Brooklyn hospital treating coronavirus patients is "like something out of the Twilight Zone"

Inside NYC hospital treating virus patients

At the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, doctors treating coronavirus patients say it's not just older people who are in critical condition and nurses say they still don't have proper protective gear. As of April 2, 27 COVID-19 patients have died at the hospital.

"A lot of our patients are presenting with severe respiratory distress, and it's very acute. They were fine and they had some cough and then they weren't fine," Dr. Joshua Rosenberg, a critical care doctor who also specializes in infectious diseases, told "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud, who was invited into the hospital.

One man in his early 50s "really didn't have much underlying conditions," but "has developed severe respiratory failure, as well as kidney damage from the virus," Rosenberg said. He said the man "is relatively young."

Rosenberg said the man, who was in the ICU, was put on a breathing tube to save his life. "He's requiring pretty much 100% oxygen, and he's requiring a lot of air to help keep his lungs inflated," he said.

The majority of the hospital's patients are on Medicaid or Medicare. There were 10 other patients in the ICU — most of them black men, all on ventilators, unconscious and isolated behind glass. They're all positive for coronavirus.

Dr. Louis Gerolemou said he wants people to know that they should take this health threat seriously. 

"I think, you know, initially it was advertised as something that affected only older patients, and that's definitely not something that we're seeing. We're seeing a lot of younger, healthier patients and they're coming in in a very critical state," he said. 

Describing the situation, one nurse, who asked to only be identified as K because she fears getting threats from patients' family members who are not allowed to visit, said, "It's like something out of the Twilight Zone."

"I don't think any of us going through it will ever be the same," she said. 

K said she wanted a mask like the face shield Begnaud was wearing, which was from CBS News' limited supply to use in covering coronavirus stories. "I'd like all of us to have masks like yours. And these white suits that you have," she told him. 

She and other staff members were wearing garbage bags over their scrubs. Many people used sanitizing wipes to clean their gear. Begnaud later gave his face shield to K after sanitizing it. 

Since elective procedures have been canceled in New York State, people like Eula Brandon, an endoscopy tech, are now helping in the ICU because staff is falling ill. Brandon said she also had coronavirus symptoms. 

"I wasn't tested, but I had the symptoms," she said. "I didn't have a fever, but I had the chills, I had a headache, I had the shaking, I had the coughing, constant coughing, and the body ache. No appetite, no desire to eat, no taste in my mouth, and when I came back, I was getting a shortness of breath, and I went out again. So I just came back Wednesday."

When Rosenberg went into the room of the man in his 50's who suddenly needed his breathing tube changed, he put on a replaceable gown and ski goggles.

"This is serious. People are dying from this. Old people, young people — people are dying from this. It is lethal," he said.