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New York surgeon with Florida ties speaks about fighting coronavirus

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 14, 2020

FLORIDA — The hotbed for coronavirus cases in the United States has been and remains New York.

With numbers soaring over 200,000 in the state as of Tuesday, health professionals remain fighting on the front lines.

ABC Action News reporter Andrea Lyon sat down with a NYU Langone Health Vascular Surgeon, who was called to action on the COVID floors to help fight the disease.

Dr. Todd Berland, a New York surgeon with family in Florida, says the virus is pervasive and extremely contagious.


While other city hospitals have seen a shortage of staff, PPE and other equipment, Dr. Berland says his hospital has been lucky not to run out that he is aware of.

“I’m very careful. I do frequent hand washing. I wear full PPE when I’m seeing these patients. This is just a mask that is mandatory to wear around the hospital. This prevents anyone with COVID from spreading it. And we all act like every person you see, doctors, nurses, patients has COVID. But when you walk into a COVID patient's room you’re wearing full PPE because it is a respiratory and droplet disease, as far as we know. So we are wearing the N95 respirator, an eye shield, hair bonnet and then full gown,” Dr. Berland said.

Typically working surgeries, Dr. Berland and other doctors have had to brush up on respiratory infections. The upside of working on the COVID-19 floor, if there has to be one, Berland says is that all professionals are facing the same type of problem.

“I feel like before I was called up into action, I was looking at everything from this 30,000 foot down. I was following Wuhan, I was following Italy, looking at Washington and as it started getting closer and closer to New York, I started reviewing the actual details of ventilator management, the different strategies on how you want to oxygenate these patients, the different medications we are giving and the doses. I’ve absolutely had to review it, and I review it every day,” Dr. Berland said.

Dr. Berland tells ABC Action News NYU Langone Health is seeing anywhere from 400-500 ICU patients daily and up to 200 of those patients on ventilators. The goal though, the doctor says, is to keep patients off the ventilator due to the odds of patients not coming off the device once they need it.

“It’s not a guarantee they are coming off. It’s not a death sentence by any means, but there’s a really high likely hood they may not come off that ventilator,” he said.

Another struggle Dr. Berland says the hospital is seeing is an issue with space. While he guesses the NYU facility is about 10% ICU space, he says they need up to 50% ICU space now because of COVID-19.

All while managing an unknown virus and long hours, Dr. Todd Berland is also working to take care of his family both in New York and Florida.
While he calls himself lucky to be able to send his wife and kids away from the city, Dr. Berland says he misses them every day.

“I don’t know when I will see them again. I do get to FaceTime with them overnight. And I actually FaceTime them to sleep. We will put the iPad next to the pillow, we will click on FaceTime and I’ll sit there right with them as they fall asleep, telling them a story, listening to their day as if my head is right next to theirs on the pillow just through FaceTime,” he said.


Dr. Berland also has family in Florida, including his sister, her husband and their little girl in Davenport. Dr. Berland’s parents are also in the Sunshine state on the East Coast of the state.

“I insisted they lockdown. I think they are doing a pretty good job, I think,” he said.

So what is working for nurses and doctors facing the worst of this in the nation? Dr. Berland tells us they are still treating the symptoms.

“We are giving varying levels of oxygen with the goal being of trying to ween it off, titrate it down and get them home,” he said.

Hospitals are also prescribing Hydroxychloroquine, Plaquenil both immune suppression drugs or Azithromycin, which treat infections. While Dr. Berland says they do treat patients with these types of medicines, there’s no hard data showing it works. He also says these types of drugs are not for everybody.

According to both the Center for Disease Control and Dr. Todd Berland, they both say what works best is washing hands and social distancing.

“I personally believe that has really worked in New York. If we would have ignored this I think the problem would have been much more direr,” he said.