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tv   Nightline  ABC  July 4, 2020 12:06am-12:35am PDT

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tonight, combat medics. boots on the ground. deployed to the front lines to fight an invisible killer, covid-19. you know you're putting your life on the line. >> that's what we do, ma'am. >> some leaving a family waiting behind. those heroes in uniform, healing a grateful city. >> i think there's been really a heroic fight here. >> ever ready to answer the call of duty once more. if there were a secondave, would you answer the call again? >> it's just hard for me to say no when your country needs you. >> this is a special edition of "nightline," combat medics. >> good evening. thanks for joining us. tonight you're about to meet military medics.
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with a special streak of fearlessness. after serving tours of duty overseas, they found themselves running in to battle here at home, as the virus attacked new york city. >> this is my view out the window of my hotel. the empire state building, getting ready for another day. >> i have 27 years of service. i've been on four deployments, all of them medical missions. >> colonel edward ramirez never expected his next deployment to take him here, to new york city. ot missiles or bombs, but the threat to life is just as much, if not more. >> just back from a month's long deployment in kuwait, he kissed his family good-bye and boarded a cross-country flight, reporting for duty in the hard-hit bronx. >> going to take this here and make a head covering.
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>> the difference for us is when you're a physician, you're not on the very front of the war. here, we're the infantry. >> as cases skyrocket through the country, currently at least 38 states seeing an upward trend in cases, tonight we meet four heros in uniform who answered the call for the city in crisis. you know you're putting your life on the line. >> that's what we do, ma'am. >> combat medics deployed the epicenter of a new kind of war. >> nothing truly prepared us for what we came here for. >> now carrying the scars of a hard-fought battle. ready and willing to answer the call of duty yet again. >> i think i was expecting that we could walk in and be able to fix everyone. we couldn't. >> new york's first case of 39-year-old health care worker.
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>> officials say the threat of coronavirus remains low. they have told americans to get ready for the unknown. >> governor cuomo warning that this is just the beginning and to expect dozens and dozens more cases. >> it's impossible to imagine how quickly this moved. our hospitals could be whmed in weeks. >> the last 24 hours have been very, very sobering. >> as the days ticked forward and numbers climbed, mayor de blasio made an urgent call. >> we are two weeks or three weeks from running out of the supplies we need most. >> the city bracing for a mounting death toll. >> more than 1200. >> time now for a state of emergency in new york city. this has been like war. you either had to find a way to survive, or you would be overrun. and we were talking about people's lives. >> and so how did you call for reenforcements? how do you literally call in the cavalry? >> i said we are literally running out of people. and we turned to the military
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medical personnel on duty right now, all over the country and bring them to the front, to the epicenter, new york city, can we do that? >> within weeks, the federal government working with the state would send thousands of troops to new york city. the army corps of engineers will build makeshift hospitals at four locations, including the javits center in manhattan. >> all of this to help alleviate the strain on hospitals in the city treating coronavirus. >> what was it like getting that deployment call? >> well, at the time i got it i was actually getting my hair done. my commander was like, i need you tomorrow. >> at home in texas, major angela murphy sprang into action. >> i was calling my parents, do you have my por if something happens i want to make sure everything is squared away. >> you actually thought you night not make it back? >> right. we going to new york city. we'd already heard reports.
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like health care workers dying. >> this deployment a world apart from her last mission at bagram air force base in afghanistan. >> were you more nervous about going to afghanistan or to the hot zone of new york? >> with bagram i got six months of prep time. here we had like 16 hours. and then we were there. >> they're now on average a dozen coronavirus deaths every hour in new york. >> more than 1500 new yorkers dying from the virus alone. >> a huge surge in infections. >> i've been in new york city there was no traffic. it was kind of eerie. it was kind of weird. >> major murphy was deployed to the emergency department at lincoln hospital in the bronx. this burrough home to the highest number of infections. >> it hit when we were at
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lincoln, just to see the amount of critically ill patients. rooms turned into icu beds. there was like back to back to back. >> compared to bagram, it sounds like it was a mass casualty event 24/7, seven days a week. >> correct. every moment of every shift, every day for weeks. it's overwhelming. sometimes you just want to duck off and like cry. but you know you can't do that right now, because you have other things, you know, to do. and so. >> and so you soldier on. >> right. jt a w queens, major esther burns and thomas shu were dispatched to elmhurst hospital.
