A New York physician who recovered from COVID-19 and handled over 800 contaminated sufferers warns of overwhelmed hospitals that can really feel ‘such as you’re in a struggle zone’

Dr. Jake Deutsch, ER physician and clinical director of Cure Urgent Care in New York City, treated more than 800 COVID-19 patients since the outbreak began in March. 

Deutsch, whose practice has treated thousands of patients, contracted the virus toward the end of that month, suffering bilateral pneumonia and a persistent fever. 

Deutsch, who recovered and continues to treat COVID-19 patients, told Business Insider states — like Arizona, Florida, and Texas — with surging cases of the coronavirus need to act quickly to avoid overwhelmed hospitals. 

“The fact that going out to socialize in a bar environment is even an option — it just doesn’t make sense,” Deutsch said.

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New York Dr. Jake Deutsch, who treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients, experienced bilateral pneumonia when he was infected with the disease.

Jake Deutsch/Instagram

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Dr. Jake Deutsch, a 47-year-old ER physician, was in good health when he began treating coronavirus patients at his urgent care practice when the virus began to take hold of New York City in March.

But on March 13, Deutsch, who is the clinical director of Cure Urgent Care in Manhattan, had unexpectedly become a patient. Deutsch checked himself in at a local Mount Sinai hospital. He first noticed flu-like symptoms — a mild fever, body aches, and a “little cough” not uncommon among the more than 800 patients he’s so far treated for COVID-19. But then, he said, the symptoms worsened. He had double-sided pneumonia, which affects both lungs, and a persistent fever.

“I certainly didn’t expect to have such a severe illness. I’m healthy; no medical problems,” Deutsch told Business Insider, calling his experience “pretty eye-opening.” “Here I was sort of on the other side of the situation as a pretty sick patient.” 

While Deutsch battled the virus, so did his 77-year old father, whose case was much worse. He was intubated and required a ventilator to breathe. He also experienced kidney failure.


While both Deutsch and his father have since recovered, Deutsch said his father has used his recovery from the virus as a new “lease on life,” and experiences like theirs and countless others “really make people wake up.”

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“One of the difficult parts of this pandemic is people who aren’t touched by it so closely don’t really have the same fear,” he said.  “When you have it and see what it’s doing to people on that level, it changes everything.”

Despite success in fighting a hard-fought battle with the virus in New York in the spring, the US has seen record increases 

For regions across the US experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases after reopening, Deutsch told Business Insider state leaders “need to get people to stay home.”

“You can’t have bars open and not expect there to be a surge in infections,” he said, adding that states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona, which have been hit hard by record increases in cases, should implement strategies as New York had done when it was a US coronavirus hotspot.

New York City only recently began reopening businesses after the state implementing a monthslong “PAUSE” order that halted most in-person work and forbade gatherings. Yet, New York state has made changes based on the ongoing spikes seen elsewhere in the US. Indoor dining, for example, was nixed from the state’s Phase III guidelines after leaders observed surges in states that had allowed patrons inside restaurants and bars.

While city and state leaders — namely Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, as The New York Times reported — have been criticized for not doing enough early on, New York since March flattened its curve, reducing new infections, deaths, and hospitalizations in light of statewide restrictions.

Nationally, since the beginning of July, there have been more than 300,000 new reported cases of the virus in the US, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University. While cases of the virus have spiked, deaths have so far continued to decline on a national level.

Despite this, as Business Insider’s Aria Bendix reported, researchers still worry the US could see a surge in deaths as hospitals become crowded. Mayors in the city of Houston and Austin in Texas said last weekend their hospitals will become overwhelmed within the next two weeks if infections in the state are not controlled. In Arizona, which reported a state record of 117 new deaths on Tuesday, a total of 3,356 people are hospitalized with 869 requiring treating treatment in Intensive Care Units (ICU). 

Deutsch said states seeing an increase in cases “need to react,” and if they don’t “they’re going to have a crisis of overwhelming capacity in the hospitals.”

“If we don’t have some sort of enforceable action there’s no way for things to get under control,” he said. 

Cities and states have started to roll back reopening as cases increase

In light of spikes across the US, many cities and states have paused or altered their reopening plans. Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that bars, clubs, and gyms would re-close following the increase in cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has refused to issue a statewide mask order, suspended alcohol consumption at bars while local officials in Miami closed restaurants, gyms, and banquet centers, according to Forbes. 

However, some states that have seen recent surges — like Ohio, which reported 948 new cases on Tuesday — have opted to continue allowing restaurants to offer indoor dining and have kept bars open. 

“The fact that going out to socialize in a bar environment is even an option — it just doesn’t make sense,” Deutsch said. In regions seeing surges, “there shouldn’t be any options like that. They just have to suck it up and turn it off,” he said.


Testing must become ‘the new normal’

Deutsch said his Manhattan urgent care practice has focused on testing from the onset of the pandemic — attempting to test as many people as possible while tests were recommended only for people with serious symptoms of COVID-19.

Since New York City moved into Phase II — and now Phase III — of its reopening plan, Deutsch told Insider his practice has seen somewhat of a return to normal, treating issues like migraines and urinary tract infections. His practice is regularly performing COVID-19 and antibody tests as people head back to work and want to make sure they are safe.

Deutsch said that a surge may not be as bad for the medical personnel treating patients as protective gear is now readily available than it was at the start of the outbreak, and a widespread understanding of how well they work to help stop the spread of coronavirus. 

“There’s less to be apprehensive about as there is more knowledge,” he said, “but when it’s your hospital and your ICU beds are full and you see the ER being inundated, it feels like you’re in a war zone.” 

“We’re really ramping up our testing in order to keep people informed, and regarding antibody testing, there needs to be continued testing on a very high scale,” he continued. “People need to know their status. The high presence of asymptomatic cases makes testing very important and it’s going to continue to be.”

Deutsch suggested people should be tested every four weeks.

“The new normal is going to be regular testing until we have a definitive treatment or vaccine,” he told Business Insider. “People need to be responsible and it’s going to be like any other safety measure, whether it’s making sure that your car is safe to drive, or you’ve had other vaccines to travel or go to college.

This is going to become everybody’s normal and that’s the responsible way to contain infections.”

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