Photos: EMS first responders on the front lines of coronavirus pandemic

Photographer John Moore documents EMS crews assisting COVID-19 patients.

April 14, 2020, 7:53 PM

The global novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 120,000 lives around the world.

The United States now has more than 600,000 diagnosed cases and suffered at least 25,000 deaths. The death toll in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., has surpassed 10,000.

Since the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., John Moore, a senior staff photographer and special correspondent for Getty Images, has documented several aspects of the crisis. His work has included stories on the impact of the pandemic on undocumented Honduran immigrants, virus testing, families isolating at home, as well as the initial outbreak in Washington state.

Moore was based overseas for 17 years. Since his return to the U.S., his work has primarily focused on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Among his many awards was the World Press photo of the year award in 2019 for his image of a young Honduran girl in tears while her mother is detained by U.S. Border Patrol.

This month the photographer spent time documenting the work of Empress emergency medical services personnel in Westchester County and the Bronx in New York. Empress EMS has 575 EMTs and paramedics treating and transporting patients to hospitals throughout Westchester County and parts of New York City. Moore also photographed the work of EMS workers in Stamford, Connecticut.

PHOTO: Medics and hospital workers prepare to lift a patient onto a hospital stretcher outside the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Campus, on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Medics and hospital workers prepare to lift a patient onto a hospital stretcher outside the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Campus, on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

"They are the most front line first responders in this fight against COVID-19. They care deeply about what they do, and that's about saving lives," said Moore.

In 2014, Moore covered the Ebola crisis in Liberia extensively. He described the novel coronavirus as being easier to contract than Ebola and therefore requiring different precautions for himself.

"I never expected the PPE set I used in Liberia would be useful in covering an epidemic where I live, but this pandemic has made us rethink all parts of our lives, both on personal levels and larger ones," he said.

Moore focuses on building relationships and trust with the people he photographs. He "wants families to feel they are part of the coverage." The photographer explained, "More people than not want their story to be told, if it can be done with integrity and respect. Some people are OK with showing their faces and others prefer anonymity." He is sensitive to people's privacy and maintaining their dignity.

PHOTO:Empress EMS Captain AJ Briones watches as ambulances are cleaned and serviced at Empress headquarters, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
Empress EMS Captain AJ Briones watches as ambulances are cleaned and serviced at Empress headquarters, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
John Moore/Getty Images

Capt. AJ Briones, in EMS for 12 years, hasn't seen his elderly parents or brother since the beginning of March to keep them safe. He explained that the call volume for Empress EMS had doubled, some days nearly tripled, since the first coronavirus case in Westchester in early March.

"We've trained for this, for infectious disease, for mass casualties," Briones said. "Typically, you don't have them at the same time. It's stressful. It's nothing I've ever seen before." He's proud of the work that they are doing every day.

PHOTO: Capt. AJ Briones (paramedic) and Michelle Melo (EMT) prepare to intubate a gravely ill 92-year-old man with COVID-19 symptoms at his home, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
Capt. AJ Briones (paramedic) and Michelle Melo (EMT) prepare to intubate a gravely ill 92-year-old man with COVID-19 symptoms at his home, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
John Moore/Getty Images

"It was a powerful scene and certainly left an impression on me," Moore said in describing the visit to the home of a gravely ill 92-year-old man.

"The EMS captain, AJ Briones, gave him medication to put him to sleep, then did a rapid sequence intubation (RSI). By knocking him out, they said it would reduce the risk that the man would be coughing during the procedure, considering the virus becomes aerosolized in a cough."

PHOTO: Capt. AJ Briones (paramedic), center, and Michelle Melo (EMT) intubate a gravely ill patient with COVID-19 symptoms at his home, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
Capt. AJ Briones (paramedic), center, and Michelle Melo (EMT) intubate a 92-year-old patient with COVID-19 symptoms at his home, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York. The man was barely breathing when they arrived, and they performed a rapid sequence intubation (RSI), on him before transporting him by ambulance to St. John's Riverside Hospital, in Yonkers.
John Moore/Getty Images

Briones wore additional PPE while performing the intubation in the patient's airway.

PHOTO: Medics and hospital workers prepare to lift a patient onto a hospital stretcher outside the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Campus, on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Medics and hospital workers prepare to lift a patient onto a hospital stretcher outside the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Campus, on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images
PHOTO: Patients travel in a bus, known as a Medical Evacuation Transport Unit (METU), to Montefiore Medical Center (Moses Campus), on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Patients travel in a bus, known as a Medical Evacuation Transport Unit (METU), to Montefiore Medical Center (Moses Campus), on April 7, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

The transfer of coronavirus patients from the Westchester Square campus of Montefiore Medical Center are staffed by Empress EMS, Yonkers police and hospital staff on both ends wearing PPE. A specialized bus known as a medical evacuation transport unit, carries patients on stretchers and benches.

PHOTO: EMT Dan Wellen assists Janet Gazo, 89, who has COVID-19 symptoms, to bring her from her apartment to Stamford Hospital, on April 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn.
EMT Dan Wellen assists Janet Gazo, 89, who has COVID-19 symptoms, to bring her from her apartment to Stamford Hospital, on April 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn.
John Moore/Getty Images
PHOTO: Linda Jaworski, with gloved hands, reaches out to touch her mother Janet Gazo, 89, who was transported to Stamford Hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, on April 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn.
Linda Jaworski, with gloved hands, reaches out to touch her mother Janet Gazo, 89, who was transported to Stamford Hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, on April 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn.
John Moore/Getty Images

Stamford now has more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest of any city in Connecticut. The majority of Stamford EMS calls are now for suspected COVID-19 patients.

PHOTO: Patients arrive at the Wakefield Campus of Montefiore Medical Center, on April 6, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Patients arrive at the Wakefield Campus of Montefiore Medical Center, on April 6, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

The patient transfers are designed to help overwhelmed hospitals even out case loads in Westchester County and New York City, at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic.

PHOTO: Paramedic Patricia Rodriguez fills out reports on a laptop at the end of her 12-hour shift, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
Paramedic Patricia Rodriguez fills out reports on a laptop at the end of her 12-hour shift, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
John Moore/Getty Images

Empress EMS personnel can choose to work eight-, 10-, 12- or 16-hour shifts.

"Our teams are stressed, absolutely," Briones said. He explained the company reaches out to make sure everyone working is OK.

PHOTO: Empress EMS paramedics transport a suspected COVID-19 patient from a home, on April 7, 2020, in Mount Vernon, New York.
Empress EMS paramedics transport a suspected COVID-19 patient from a home, on April 7, 2020, in Mount Vernon, New York.
John Moore/Getty Images

"We are an integral part of that health care wheel," said Briones. "The most important part for us is that we are all in this together."

PHOTO: An Empress EMS employee decontaminates an ambulance, on April 06, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
An Empress EMS employee decontaminates an ambulance, on April 6, 2020, in Yonkers, New York.
John Moore/Getty Images
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