N.Y.C.-Based Nurse Dies from Coronavirus and Other Hospital Coworkers Blame Lack of Protection

A nurse in New York City has died after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, New York, died this week after texting his sister that he was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

Kelly, 48, suffered from asthma, but was otherwise healthy, his sister told the Times.

Marya Patrice Sherron, Kelly’s sister, shared her anger and grief over her brother’s death on Facebook on Wednesday.

“I can’t talk. I don’t know how to do this. We had plans…we were going to build a tiny house on our parents property,” she wrote alongside a photo of Kelly holding a baby.

“I’m angry. He was healthy. I know he’s in heaven,” she added. “I know I will see him again. I know people die every day. I know many of you have endured loss. My God! I had no idea…the pangs of pain are excruciating. O, James. My big brother….it’s hard to breathe.”

Sherron told the Times that the last text she received from Kelly read, “I’m okay. Don’t tell Mom and Dad. They’ll worry.”

Some of Kelly’s coworkers claim that his death could have been prevented if the hospital had had more adequate protective gear for its health care workers.

A nurse who worked with Kelly told the Times that the hospital was providing nurses with one plastic gown per shift, and that Kelly had not used protective equipment. Usually, the nurse said, they changed gowns between every interaction with an infected patient.

Kelly helped another nurse who had cared for a COVID-19 patient take off their protective gear on March 10, the nurse told the Times.

“I’m also very angry with the Mount Sinai Health System for not protecting him,” said Mount Sinai West nurse Bevin Bloise on Facebook, according to the Times.

“We do not have enough PPE, we do not have the correct PPE, and we do not have the appropriate staffing to handle this pandemic,” she said. “And I do not appreciate representatives of this health system saying otherwise on the news.”

In a statement on Facebook Thursday, the hospital said that the safety and protection of its staff and patients is “always — and always will be — our absolute top priority, but especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”

“When it comes to staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the facts are very different than recent media reports,” the statement said. “To be clear: we always provide all our staff with the critically important PPE they need to safely do their job.”

“This crisis is straining the resources of all New York area hospitals and while we do — and have had — enough protective equipment for our staff, we will all need more in the weeks ahead,” the statement continued. “This crisis is only growing and it’s essential that we not only have all the right equipment but that we come together to help and support one another.”

“We know how challenging these conditions are, and how scared people have become but we are doing everything humanly possible to calm these fears and protect our staff and patients. This is the greatest humanitarian crisis in a century, and we are all in this together.”

The statement concluded by recognizing Kelly’s loss.

“This week we lost a member of our family. We are grieving deeply for his loss, but we must carry on and continue to do what we do best: save lives.”

On Thursday, the United States surpassed both Italy and China to become the nation with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world with at least 83,329 cases of the contagious respiratory virus.

New York is currently the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, with at least 37,258 cases as of Thursday afternoon.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has pointed out the state’s dire need for medical supplies like masks and ventilators, saying on Wednesday that he expects the need for 140,000 hospital beds at the peak of the state’s crisis — which is more than double the current capacity, according to NBC New York.

Cuomo added on Wednesday that he views obtaining enough ventilators as the state’s “single biggest challenge,” according to NBC New York. The state is in need of 30,000 ventilators, but currently has only 11,000.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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