Evita Bonner is a long way from home.
The registered nurse, who normally works at Greenwood Leflore Hospital, is currently one of thousands of out-of-state nurses who accepted the call to work in New York City, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.
The Greenwood resident arrived in the city April 7 and stays at the Marriott Marquis, a hotel in Manhattan that’s within walking distance of Times Square.
The high number of COVID-19 cases in the nation’s largest city has created a burden on its health care workers, who risk burnout as well as infection.
To counter this, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have called on out-of-state nurses and doctors to serve on the front line.
Many have responded, including Bonner. She first found out about the opportunity after her aunt sent her an advertisement from a staffing agency on Facebook. Her work in New York was organized through Krucial Staffing.
Other nurses have come from Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Maryland, Bonner said.
Her day begins at 4 a.m., when she wakes up. At 6:15 a.m., she boards a bus that takes her to Roosevelt Island Medical Center, a temporary acute-care hospital set up to expand the bed capacity of the NYC Health + Hospitals health care system by 350 beds. Roosevelt Island Medical Center takes care of COVID-19 patients who do not need ICU care.
Bonner works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. She’s had two days off since her arrival.
“‘Tired’ is an understatement,” she said.
Throughout her shift, Bonner administers medical services and medications to her patients.
Because patients need to have only limited contact with people to protect their health, a nurse will often draw blood or conduct an electrocardiogram rather than bringing an outsider to do it, Bonner said.
Many patients haven’t seen their families for months — so “you’re pretty much everything they have,” she said.
As in any job, there are good and bad days. In her case, a bad day is when a patient has to be sent back to the hospital for further treatment.
Bonner said that when she arrived New York was quiet — a surprise, given that it’s known as “the city that never sleeps.” People hunkered down inside their homes and apartments, and “you didn’t see many people going around,” she said.
The numbers of confirmed known cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in New York City peaked between late March and early April, according to data from the New York City Department of Health.
The city had its highest known total of COVID-19 cases, with 6,347, on April 6. The peak number of hospitalizations — 1,688 — was recorded March 30. The city’s highest death count from COVID-19, which was 578 people, occurred April 7.
There have been 190,408 known cases, about 50,120 hospitalizations and 15,888 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in New York. Since early April, the numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have trickled downward, prompting a careful reopening of the city.
“It’s coming back around slowly but surely,” said Bonner, who has noticed more people and traffic out.
When she’s off work, Bonner will take a walk around the block, though she doesn’t go too far. She also chats daily with her family in Greenwood, including her husband, Carlos, and her children, Carlos Jr., Keyshawn, Zandra and Kynnedy.
“They ask how my days go, was it a hard day or good day, long day or short day,” Bonner said. “At first they missed me, but they understand about the importance of me being here.”
Her husband said she went because she wanted to help.
“New York is just one of those places that’s overly populated and had a nursing shortage,” he said. “That’s one of the things she wanted to do.”
Both he and their kids supported Bonner’s decision to work in New York, Carlos said: “It’s a beautiful thing. I commend her and any other nurse that decided that’s what they wanted to do. Because nursing is a calling.”
Bonner is scheduled to depart June 25. If things continue to go well in the city and a second wave of COVID-19 doesn’t break, she could leave earlier, she said.
Part of the allure for out-of-state nurses to work through New York’s pandemic is the pay. News reports have said nurses can make up $10,000 a week.
However, Bonner said she chose to work there out of a sense of duty. The pay, which she described as decent, was an afterthought.
“I wanted to give some type of contribution back to this pandemic,” she said. “If I could help out any way I can, that’s what I’d like to do.”
•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or email@example.com.