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The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As the outbreak began to take a grip on New York City (NYC), my intern was consulted for a COVID-19 positive patient with an odontogenic infection. We donned our bouffant cap, eyewear, respirator, faceshield, and gown before walking to the Emergency Department (ED). As we stepped foot into the ED, stretchers overflowed against the walls of the hallways. The background noise was loud from all the COVID-19 patients on rumbling ventilators and beeping monitors. It felt as though we were standing in the middle of a graphic battlefield. Even the smell was different. As we approached our patient, we heard her whimper as she pointed to her lower right tooth. I anaesthetised the area and grabbed my forceps, trying to be careful as the oral cavity contains a high viral load. Thankfully, I extracted the tooth with ease. I could not imagine what my ED colleagues were feeling as they worked tirelessly around me.
In a matter of days, almost every patient in my hospital had COVID-19. NYC became the epicentre of the pandemic and the situation worsened day-to-day. “Code 99”, “RRT”, and “STAT intubation” constantly blared from the intercom. The lawn filled with white triage tents. Kraft paper blocked the windows facing the overflowing morgue. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) residents were deployed to General Surgery to help run their teams and even suture lacerations outside the facial region.
Late March, one of our residents tested positive. A few days later, we saw a picture in the news of another OMFS resident from Brooklyn with COVID-19. He was on a stretcher “coughing up blood” despite being young and fit.
We were clearly fighting a camouflaged enemy that did not discriminate.
To clear my mind, I took a different route toward home. As I passed by one of the largest, busiest stores in the world, Macy’s at Herald Square, there was barely a person in sight (Fig. 1). The streets of Manhattan had emptied— an unusual display in broad daylight. The scene felt almost post-apocolyptic and yet I felt gratitude for all who remained inside and all essential workers. They helped stop the spread and save lives.
I reached home and went to sleep not knowing what tomorrow would bring.
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