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

NEW YORK (KGO) -- Twenty Bay Area medical professionals from UCSF headed to New York City two weeks ago to help COVID-19 patients in the New York-Presbyterian hospital system.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena spoke exclusively to UCSF Professor of Emergency Medicine, Clement Yeh, whose part of the team saving lives in NYC.

RELATED: UCSF sends group of 20 doctors, nurses to New York amid coronavirus pandemic

NYC is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. Latest count over 150,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths.

"I don't think anyone has seen anything like this before Luz," said Dr. Clement Yeh, UCSF Emergency Medicine Professor.

In this war against COVID-19, New York City hospitals are getting help from across the nation. In the frontlines along with NYC medical workers is a group of 20 Bay Area medical professionals who signed up to help. Dr. Yeh is one of them.

"I think that people who are stressed under these conditions do adapt and take somewhat of a battlefield mentality," said Dr. Yeh.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Navy commander from California joins battle against COVID-19 in NYC

A needed mentality wheN the enemy is a virus that has swept through America and killed close to 50,000 people leaving hospital scrambling for space.

"We have been utilizing every space and they have managed to mobilize and care for people all over the hospital. In various location and making auxiliary locations available that you wouldn't expect," said Dr.Yeh.

When we asked Dr. Yeh about his mindset while trying to help a patient with COVID-19 he answered:

"The biggest thing is that I feel a lot of gratitude for being here and trying to help. At the same time it's very difficult because the current conditions just like in the Bay Area right now prevent a lot of people at the end of their lives to be with their loved ones physically.

That's the hardest thing for caregivers now is people alone who are very sick and under normal circumstances would be surrounded by their loved ones."

Dr. Yeh's biggest concern is getting sick. A pattern he's seen among his colleagues.

"I think we are entering a phase where healthcare worker exposure is a much more significant concern," said Dr. Yeh.

My sister a speech pathologist in NYC tested positive for COVID-19. She like many health care professionals across the state was required to reuse her personal protective equipment for multiple weeks. Two weeks after testing positive and fighting the hardest medical fight of her life, she's back at work.

"To the historical aspects we really don't know how things are going to go at this point. Similar to the Bay Area here in NYC people have a lot of anxiety and as we are seeing some of the cases improve nobody wants to get too hopeful about it," said Dr. Yeh.
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