The first nurse known to die due to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City is Kious Kelly, a gay man who lacked proper protective equipment (PPE). He was 48.
Kelly’s colleagues and family are condemning Mount Sinai West hospital in Manhattan for not providing him with the PPE.
“This did not need to happen, you did not have to die,” one of Kelly’s co-workers posted to Facebook on March 25. “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.”
A photo went around social media recently showing nurses working at the hospital wearing black plastic trash bags as makeshift protective gear.
Despite the photographic evidence, the hospital has denied not providing employees with the PPE.
“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. When shown the viral photo, Lee said “the troubling photo circulating in the media specifically shows the nurses in proper PPE underneath garbage bags.”
In a statement, Mount Sinai said of Kelly’s death: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved member of our nursing staff. This growing crisis has already devastated hundreds of families and turned our frontline professionals into true American heroes. Today, we lost another hero—a compassionate colleague, friend, and selfless caregiver.”
Kelly’s family and friends have set up a GoFundMe to pay for funeral expenses and transportation of his body after the pandemic ends.