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Colorado doctors help COVID-19 patients in NYC

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- Doctors here in Colorado are helping to treat COVID-19 patients in New York City.

Doctors from Denver-based National Jewish Health have been taking turns making the trip across the country. They'll be helping out in an overburdened hospital in New York City -- what many people are calling the hotspot for the pandemic here in the United States.

National Jewish has a research program in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. So when they heard about the organization's need for extra hands, they decided to send a group of physicians every week.

KRDO spoke with National Jewish Doctor Mohammad Dalabih via FaceTime on Tuesday about his experience treating COVID-19 patients in New York City.

"Walking around the hospital you constantly hear what we call the rapid response team. That's when somebody is decompensating quickly and they need a team to go take care of them," Dalabih told us.

He said the intensive care unit where he's been working has quadrupled in size since the outbreak started.

"It’s much, much busier. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen a patient who does not have the novel coronavirus," Doctor Dalabih explained. "The patients are very, very sick, and they stay on the breathing machines for a very long time."

New York accounts for more than a third of the total COVID-19 deaths in the United States; that's more than 10,000 victims in one state.

I asked Dalabih if he thinks the situation could get as deadly in Colorado. He said he believes we've done enough to dodge such a hard hit.

"I think the social distancing and the stay-at-home [order] have spared us of that. Otherwise this could have totally happened to us," Dalabih said.

As we await a vaccine, he told us he doesn't see life going back to normal for at least a full year.

"And there’s certain things I think are going to be there for even longer than that -- like not shaking hands and kind of keeping a distance," he said.

Dalabih said his time in New York City has shown him how serious this illness really is.

"I've seen the disease in Colorado. But I've also seen it here, when it completely takes over a healthcare system," he said. "And I don’t think that people can really imagine how much of a problem it is unless they see it first hand."

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Julia Donovan

Julia is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Julia here.

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