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'What do I say to her?' - moment of closure for families comes in 'sad, scary' video calls

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E.M.Ts wheel a bed into the Brookdale Hospital Medical Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brooklyn, New York City. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

E.M.Ts wheel a bed into the Brookdale Hospital Medical Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brooklyn, New York City. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

REUTERS

E.M.Ts wheel a bed into the Brookdale Hospital Medical Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brooklyn, New York City. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Scheena Iyande Tannis cannot remember how many people she has seen die from coronavirus, but it is the manner of their departures that has stuck in her head.

When a patient begins to fade at Brookdale Hospital in New York's Brooklyn district, alone in isolation, staff now arrange video calls for a final goodbye with loved ones.

At home after a 17-hour overnight shift, Ms Tannis replays a conversation she had with a woman on a ward, unable to see her mother dying nearby, moments before the call.

"What do I say to her?" the daughter asks. Ms Tannis says she does not know. In the end the woman just repeats over and over: "Mommy, I love you."

"Normally the families can be at the bedside and can have that moment of closure," says Ms Tannis, a critical care nurse for almost 20 years.

"The sad and the scary part is they can't. They're not allowed to. I think that is what hurts us the most."

Such a tragedy as this is rare, even in New York City. Now, with Covid-19, it is a daily event, not just in Brookdale but in hospitals across the city.

The coronavirus case numbers in New York, the epicentre of the US outbreak, are mind-boggling. Around 46,000 people have tested positive. That is one in 20 of the world total, or one in five US cases. The US surge, up from zero a little more than a month ago, has put immense pressure on the city's hospitals, with numbers forecast to soar for at least another fortnight.

New York City morgues and hospitals bent under the strain of the pandemic yesterday, struggling to treat or bury casualties, as the state's governor offered a grim prediction that the rest of the country would soon face the same misery.

Nearly 1,400 people have been killed by the virus in New York City, while an estimated 90pc of Americans are under orders to remain at home.

"In many ways, New York state is a microcosm of the US and that's why I think it is going to be illustrative to the rest of the nation as to what is going to happen," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The US death toll stood at 5,700 yesterday, up more than 900 from the day before, with a total of 238,000 cases across all 50 states, according to a Reuters tally. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk