion. “This is for real. This is Brooklyn. They [are] putting the bodies in the 18-wheeler.”

New Yorkers are heeding the government’s warnings and taking precautions to try and protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. They are staying indoors, self-isolating, and trying to stay away from one another, but in this city of 8.5 million that is not an easy proposition.

Why Has NYC Been Hit Especially Hard by Covid-19?

Experts have commented that the way New York city is structured with its grids of narrow, claustrophobic streets and high concentrations of people within each of its five boroughs has given impetus to the spread of the coronavirus. In a tightly compacted metropolis with a density of 27,000 people per square mile – twice that of other large cities such as Chicago — and stopping the transmission of Covid-19 was always going to be a struggle.

‘I Believe New York City Will Fall Apart Horribly’

Suzanne — a single parent living in New York — told InsideOver that she had anticipated what might be happening and had planned to take her son back to family in Texas prior to the lockdown.

“I’m getting ready to leave New York for a month,” she told me days before lockdown. “I’m hoping my plane is able to leave … it’s crazy beyond words here. I believe New York City will fall apart horribly.”

I don’t know if she got her flight, despite efforts to contact her I have not heard from her since. Many, however, don’t have these options and have been forced to remain within the city.

“More people are getting sick,” Bob Cooley, a photojournalist and resident of West Village in Lower Manhattan told InsideOver. “But more people are also staying in. Doctors estimate that we should see it get worse for another two weeks in New York, then the curve should hopefully flatten, and that’s due to people staying isolated, and practicing social distancing.”

Central Park Has Become an Emergency Field Hospital

Over in Central Park in the lush green space of East Meadows where normally families play happily on the well-manicured grass in Spring, authorities are now busily turning the area into a massive 1,000-bed field hospital.

“They are setting up triage tents in Central Park,” Bob agreed. “They are fitting our largest convention center — Javits Center — for another 1,000 beds.”

Arrival of the USNS Comfort

A few days ago the the 272-meter USNS Comfort sailed up the Hudson River to a pier on the west side of Manhattan. It’s the same pier where, in normal times, holidaymakers queue expectantly to board cruise ships. But the arrival of the US Navy Mercy-class hospital ship seemed to lift spirits and bring optimism to an otherwise gloomy situation.

“We needed this boost,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference signalling the arrival of the hospital ship. “We needed this hope that is being created by our brothers and sisters in the US Navy, the Marine Corps. Everyone who is here to help us at this crucial moment this ship arrived. It is not just an example of help arriving, a physical form, it is not just about the doctors and equipment, it is also about hope.”

New York is Being Overwhelmed by Covid-19

But there are clear signs that the New York hospital system is becoming overburdened with the number of Covid-19-infected patients being wheeled through its doors.

It is difficult to give accurate data as regards to those infected and those dying from coronavirus, the whole picture is shifting so fast. But, at the time of writing on April 2, 2020, there are a total of 215,300 cases across the USA, and as of today, Thursday, 5,110 people have died.

While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have been impacted, New York state has experienced the most infections with 83,948 recorded cases and 1,941 deaths. Of these 1,941 deaths, over 1,400 are from New York City alone. This compares with California – the whole of California — which had 8,228 cases and 182 deaths as of Wednesday, April 1.

‘The Mood in New York is Bleak’

There is an edginess on the streets of New York that is palpable as people worry, not only about the coronavirus and the risk of infection, but about their finances and their jobs.

“While we are all relatively healthy, the mood in New York is bleak,” Angela Ambrosini from Queens, New York’s biggest borough, told InsideOver. “Considering we are heavily supported by the service industry, four million people all over the USA filed unemployment. [I’m] not sure the… stats in New York city. I think people are starting to get depressed: empty streets, loss of jobs, we cant escape it, yet we are really hoping, too!”

Ambrosini also had the extra worry of having family in Italy, another area of the world that has been especially badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ambrosini tells me her relatives are spread across Italy, some living in the north of the country near Parma, others further south in and around Naples.

New York Pulls Together to Defeat Coronavirus

New York is digging deep, pulling on its resources to prop up an ailing hospital system buckling under the sustained pressure of coronavirus. But it is not giving up. You have to remind yourself this is after all, the most iconic city in the world — the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple. With its world famous landmarks, Times Square, Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the heroes of 9/11 and those who still kept going even after that dark day.

Today New York is a deserted shell of the city it usually is – and will be again. For now, however, like everywhere else in the world, it has a battle on its hands and a fight to win.