NOEL KING, HOST:
In New York state, more than 6,200 people have died from the virus. Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out yesterday that's more than twice as many people as the state lost on Sept. 11.
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ANDREW CUOMO: And I went through Sept. 11. I thought in my lifetime I wouldn't have to see anything like that again - nothing that bad, nothing that tragic.
KING: The health care system is stretched, but volunteer doctors and nurses have been traveling to New York, including some from the aid group International Medical Corps. Susan Mangicaro is leading their COVID-19 response in New York. She's a registered nurse, and she's with me this morning on Skype. Good morning, Susan.
SUSAN MANGICARO: Good morning.
KING: You have been working in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, so hard-hit boroughs. Can you tell me what you've been seeing there?
MANGICARO: Sure. I've been with International Medical Corps for several years and responding to disasters all over the globe, including the United States. This is really unprecedented compared to anything I've ever seen. Our health care systems are really overloaded, overburdened. The staff is really struggling with being able to meet the needs of the patients unlike anything we've ever seen.
KING: Tell me how the doctors and nurses are doing. You say overwhelmed. What does that look like on the ground?
MANGICARO: It - well, making choices that we typically do not have to make, patients so critical that we're having to determine who can have the care first. They're doing the best that they can. They're exhausted. They're a little bit shell shocked because we're not accustomed to not being able to help so many of our patients.
They're doing the best that they can. They are getting more supplies. They are having more beds open up. But again, they're so stretched with so many patients that are overburdening the system that it's really very difficult for them to kind of go in day to day in conditions which are, you know, life-threatening to both their patients and themselves.
KING: Susan, what would you say is the most pressing problem that IMC is currently responding to?
MANGICARO: I think the most difficult thing that we're facing is being able to get enough staff in. That's the first and foremost thing that we're hearing from the front line, from the emergency department staff, and that is their staff not only are working long hours with more critical patients, which means you need more staff, but they're short on staff because their staff is going out sick, some COVID-positive, some just with other symptoms. And so getting the staff to come here because, as you know, this is not just a problem in New York. It's a problem across the country.
MANGICARO: And so bringing people in. We have a wonderful list of volunteers who donate their time to come to the front lines and support us and support the hospitals here in New York.
KING: You mentioned that International Medical Corps often works in war zones. And you said that this is comparable to that?
MANGICARO: I would say as far as the ability to treat as many people as efficiently as you can and effectively as you can, it is. And it's also difficult because we're not accustomed to seeing that in our country.
MANGICARO: We're not accustomed to so many patients, you know, not making it, you know. And so that is extremely difficult for us, not having, in many cases, you know, in the past - it's getting better - sufficient supplies. But we're just not accustomed to that, you know, even in war-torn countries.
KING: Susan Mangicaro is with the International Medical Corps. She joined us on Skype. Susan, thank you so much for your time. I know how busy you are.
MANGICARO: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.