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Coronavirus Update: Amid Pandemic, Treatment Must Continue For Patients With Underlying Illnesses

SHORT HILLS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- With hospitals over-taxed with coronavirus patients, what are the options for people with other serious health concerns?

Carrie Essenfeld, her husband and kids are dealing with the isolation life the best way they can, but the social distancing dilemma is even more complicated for the Short Hills, New Jersey, family. Essenfeld's dad has prostate cancer.

"We've been trying to Facetime with him a lot and make sure his spirits are up," Essenfeld told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Her parents were living in California but moved to Manhattan so he could get treatment at Mount Sinai and be close to loved ones.

But now they can't see each other at all, and with his immunity compromised, Essenfeld is concerned about her dad going to a hospital every day for radiation.

"We're worried because the hospitals in New York are obviously overwhelmed right now," she said. "That's obviously right now the epicenter of where everything is."


Even with the country laser-focused on the coronavirus, life and treatment must go on for people like Essenfeld's dad, 70-year-old James Mitchell.

"Overall, it's worrisome, of course, for everybody because there are lots of people who have to go in for this sort of treatment and they are immuno-suppressed, some more so than me because they're on high-powered chemotherapy," Mitchell said.

Mitchell started radiation, going five days a week, at Mount Sinai in Union Square three weeks ago, about the same time the coronavirus was beginning to plague the city.

"The fact that I had already started my therapy meant that it's actually critical to continue it," he said.

Dr. Andrew Weber is a medical oncologist and is seeing some patients skip critical treatments out of fear of contracting the virus.

"If you have an underlying disease and you're concerned about getting sicker from the virus, you cannot ignore the underlying disease," Weber said.

Mount Sinai adds that patients coming into cancer treatment facilities are screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

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

Knowing the hospital is taking all these precautions is very comforting to Essenfeld and her family. They just can't wait to hug their dad and grandpa when this is finally all over.

"I will be very happy to see him, and I will also be very happy when he can come to New Jersey and help me take care of my kids," Essenfeld said.

A sentiment all of us home with our little ones and worried for our parents can understand.

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