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Doctor: Elmhurst Residents Are Contracting COVID-19 at an Alarming Rate

Line for testing at Elmhurst Hospital (Photo: Queens Post)

March 26, 2020, By Michael Dorgan

Elmhurst has become the epicenter of the coronavirus with many residents being infected, according to a doctor who has worked at Elmhurst Hospital for 20 years and has dealt with a flood of patients this month.

The physician, who did not want to be named, said that the first patients to come down with coronavirus and go to the hospital reside in the immediate area.

She said that the hospital soon struggled to keep pace with the influx and most people carrying the virus were sent home because their life was not in danger. Furthermore, this started happening before the city shut down.

She said that many of the infected people would then walk the streets of Elmhurst– some without masks and gloves– and then return to their densely populated homes carrying the virus.

“An impending humanitarian crisis is about to happen in Elmhurst,” the doctor said. “The virus is absolutely rampant within the community and we have lines out the door of people who don’t feel well.”

The city has not released data pinpointing those neighborhoods hardest struck by the virus. Currently, the mayor’s office has only released data on a borough-wide basis despite multiple requests from many media outlets for this information. 

Queens is the hardest-hit borough accounting for 92 out of New York City’s 281 deaths, according to New York City data released yesterday.

Elmhurst Hospital has become New York’s City’s ground zero in battling the deadly virus – with 13 patients dying there in a 24-hour span between Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said.

The doctor said that many Elmhurst residents live in cramped housing and it is nearly impossible for them to self-isolate or socially distance themselves from others. Additionally, some are not aware of the importance of social distancing in the first place.

“People are living in multigenerational units with lots of families of all ages crammed into small spaces,” she said. “If one family member is told to isolate…they really have nowhere to go.”

Therefore, an alarming number of Elmhurst residents have contracted the virus and are being treated at the hospital.

She said that about half of the patients seen at Elmhurst Hospital for viral symptoms are testing positive and only a small fraction of the community has been tested.

The doctor says that some Elmhurst residents are afraid to go to the hospital because of their immigration status, further exacerbating the problem.

The doctor is urging residents to heed to COVID-19 guidelines to help prevent the spread but feels the message is being lost due in part to language barriers.

She is appealing for the government to provide professional liaison officers to educate the population and to provide the entire community with masks and gloves.

“A mask doesn’t protect the person wearing it but it protects the other people from that person and so if every person wore a mask and gloves there would be a lot less of the disease,” she said.

“We don’t have the staff to cope with our in-patients but we need people like translators to get the message out to people, we don’t think the message is getting through,” she said.

NYC as of March 26, 5 p.m. (Source: NYC DOH)

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Translations of COVID-19 Information for NYC


Stop Spitting

Tell the residents of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights to STOP SPITTING! It is unsanitary, disgusting, and can help spread disease including COVID-19. Someone should hold a workshop on how to practice good hygiene.

Gardens Watcher

Don’t wait for “the government” to send translators. Local leaders already in the district should be making public health announcements in Spanish. Then have local people drive the streets in the borough blasting the recorded message.


Not surprised it’s Queens. Huge immigrant population often have too many people in a small space.


no wonder they still hang out play basketball right in the park in front of the hospital 3/27 @ 5pm


Having worked as a Home Care Social Work Supervisor at Elmhurst Hospital Center for several years, I can tell you that in that area landlords divide up apartments and rent a bedroom and shared kitchen and bathroom access to individuals and families. They charge very high rents for each also. During my time at Elmhurst Home Care I provided social work services to many individuals who were paying anywhere from $600 to $1,100 per month for such a set up. These were documented and undocumented immigrants. The hospital was their lifeline to adequate healthcare. Right after Sept. 11, 2001, the lines of Elmhurst patients (90% of them immigrants) outside our blood bank on the first floor went out the door and around the block. Those patients were so eager to help their adopted country and we so grateful to this country and for the services of Elmhurst Hospital Center. I will never forget those lines. At that hospital I witnessed our HIV/AIDS patients mange their illness, cope with adversity and grieve dying family members with the help of those doctors and nurses. It is painful to see what the Elmhurst Hospital Center patient population in Elmhurst and all of Western Queens are going through as they, like all of us struggle to stay healthy, be treated if they are ill and cope with this new strange reality. It hurts to see this hospital and it’s staff struggle and beg for proper supplies from our government. I hope among the good that comes out of this worldwide tragedy will be a greater appreciation of what poor people, immigrants and any disadvantaged person goes through trying to just get by. So many of us have always had the blessings of an easier life, a protected life, a safe and secure life, that we don’t realize until something like this, how a large part of our world is forced to live. God bless these people and the professionals and para professionals who serve and treat them every day. God bless the doctors, nurses, social workers, lab personnel, radiologists, dieticians, nurse’s aides, secretaries, clerks etc. who give their all to help these people.

Gardens Watcher

Joanne, thank you for your post. I hope it helps call even more attention and compassion for the dire situation at Elmhurst Hospital.


“A mask doesn’t protect the person wearing it but it protects the other people from that person and so if every person wore a mask and gloves there would be a lot less of the disease,” she said.”

That makes no sense. There has been plenty of evidence from health experts through throughout the world who have claimed and proved that infected people can be asymptomatic or show mild symptoms. It’s no wonder most of Asia knows what they are doing as opposed to the U.S.A.

Mark Tully

Surgical masks retain tiny droplets of saliva from your breath, N95 masks are filters with pores too small for microbes to penetrate. An N95 mask with a proper seal protects the wearer, a surgical mask protects other people.


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