'I've seen it wipe out an entire family' - Kiwi paramedic shares harrowing experience fighting coronavirus in New York

A Kiwi paramedic currently living and working in New York has recounted the harrowing experiences she's seen so far battling the coronavirus epidemic there. She says it should serve as a warning to New Zealanders about why abiding the lockdown rules is so important.

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Chez Valenta says medical personnel have already started resorting to rubbish bags as protective clothing with supplies running out. Source: 1 NEWS

Chez Valenta, who grew in the Auckland suburb of Henderson before moving to Brooklyn in the US, told 1 NEWS today she has gone through plenty of emotions in the past two weeks with Covid-19 sweeping through the state.

According to the latest update from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, there are 67,131 coronavirus cases in the state of New York alone - almost four times as many as the next highest state of New Jersey.

Ms Valenta said the virus is unlike anything she or her colleagues have ever seen or experienced before.

"We are running out of everything," Ms Valenta said.

"We are running out of gowns with which to perform high risk procedures. We are running out of masks themselves and even the surgical masks are becoming scarce.

"It's gotten to the point where we are starting to become creative. I've been to hospitals where nurses are wearing rubbish bags and that's probably going to be the same scenario for a lot of us really, really soon."

Of all the things the 37-year-old has already experienced in just the past two weeks, there's already one heartbreaking story that will likely stick with her.

"I've seen it wipe out an entire family over the course of three days - different ages, different health statuses.

"There was this belief that it preyed upon the elderly or those with [existing health issues]... but it has zero regard for how old you are, it has zero regard for how healthy you are. It has zero regard for what neighbourhood you live in and what you do for a living.

"That was probably the most heart-wrenching thing - watching it take an entire family over a three-day period."

Ms Valenta says her family has tried to get her to come home or at least "hunker down" until the situation in New York improves, but she says she simply can't do that.

"I've thought about coming home because I feel like New Zealand's response to all of this is so much better and you guys have gotten ahead of it.

"In that respect, it's hard and [my family] don't want me here... but I just can't leave. I just can't."

Instead, Ms Valenta hopes her stories and experiences can instead remind Kiwis why social distancing and staying indoors during the lockdown period are so important to preventing what is happening in New York from taking place here.

"I know that it's crotchety to be in the house and to feel like you don't have the freedom right now to do whatever it is you want - I get that, I really, really do understand that, but my love for my country is so great that I want you guys to understand how important it is to heed the advice and the direction you're getting from the Government.

"Don't get mad at the police officers trying to enforce it - they are doing it for your own good. I wish we had been proactive here in the city and been able to get ahead of the spread the same way that you guys have because we would not be in this spot now had we listened."

New Zealand currently has 647 coronavirus cases and one death from the pandemic after going into a four-week lockdown period last week.