Coronavirus News: Health care workers on front lines in midst of coronavirus outbreak

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Hospital workers are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with infectious diseases such as coronavirus.

Staffers have a plan when determining if someone needs to be evaluated for COVID-19.

"The healthcare workers are really at the highest risk of getting infected by someone," said Barbara Smith, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside.

"When we determine somebody needs to be evaluated for COVID 19 this is what the staff will be wearing," Smith said, pointing to the protective suit, mask and face guard.

The hospital hasn't seen a positive case of coronavirus, but officials say they're ready.

"The healthcare workers are really at the highest risk of getting infected by someone," explained infectious disease doctor, Lindsey Gottlieb.

A 32-year-old doctor's assistant who has COVID-19 is at Hackensack Hospital in New Jersey.

James Cai is the first confirmed case in the state.

"They are surprised," Cai said. "It can be that bad so quickly. I'm so young."

He says his symptoms started after he attended a medical conference at the Westin Times Square over the weekend of March 1.

"The next day Monday after I start to cough and fever and shortness of breath so I went to the urgent care," Cai said through video call from his hospital bed where he's hooked up to a breathing machine.

The MTA announced workers are now allowed to wear masks while cleaning subways.

Late Monday, an EMS worker in Brooklyn was confirmed the first coronavirus case for an FDNY first responder.

The department announced it is no longer sending firefighters with EMS to every non-life-threatening health call to limit exposure.

"So if it was a sports analogy, we'd say if you use all your resources in the first half, you're likely to lose the game in the second half," FDNY commissioner Dan Nigro said. "The fire department can't afford to lose a game."

At Mount Sinai, they rolled out a refresher training to update staffers.

Unlike influenza, doctors are dealing with COVID-19 for the first time. And doctors and medical professionals are scrambling to understand and combat it as they learn from every case.

"Part of what's caused high level of concern is this is something new," infectious disease doctor Lindsey Gottlieb said. "We always want to be careful with something new."

With each case, hospitals share information and learn how to not only treat the patients, but protect themselves.

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