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early on, one of the hardest-hit areas in the city. >> we're here to help relieve their staff, who had been on it since, you know, the very beginning. >> i love y'all! i really do. >> when we got to the hospital the first day, we had a meeting with administration. there was literally shouting in the room from excitement and joy about what we were bringing to the table. >> ha.or clerns, husband in alabama. >> my baby, she's 1, so she doesn't even realize i'm gone. >> hey, girl. >> my oldest, she's 6, so she's having a little more difficult time. >> give me sugar. >> i don't think military spouses get the credit that they deserve. my husband can't go to work. because child care is closed. school is closed. he's at home, taking care of our girls.
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my husband, he is a rock in it. >> say bubba. >> bubba. >> elmhurst, i got my team in front of me. >> with 28 years in the navy under his belt, commander shu has provided care around the globe. but the front line of covid, he says, was entirely different. >> if you were injured on the field or had a combat injury we could get you to medical care within that golden hour you had a 96% survival rate. that really is different here. when you're intubated, the mortality rates kind of skyrocket. >> by the end of april. >> you are in fact on the downside of the mountain. >> the curve appeared to be flattening. >> hospitalization rate is down. the number of intubations -- >> the situation in new york appeared to be stabilizing. >> 21 days of hell.
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but we're back to where we were. >> the worst-hit hospitals were finally seeing fewer patients. but what remained? a grateful city. those cheers for front line workers still echoed each night at 7:00 p.m. >> it's an incredible thing to hear how appreciative everybody is. yesterday was the last day in the hospital at lincoln. my clinic gave me an applause. which is from the heart. >> i'm so happy you are all headed home! >> and as quickly as they arrived, it became time to leave. before departing, major murphy and a few dozen others honored at a special ceremony at lincoln hospital. >> you left your family. you left your job. we're a better hospital because
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t umo than 130,000. a list of names that has continued to grow since this may "new york times" cover. >> i bought the paper the day before i left so i would have it. >> and did you look through the names? >> i wouldn't look through the names. i didn't want to see a name i recognized. onllp d ma rd omaybe i'll just keep it how it is. >> if there were a second wave, would you answer the call again? >> yes, i would. i couldn't not, you know what i mean? like i, it's just too hard for me to say no when your country needs you. >> and for colonel ramirez? after so many deployments and so thurn me is away in th opportunity to make up for lost time. >> i missed my wife's birthday, thanksgiving, christmas, new
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year's, i missed all the important days of our life, so to speak. >> when colonel ramirez finally returned home to california, there to greet him, his wife of 35 years. >> you made it! >> and like a truly dedicated husband, he managed to bring hib in the military for. to be of service to my country. i know that if i had not deployed i would have regretted it. >> welcome home. >> thank you. to protect a city in need. uh, "fifteen minutes could save you 15%ain? or more on car insurance." i think we're gonna swap over to "over seventy-five
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the combat medics helped new york city battle back from the coronavirus. tonight, one on one with the mayor who called in the cavalry. talk about the sacrifice of the folks who are here. they answered the call of duty
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to serve their country in this capacity, away from their family members. >> i talked to a lot of the military personnel as they arrived, and i tried to go and greet them a number of times when they got here. and i heard the stories of them having to leave their families to go to the american front, to go to the front in new york city and save lives, and i felt for them. and this is not wartime in the traditional sense, but it sure felt like wartime, because we were losing thousands of american lives and we needed the best in our country to come and save us. but the spirit of service from the men and women from the army, the navy, the air force who came here was unbelievable. >> how does new york think these military folks who came in from all over? >> it's been a beautiful experience to see the gratitude directed to the message men and
