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First nurse to die from COVID in NYC was a gay man who lacked proper protective gear

Kious Kelly
Kious KellyPhoto: Marya Patrice Sherron

Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse manager at Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, has become the first nurse known to die during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging New York City.

Remembered as a kind and loving man, Kelly’s colleagues and family are condemning the hospital, alleging that he lacked proper protective equipment (PPE) despite working directly with nurses and patients exposed to the virus. Photos posted on social media showed nurses wearing black plastic trash bags to try to protect themselves.

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Hospitals across the nation have struggled to keep up with the sudden surge in demand for medical supplies, hospital beds, ventilators, and personnel. Cities across the nation have started converting large buildings like convention centers and hotels into makeshift hospitals.

“This did not need to happen, you did not have to die,” one of his co-workers posted on Facebook announcing his death. “He is full of life days ago and today he is gone. This is a life lost in vain. Many lives are sacrificed by the poor management of this COVID-19 crisis. This has to stop. Lives over profits. Humanity over politics.”

“I’m also very angry with the Mount Sanai Health System for not protecting him. We do not have enough PPE, we do not have the correct PPE, and we do not have the appropriate staffing to handle this pandemic,” another posted. “And I do not appreciate representatives of this health system saying otherwise on the news.”

“The public needs to know that we are not prepared, that this is serious, that they need to stay home to flatten the curve.”

Despite the photographic evidence, the hospital denied that they weren’t providing proper gear to medical personnel.

“This crisis is straining the resources of all New York area hospitals, and while we do — and have had — enough protective equipment for our staff, we will all need more in the weeks ahead,” hospital spokeswoman Lucia Lee told the New York Times.

After being confronted with the photos, the hospital made excuses, saying, “The troubling photo circulating in the media specifically shows the nurses in proper P.P.E. underneath garbage bags.”

Under the trash bags, the nurses were wearing disposable scrubs made of permeable material that did not provide protection from viruses.

Kelly’s family and friends have set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral expenses and to transport his body back to Michigan after the pandemic ends.

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