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Coronavirus Update: Hospital Chaplains Face Daily Challenges Comforting The Sick, But Find Ways To Persevere

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Right there on the front lines, behind health care workers, are hospital chaplains facing enormous challenges trying to tend to the emotional and spiritual needs of sick patients and their families.

Rev. Jayan Daniel huddles daily with staff at NYU Winthrop Hospital.

A calm presence in the coronavirus outbreak storm, he and a team of chaplains care for the caregivers, and also find a way to be present from a distance for the sick and dying.

"We'll walk up to the door of the patient's room and then we do the prayers from there," Daniel told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff on Monday.

MORECoronavirus Update: Hospital Chaplain Shares The Challenges Of Ministering Amid Pandemic

At North Shore University Hospital, Rabbi Hillel Fox is also bridging the distance.

"We're running from one to the next and being called back and forth," Fox said. "They are isolated. They often times have that feeling of fear of the unknown."


Used to knocking on doors, chaplains now use phones and iPads to video conference, so patients are not alone.

"It's not the same as a pastoral presence in person ... It's not that same human touch, but I think it does provide a real close substitute for not being there in person," Fox said.

His "Call a Chap" hotline attempts instant access to spiritual healing.

"Patients can call the hotline and talk to a chaplain," Fox said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

And for those too sick to call, Fox said even if the patient is intubated, "we would put the phone to their ear and so that they can hear the prayers being said."

"We don't want anyone to feel that they are forgotten," Fox added.

Like the family that lost a mother, and, days later, a father.

"I had the son over the phone, so I did a prayer, a Jewish prayer, which we read a scripture, and then I put the son on the speaker. He spoke to the father ... He wanted his father to know that the family loves him," Daniel said.

MORECoronavirus Update: Nurses Step In For Family, Friends To Provide Much Needed Comfort For COVID-19 Patients

And sometimes, chaplains gather staff to rejoice, when prayers are answered and patients go home.

"That was an uplifting moment to know that this is not all death and there is life happens even at this moment," Daniel said.

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