Coronavirus News: War against COVID-19 takes toll on NYC first responders

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters and police officers are all on the front lines of the war against the coronavirus pandemic and now their ranks are being hit hard.

All day, every day, they suit up for battle. The volume of calls is endless and the fear is unrelenting.

Many medics are afraid to take the virus home.

"This is the scariest thing I've ever seen," said FDNY Paramedic Travis Kessel. "It's incredibly viral, it's incredibly contagious and we just can't keep up."

Ambulances make up much of the traffic these days as they race around the city to save the sick -- with more than 20 percent of their own ranks out sick.

At 3 p.m. on Tuesday they hit 4,000 calls which used to be the 24-hour average.

It's hitting home at the NYPD too. On Tuesday, 15 percent of the department was out sick, which adds up to roughly 5,600 cops. Of them, nearly 1,200 have tested positive for COVID-19.

So far the NYPD has lost five public servants.

"It's a stressful job at the best of times, I don't think you can imagine a more stressful time, but we're carrying on, you gotta take care of yourself," said NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Local first responders are getting help. On Tuesday, the first of 250 ambulances pulled in from across the country -- staffed with 500 medics to help pick up the slack.

The partnership between FEMA and the city is expected to improve medical call response times.

But that won't step the fear. Paramedic John Rubin hasn't seen his son in days.

"Last night he asked me, he said, 'when you gonna come, come get me,' I told him 'when everybody stops getting sick or they stop going to heaven,'" Rubin said.

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