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win of the armed forces and first and foremost by every day new yorkers who applaud them and understand that they came at the absolute crucial moment and helped to save us. but the gratitude from their fellow health workers is even deeper. and sometimes i would gather with them and ask them to say, and you'd hear them call the roll of states they came from, and it's stirring. people from alaska, california, michigan and kentucky and florida and just this feeling of one country actually working together. >> well, it's interesting you say that. there is a feeling of patriotism. >> yes. >> that comes from all of this. in the midst of what i would argue is a country that's divided in many ways. >> yeah, it's obviously a country that's divided in terms of partisan politics and elections, but i don't think it's a country as divided in terms of the way we live and what we aspire to and what we feel about each other. i have seen americans step up for americans. and think of ourselves of all in one big boat together. that's the spirit i saw with these folks who came in from all
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over to save one corner of america in its hour of need. >> the idea of combat medics is obviously a federal effort. >> yes. >> but in other spheres, do you believe the federal government did enough to help big cities like new york? >> no. not even close. look, i thought the example of the combat medics coming to help us was so powerful and an example of what we wish we'd seen a lot more of. we asked the federal government to do a much bigger enlistment effort to get medical personnel from all over the country, including civilian personnel to come to new york or anyplace else hard hit. that never happened. we asked the government to use the defense production act when we were running out of ventilators and ppes. it was only used sparingly. the federal government never even came close to addressing this crisis, and that's the legacy here, and even to this day, the only reason we have more testing is because we went and figured out how to do it ourselves, including even
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building the test kits in new york city which had never been done before. >> public health officials were asking you to shut down schools, and yet, your critics say you didn't shut down schools fast enough. >> we were dealing with information every day. i got different information every day, ever changing, different views from different health care leader, and i knew i had 1.1 million kids and their future in my hands. and i'll tell you something. a lot of health care leaders were worried if we shut schools their workforce couldn't come to work. and our hospitals would be threatened. so these were all the factors, but i made the decision to shut them down, and it was a painful one, but i made that decision. >> in retrospect, do you wish you had shut them down earlier? >> i wish we had known so much more. i wish we had testing. i wish we had a lot of the facts we have today. but i'll tell you one thing. but once we shut them down there were some clamoring to reopen. and i said there's no way.
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>> what's the plan to open in september? >> the plan is to fight back this disease. the way people have confidence in going to school is if they see very few cases. they see more and more people being tested. they see a really believable approach to keeping each school safe. now i'd love a vaccine, but i don't think we're going to have a vaccine by september, but i do think you're going to see a lot of workplaces that have proven you can have a safe, atmosphere. and that will show us what it will look like to have school come back as well. >> do you worry about a lot of new yorkers abandoning the city post-covid? >> no, i think there's been a heroic fight and a lot of people admire it. people are proud, and they're new yorkers, and they're not going anywhere. i think some people left temporarily, out of concern, out of fear. i don't blame them. but i think a lot of them will come back. and always after every crisis we've seen a whole new generation of people come into new york city. that was true after 9/11, after hurricane sandy.
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and as we head into this independence day weekend hats off to the members of the military answering the call whenever and wherever they're needed. we hope you have a safe 4th of july weekend. thanks for staying with us, good night, america we hope you have a safe 4th of july weekend. thanks for staying with us, good night, america. ♪ ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, ba, ♪ ♪ jimmy kimmel live this is ridiculous. from his house! >> jimmy: hello, i'm jimmy. welcome to my home. but please don't touch anything. we ran out of clorox wipes in march. today for me is day 70 of stay-at-home. i have now been in this house, this is true, longer than it took columbus to get to the new world. we are in nina, pinta and santa maria territory now.
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that's the kind of fact you learn - after you've seen every single thing on netflix. the long weekend is -- is it here yet? how will we know? tomorrow, we head into memorial day weekend. it's time to get those bodies banana bread-ready! travel will be down this year, obviously. but not for us. this year for memorial day, we got a plan. we're packing up the kids and taking them to the laundry room. donald trump is on the road. our hydroxy poppin' president. on the way to michigan. gave us an important update on his stint as human guinea pig-in-chief. >> i think it's another day. i had a

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