Julio Jimenez, 35, spent six hours in the emergency room on Sunday night after running a fever while at work in a New Jersey warehouse. He returned on Monday morning to stand in the testing line in the pouring rain. On Tuesday, still coughing, eyes puffy, he stood in line for nearly seven hours and again went home untested.
“I don’t know if I have the virus,” Mr. Jimenez said. “It’s so hard. It’s not just me. It’s for many people. It’s crazy.”
Rikki Lane, a doctor who has worked at Elmhurst for more than 20 years, said the hospital had handled “the first wave of this tsunami.” She compared the scene in the emergency department with an overcrowded parking garage where physicians must move patients in and out of spots to access other patients blocked by stretchers.
Family members are not permitted inside, she said.
Dr. Lane recalled recently treating a man in his 30s whose breathing deteriorated quickly and had to be put on a ventilator. “He was in distress and panicked, I could see the terror in his eyes,” she said. “He was alone.”
Other doctors said they had tried to resuscitate people while drenched in sweat under their protective gear, face masks fogging up. Some patients have been found dead in their rooms while doctors were busy helping others, they said.
Sometimes doctors try to call patients’ families when it is clear they will not recover.
That is what Dr. Bray said she tried to do before the man who reminded her of her fiancé died on Tuesday. As it turned out, his mother, also stricken with the coronavirus, was a patient at another hospital.
“We weren’t able to get in touch with anybody,” Dr. Bray said.
Reporting was contributed by Jesse McKinley, Jesse Drucker, Eileen Sullivan and Michael Schwirtz. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.