'I know without any doubt that I'm going to lose colleagues': New York hospital workers at the front line describe the stark reality of their working conditions, comparing facilities to a 'petri dish'

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Sgt. Amouris Coss/U.S. Army National Guard/Handout/Reuters

  • Hospital workers in New York — the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak — describe the stark reality of treating patients amid a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • One doctor described working conditions like a "petri dish" as coronavirus patients flood hospital hallways, The New York Times reported.
  • As of March 30, the coronavirus has infected at least 67,384 people in New York, and the death toll in the state has surpassed 2,700.
  • Doctors and nurses are getting infected — two nurses even died — of the virus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, as they tend to patients amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A New York doctor at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States described to The New York Times that working conditions were like being in a "petri dish," as doctors and nurses care for an overwhelming number of patients.

As of March 30, the coronavirus has infected at least 67,384 people in New York, and the death toll in the state has surpassed 2,700.

Doctors and nurses are getting infected — and two nurses died — of the virus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, as they tend to patients amid a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Thomas Riley, a nurse working in the Bronx who was infected with the coronavirus, set the scene in the hospital where he worked — patients with "lungs that sounded like sandpaper" crowding the hallways and doctors and nurses facing a shortage of PPE, according to The Times report.

"I'm swimming in this," he told The Times was thinking at the time, adding that he thought, "I'm pretty sure I'm getting this."

Hospital workers are forced to reuse their masks and gowns amid the protective gear shortage, instead of swapping out PPE after treating each patient, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation. At Kings County Hospital Center, hospital staff are given one N95 mask to last through the week and are forced to sanitize the masks with hand sanitizer in between patients, according to a Times report.

"It puts us in danger, it puts our patients in danger," Kelley Cabrera, an emergency room nurse in the Bronx, told The Times. "I can't believe in the United States that's what's happening."

Despite the potential threat to their own health, medical workers continue to show up to their shifts to treat patients as the city continues to grapple the virus.

"We all think we're screwed," Kimberly Marsh, a nurse working outside New York City, told The New York Times. "I know without any doubt that I'm going to lose colleagues. There's just no way around it."

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