Trauma Surgeon Dr. Matthew Martin has seen a lot. He was in the U.S. Army and did several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even with all of that experience, he said he was shocked to hear about what doctors in New York City were facing in their hospitals.
"They were just telling me how bad it was and how understaffed they were," Martin told NBC 7. "I knew there was an acute need and it was a specialty and skill set that I have."
He wanted to help and arrived at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx in early April. It was the peak of the fight against the coronavirus outbreak in New York, which has had more than 178,350 cases as of May 6.
"The ER was packed with beds next to each other lining the hallways. They were trying to open up beds wherever they could find space in the hospital," Martin recalled.
His three weeks at Jacobi Medical Center consisted of frequent calls for patients coding -- he estimates he saw an average of 10 deaths a day but it was hard to keep track.
"These are some of the sickest ICU patients I have ever taken care of and that includes multiple tours in Iraq and Afganistan," Martin said.
Having witnessed the deadly potential of this disease first-hand is tough to put into words, and he understands how many may downplay COVID-19 if they haven't seen it firsthand.
"Don't wait until it hurts or kills your family to take it seriously," he cautioned.
Now that he is back in San Diego, Martin says he is pleased with the precautions our leaders took early on but wants people to remember there is no cure for COVID-19 -- all we have is prevention.
"We are starting to see an increase number of patients coming from the south of the border area. So I do think we can't go back to business as usual yet," said Martin.
Public Health officials are working towards a slow reopening of San Diego County, the first step of which could come as early as this Friday, once Gov. Gavin Newsom begins to ease some of the state's "stay-at-home" restrictions.
As of Wednesday, there were 4,319 positive cases of COVID-19 in San Diego and 158 deaths.