NYC doctor who survived Ebola: People are dying from coronavirus ‘because we weren’t prepared’


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American citizens are dying from coronavirus because the United States was not prepared to handle the scale of the pandemic, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center Dr. Craig Spencer said Wednesday.

In an interview on “America’s Newsroom” with host Ed Henry, Spencer — who was the first Ebola patient in New York City during the outbreak — said that a lot of the lessons learned surrounding fighting the Ebola virus just six years ago seem to have been forgotten.


“What I think has happened is that it’s left us all vulnerable to a pandemic like coronavirus. And, what we’re seeing on the front lines, it’s dire and it really amplifies the lack of preparation,” he stated. “People, unfortunately, are dying because we weren’t prepared and I just want to share the message that we’re seeing this here in New York City.”

“This is going to roll across the United States and everyone still has more time to prepare than we did,” Spencer asserted.

In addition, Spencer noted that his time spent working in the middle of an East African civil war feels “quite similar” to the havoc, chaos, and mental anxiety of this virus’ impact in New York.

“I’m not a politician. I’m a physician and this is what we’re seeing,” he explained.

“The empty streets do not really reflect the reality here in New York. Times Square may be empty, but our emergency rooms and our ICUs are not. We have had the highest number of ambulance calls ever, including on 9/11. One of my colleagues found a 49-year-old otherwise healthy [person] diagnosed with coronavirus dead in a chair. My first two patients yesterday…were respiratory arrest put on a mechanical ventilator from coronavirus complications,” Spencer added.

“We’re already talking about how we consider palliative care and withdrawing care in the emergency department because we’re concerned. We know that, hopefully, we’re starting to peak in terms of our numbers sometime soon in the next few weeks,” he continued further. “But, new case numbers do not reflect the number of people inside emergency rooms and ICUs.”

Spencer told Henry that while New York City still clearly has a hard road to travel, it “doesn’t say anything about the other places in the country that are just starting to see an uptick in cases now.”


The United States is expected to surpass 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday. New York City has over 43,000 of those cases with over 1,000 deaths reported. All 50 states and Washington D.C. now have at least 100 cases each of the virus.

“And, I just want all of my colleagues around the country to be ready for the same and I want everyone to do their part. Stay inside. Take these messages seriously. Listen to your public health professionals,” he concluded. “Because we’re trying to share what’s happening on this front line and it’s dire.”