Elmhurst Hospital continues COVID fight a year after outbreak

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City last spring, Elmhurst Hospital in Queens was at the forefront of the fight. Dr. Gary Brandeis, the chief of geriatrics, remembers it quite well.

"We had patients in the emergency room, up on all the units," Brandeis said. "We were making extra beds bringing them out of the basement where the beds were appearing."

Like scores of medical professionals across the globe, Brandeis and his colleagues were fighting an invisible enemy for which there was no preparation. They were able to save many lives and, sadly, there were many lives that were lost. 

"They were folks from our neighborhood, this Elmhurst neighborhood," he said. "And they did die in front of us."

As the CEO of Elmhurst Hospital, Arteaga Landaverde's commitment to its mission goes without saying. And actually, it goes even further. Landaverde caught coronavirus last year and was treated at the hospital she is now in charge of.

"I came to Elmhurst Hospital not only because it was my community hospital but also this is where all the experts were," she said. "If you got COVID, you wanted to come to the people who saw COVID firsthand, who understood how to treat it and how to manage it."

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Although vaccinations are underway, the pandemic is still ongoing. The needs of healthcare professionals remain large in the face of cuts to funding. Still, they and the rest of their industry press on by applying lessons learned from Year One as they now heroically face Year Two.

"We are getting better. I do foresee that this will end, whereas a year ago I had no idea,"  Brandeis said. 

"I take it with great honor and heaviness because I know the responsibility that comes with that," Landaverde said, "and only faith can help you carry that weight."