Doctor shares inside of 'ground zero' of US pandemic

New York has gotten the green light to split ventilators, while the number of deaths in New York jumped by 40% in a single day.
6:21 | 03/26/20

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Transcript for Doctor shares inside of 'ground zero' of US pandemic
Good evening and it's great to have you with us here on this Thursday night. And that sobering new headline just before we came on the air tonight. The U.S. Now has the most diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the world. Surpassing China and Italy and, of course, we all know that many are still trying to get tested in this country. The president just a short time ago again talking about getting America back open. People back to work. Saying, "I think it's going to happen quickly." As tonight, we take you inside a hospital here in New York City, a staggering scene. A doctor's plea for help. Tonight, the numbers here, in just one week's time, we've got from 1,100 reported cases to more than 80,000. And a grim new toll. More than 1,000 dead in the U.S. At least 28 states now under stay at home restrictions, as president trump sends that letter to governors suggesting there could be some easing of restrictions at some point soon. And tonight, that scene inside just one hospital. Elmhurst hospital in queens, new York. Where a doctor decided to record the images for herself to get them out to the American people. Tonight, New York's major calling it the epicenter of the epicenter. 13 patients died at that hospital in 24 hours. The number of patients hospitalized across the state jumping 40% in a single day. In Louisiana tonight, the spike in cases there, as well. A 17-year-old has now died. The toll for doctors and nurses on the front lines a nurse at New York's mt. Sinai dying. And in New Jersey, there are more than 2,000 reported cases in just yesterday. We begin tonight with that scene inside that New York City hospital. Whit Johnson leads us off. Reporter: Tonight, an E.R. Doctor taking us inside what's been called ground zero of America's pandemic. All the patients in this room, all the feet that you see, they all have covid. And this is only one of the several rooms. Reporter: Dr. Colleen Smith at elmhurst hospital in queens, New York, sharing her story with ABC news and "The New York Times." The frustrating thing about all of this is it really just feels like it's too little, too late. Like, we knew -- we knew it was coming. Reporter: Overnight, the number of deaths in New York jumping by more than 100 to at least 385. At the hospital where Dr. Smith works, 13 people died in just 24 hours. Elmhurst hospital in queens is, right now, the epicenter within the epicenter. Today is kind of getting worse and worse. We had to get a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. Reporter: Dr. Smith revealing the shortages they're up against. Five. Five ventilators. Oh my god. Reporter: A disappointing shipment of those life-saving vent ventilators. State health officials report that patients who need help breathing, but don't have covid, usually spend three to four days on a ventilator. But covid positive patients spend an average of 11 to 21 days. The concern is that all these ventilators that we're told are coming but haven't really started to materialize in large numbers, are they really coming? Will we really get them? Reporter: New York now getting the green light to split ventilators if needed. We have approved the technology that allows one ventilator to serve two patients. It's not ideal, but we believe it's workable. Reporter: The number of patients hospitalized in New York state jumping by 40% in a single day. The line outside elmhurst hospital has been growing throughout the day. Dozens of people, many of them wearing masks, waiting to get inside. Health care workers on the front lines. Mt. Sinai hospital confirming one of its nurses passed away from covid-19. Now so many more answering the call. In just the past 24 hours, at least 12,000 retired health care workers offering to pitch in. New York university allowing some of its medical students to graduate early to join the fight. Officials warning, the wave hitting New York will soon crash over other states. In Louisiana, a recent spike in cases. Up 28%, the fastest increase anywhere in the world. More than 2,300 people there now testing positive. At least 83 dead. Tonight, in Texas, the governor order, all travelers from new York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans to self-quarantine for 14 days or face a fine or even jailtime. In Michigan, cases now soaring into the thousands. Doctors there are feeling it. The additional stress and Reporter: Dr. Erik Johnson making the painful decision to send his two children to live with relatives out of state. He's in a Detroit hospital, 50 to 60 hours per week, worried about infecting his own family. I'm definitely seeing the worst cases. Reporter: But even as the crisis expands, president trump is looking to reopen the country today, sending the nation's governors a letter, saying the administration is working on new guidelines categorizing counties as high risk, medium risk or low risk. People want to go back to work. I'm hearing it loud and clear from everybody. I think it's going to happen pretty quickly. Reporter: But one pator in Arkansas with a warning. 37 people in his congregation outside Little Rock testing positive after attending a children's event at the church. Whit Johnson with us live tonight. And we know New York's governor has been warning what's happening in torque city will soon play out around this country, and in neighboringing New Jersey tonight, some very alarming numbers. Reporter: David, that's New Jersey's governor reporting a jump of more than 2,400 new cases since yesterday, citing it's a combination of ramped up testing, but also an increase in community spread. Resources are so stretched thin that at some of the state's testing locations, they will soon only test symptom matic health care workers and first responders. David? Whit Johnson leading us off tonight. Whit, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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