Dr. Tina Goloborodko’s apartment is decorated with family photographs: framed prints of a couple standing close and stooping over an infant who’s looking into the camera, a candid shot of the doctor standing behind a gray-haired man, with a hand on each of his shoulders, her face hovering just beside his ear, seemingly caught mid-whisper. As New York City enters its fourth week of widespread social-distancing measures to stem the global coronavirus crisis, these intimate images are surreal postcards from another era—before touch became a cultural bête noire. In the video above, the doctor talks about what it’s like to treat patients in New York City during the outbreak, and about what she fears may be coming.
An internist at Weiler Hospital, in the Bronx, Goloborodko says that her “worst nightmare . . . has now manifested.” New York City has the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the United States, at more than forty-seven thousand, and more than thirteen hundred people have died in the city. Every half hour, sirens herald another ambulance, Goloborodko says. She is terrified that the number of patients in need will exceed the “finite number of ventilators.” “This is the scariest disease I’ve ever seen,” she says.
Many of her colleagues have separated from their families temporarily, but renting a second apartment isn’t a possibility for Goloborodko. At the threshold of her bright, sunlit apartment, Goloborodko strips off her work clothes. She sprays her shoes with Lysol and leaves them outside the door. Her home used to be an escape, a place to leave the hospital behind and “switch off.” “But now,” she says, “I can’t relax ever.” Even after changing her clothes, she doesn’t feel safe. “I may still have it, and I may still be giving it to my loved ones,” she says.
“You have no idea about coronavirus,” she says sweetly to her babbling toddler, tousling his bright blond hair. “Such happy times. No worries. Carefree.” She laughs with the little boy. And then she goes to work.