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Coronavirus Update: New Yorkers Donate Tablets To Hospitals So COVID-19 Patients Can Say Goodbye To Family Members

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Many families aren't able to spend that last moment with loved ones dying from the coronavirus.

Now, some New Yorkers are hoping technology can allow people the chance to say goodbye.

For the past week leading up to her birthday, Dr. Ee Tay's mailbox has been crammed full of packages.

The gifts are in response to a birthday wish she posted on Facebook – to help patients at Bellevue Hospital who have been dying alone.

"That's the last contact that they would have, is when they drop them off at the hospital or they take them away from the ambulance," Tay told CBS2's Christina Fan.

Tay says she was determined to crowdsource 150 iPads and tablets after hearing painful stories of separation, some of them coming from her own hospital's ICU floor.


Director of Critical Care Dr. Amit Uppal says COVID-19 patients decline so rapidly that physicians lend out their own phones so families can have some closure.

"Anybody's instinct, if they had a dying loved one, would be to want to touch them and have a physical moment with them ... You can't do that through a video device ... but I think it gives them that opportunity to say the things that they would want to say," Uppal said.

Tay's donation effort is far from the only one.

Laura DiMarco, from Long Island, is raising money for a campaign called Jeannie's Fund to buy tablets for hospitals across the state. She hopes the devices will help create happy memories, too.

  • If you would like to contribute to Jeannie's Fund, click here.

"We had a testimonial of a nurse that was able to say happy birthday with a patient for a family member. They were using it to say prayers together," DiMarco said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

While DiMarco has raised more than $25,000 to buy tablets, Tay says a generous donor, the Bank of New York Mellon, not only fulfilled her wish, but purchased over 600 iPads for public hospitals across New York City.

"We all have family members who we love and we fear that if they do get sick and they're in this situation, I would want to know what's going on. I think it really touched everybody's heart," Tay said.

Tay says she received so many extra tablets, the ones not going to hospitals will be donated to nursing homes.

She also wants to emphasize the importance of social distancing and staying at home to help stop the outbreak.

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