CBS2 Speaks To Doctor Who Diagnosed First Positive COVID-19 Case In NYC

Mount Sinai Hospital's Dr. Angela Chen recounts what happened on March 1, 2020. CBS2's Jessica Layton reports.

Video Transcript

- Now to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been one year since our lives have changed forever. On this day last year, the first known COVID case was confirmed in New York City. Fast forward 365 days, the city has seen more than 728,000 cases. CBS 2's Jessica Layton, live outside Mount Sinai Hospital, where the first patient was diagnosed a year ago tonight. Jessica.

JESSICA LAYTON: You know, Christine, it's really been surreal today thinking about everything that happened this year-- all the pain, all the loss. A year ago, we weren't wearing masks yet. Social distancing wasn't even in our vocabulary. And even as that first patient walked through these doors a year ago tonight, we had no idea how our world was about to change.

Vaccination celebration at Johnson & Johnson facilities as millions of doses of the nation's third approved vaccine were boxed up and shipped out to sites across the country.

ANTHONY FAUCI: They're highly efficacious in many ways, including importantly, preventing severe or critical disease.

JESSICA LAYTON: The hopeful outlook coming exactly a year after New York City's long, dark fight against the pandemic began. She had respiratory symptoms over the weekend and then tested positive at Mount Sinai Hospital. As we were still learning about the concerning virus at our doorstep, Dr. Angela Chan was just a few hours removed from diagnosing the city's first positive patient.

ANGELA CHEN: It's very surreal to think about being there in the moment that kind of set it all off.

JESSICA LAYTON: Dr. Chen was the attending physician in the emergency department of Mount Sinai that Sunday night, when they got word a 39-year-old high risk patient who just traveled to Iran was on her way in.

ANGELA CHEN: I said I really hope we get this one right, because I think this is it. I was petrified that any kind of breach in my PPE meant bringing it home to my family.

JESSICA LAYTON: She and her husband ended up sending their one-year-old son to stay with his grandparents in New Jersey, missing first steps and first words.

ANGELA CHEN: We did what we had to do, to protect him, and protect everyone around us.

JESSICA LAYTON: Four days after that first patient in New York, Pam Newman became one of the first infected in New Jersey.

PAM NEWMAN: I think my highest fever must have been 104 point something, so it was just torture.

JESSICA LAYTON: The longtime fitness instructor spent an entire month isolated from her husband and three kids.

PAM NEWMAN: It can sneak up and get anybody, and you have to be attuned to your body.

ANGELA CHEN: We don't understand, still, exactly how the virus is transmitted, and why certain people at more risk. We don't understand who ends up with long term symptoms. We're still in the thick of it, despite it being one year later.

JESSICA LAYTON: And Dr. Chen told me even after all this time, she still gets a pit in her stomach whenever she has to make that COVID diagnosis, because while many of her patients fare very well-- they recover quickly, others never get to go home to see their families again. Reporting live on the Upper East Side tonight, Jessica Layton, CBS 2 News.