UCSF doctor treating COVID-19 patients in NYC speaks candidly about his experience

NEW YORK (KGO) -- Dozens of heroic doctors and nurses have volunteered to leave the relative safety of the Bay Area and head to COVID hot spots around the country.

After two weeks in New York City, on the eve of his last hospital shift, UCSF cardiologist Dr. Ethan Weiss, spoke candidly about his experience and hope for the future.

RELATED: UCSF emergency doctor on front lines of COVID-19 in NYC describes his experience so far

"There's no one in the street... This is midtown Manhattan," exclaimed Weiss, as he showed empty city streets over Zoom on his cell phone Thursday night.

After a 13-hour shift at an undisclosed Manhattan hospital, Weiss sat down in his hotel room, with a glass of wine, to talk to ABC7 news reporter, Kate Larsen.

Larsen: "When the virus came here to San Francisco, you were scared for the first time in your medical career. What then made you decide to get on a plane, and leave your family, leave your children, to go to the arguably the biggest hot spot in the U.S.?"

Weiss: "That younger part of me, when I was a resident or intern, came back to life and I felt like I had a mission that never went away.... I've got lots of friends and colleagues here in New York City. I felt like they were just getting bombarded and overwhelmed and that we weren't doing anything to help them."

Larsen: "What's the difference between San Francisco hospitals and New York hospitals right now?

Weiss: "It's a dramatic and gigantic difference in scope of disease.... In San Francisco because so few people have actually die hardly anyone knows anyone who did. Whereas here in New York, everybody knows somebody who's died. Most people know relatives or maybe even several relatives who have died.... We have these incredibly sick and dying patients who are all alone and their families are locked out and they can't come in, and it's to protect them and everybody else, but what it means is that no one is actually seeing this, no one is seeing the devastation."

Larsen: "So many of your tweets are super serious, but you've also got a lot of humor. One of your tweets says 'wearing an N95 respirator is apparently a great way to discover that you have bad breath.' I think that's all kind of something we can relate to."
Weiss: "there's nothing more important than a sense of humor... It's the only way I've been able to get through anything hard in my life."

Larsen: "Your beard! You were one of the first people to shave your beard to try and get a better mask fit."

Weiss: "My kids have never seen me without a beard, my wife doesn't ever want to see me without a beard, so I had to shave back in March when I went in the hospital, much to the chagrin of my family. They thought I looked like some foreign creature."

Larsen: "Some parts of California, even some parts of the Bay Area are going to begin phase 2 reopening tomorrow, on Friday. How do you feel about that now, having seen a really dark part of this disease?"

Weiss: "I do think we're going to have to find a way to get people back out of their homes.... If I were in charge, I'd focus on the things that really matter first, so getting kids back to school, people back to work.... As much of a Warriors fan as I am, and I have season tickets, I can't imagine choosing to go to a Warriors game for a while."

Dr. Weiss is flying home on Saturday. He's going to isolate at a hotel before seeing his family and grow back his beard.

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