AKRON, Ohio — New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 15,000 people there have died from the virus. For the past month, healthcare students at the University of Akron have been helping the city's hardest hit hospitals.

"It gets very lonely, you're taking care of these patients who haven't seen their family in 40-some days and you may be the first person that was able to get their phone," said Cody Ellis, RN, graduate student, University of Akron.

What You Need To Know

  • U of A students are caring for COVID-19 patients at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan 

  • The students describe NYC as grim, with hardly anyone outside

  • The students are expected to return to Ohio in 3 weeks

Ellis, along with Mike Hronec and Katie Roberts, are all anesthesia students at U of A. They're caring for COVID-19 patients in intensive care units at New York University's Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.

"Mostly everybody is on the ventilator or has a breathing tube in with the ventilator helping them breathe. You go in and you kind of don't really know who you're going to be taking care of, but most likely it's going to be some of the sickest patients," said Mike Hronec, RN, graduate student, University of Akron.

The three students say they didn't hesitate when they were called to help— as nurses, it was their duty. They've been working 48 hours a week, caring for young patients, the elderly, and some who have passed away.

"I think the most challenging aspect of this is just the lack of just personal touch that you can have with your patients, you go in and you feel like you're like an astronaut or something going into these rooms, it's actually more tiring than I expected it to be. I mean, I'm on night shift, but every single room you go into, you have the gown, masks, you have to have a face shield on, you have to have an N-95 mask on," said Katie Roberts, RN, graduate student, University of Akron.

The students told Spectrum News 1 that the city feels like another world compared to what is happening in Ohio. The State of Ohio has less than 30,000 confirmed COVID cases, whereas New York City alone, has more than 196,000 confirmed cases.

"I would say it's kind of grim at times. The streets are bare, there's really nobody out and if they are out they're all wearing masks," said Ellis.

After weeks of emotionally draining days, the students are now seeing better days, as hope is on the horizon.

"I know when we first started here, there was probably around 8 to 10 intensive care units. Probably 90 percent of those patients were attached to the ventilator and now it's probably close to around two to three intensive care units, so the numbers are definitely getting better," said Hronec.

"I know it's probably hard for people in Ohio to understand the virus, you know, and it's a totally different situation there, but as things are opening up I would just caution people to be very mindful. What New York has experienced in here is devastating, it has changed life here forever so I would not want that to ever be the case in a different city again," said Roberts.

The students are expected to return to Ohio in three weeks.