Community remembers horror of COVID pandemic at Queens hospital

ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- Patients and community members recall the harrowing times at a Queens hospital during the start of the COVID pandemic one year ago.

Vanessa was in good spirits on Tuesday. She's getting vaccinated.

But Vanessa, whose mother works at Elmhurst Hospital, remembers well what it was like just a year ago.

"The sadness. The grief. It was very hard," Vanessa said.

Orlando thought he was going to die in the devastating COVID surge here, last year.

"It was scary for me because I was by myself," former Elmhurst patient Orlando said. "I had no family here."

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Jose Guerrero got coronavirus back in March.

When COVID was at its worst, when it was killing hundreds a day in New York alone, when all hospitals were stressed, none of them were as overwhelmed as Elmhurst.

Councilman Francisco Moya remembers all of it.

"It felt like you were in another world -- people were afraid to even walk the streets, breathe the air, I remember talking to neighbors and they were like 'don't go by Elmhurst Hospital, if you breathe the air you might get COVID,'" Moya said.

The neighborhoods around the hospital are diverse, and some found learning the new protocols difficult.

"It's the most diverse neighborhood in the entire country, we needed to make sure we were getting this information out, of washing your hands, wearing a mask, social distancing -- all those things early which could've prevented a lot of what we saw in the very beginning," Moya said.

Of course, the challenge now, as the variants spread in the city, is convincing folks from those same multi-generational homes, many of them immigrants, to get the vaccine when its available.

And to make sure what happened here last year, doesn't happen again.

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