Kious Kelly has died after a battle with COVID-19.
The 48-year-old assistant nurse manager at Manhattan's Mount Sinai West is the first nurse reported to have died of the virus in New York City, reports The New York Times.
Kelly informed his sister, Marya Patrice Sherron, on March 18 that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was breathing with the help of a ventilator in the ICU. Kelly had asthma but was described as his sister as otherwise healthy. He died Tuesday.
"His death could have been prevented," Sherron wrote on Facebook. "Please help get our healthcare workers the protection they need."
Employees of Mount Sinai West took to the media to say that a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and gowns, contributed to Kelly's COVID-19 infection. Before he tested positive, Kelly had been seen attending to patients without the proper PPE.
In reporting on Kelly's death, the New York Post included an image of the hospital's employees wearing scrubs wrapped in garbage bags. Mount Sinai West reportedly had “issues with supplies for about a year now,” one source told the Post.
“Kious didn’t deserve this,” an anonymous nurse said. “The hospital should be held responsible. The hospital killed him.”
“I’m also very angry with the Mount Sinai Health System for not protecting him," registered nurse Bevon Bloise posted to Facebook. "We do not have enough PPE, we do not have the correct PPE, and we do not have the appropriate staffing to handle this pandemic. And I do not appreciate representatives of this health system saying otherwise on the news.”
New York has emerged as an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Thursday morning, 385 people had died and 5,327 had been hospitalized in the state, with 37,258 confirmed cases. The numbers are rising exponentially. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given daily briefings outlining the dangers of the lack of PPE as well as respirators in the face of the growing crisis.
Kelly grew up in Lansing, Mich. He moved to New York City over 20 years ago with the dream of becoming a dancer before turning to a career in health. His Facebook page showed an interest in the performing arts, RuPaul's Drag Race, and the literature of Alice Walker.
Many shared fond remembrances of Kelly on social media. A GoFundMe, launched to support his family through this difficult time, lauded the legacy of a kind-hearted man who would fly home on weekends to care for his ailing parents. Others also remarked on his thoughtfulness.
“He used to carry around a thick notepad holder that hides a box full of chocolates and candies so he can have it handy to give out to miserable/ grumbly nurses and doctors who are more likely than not ‘hangry,'" Joanne Loo, a fellow nurse at Mount Sinai West, wrote on Facebook. "He spreads joy and love exactly like how the world needs it. He is a nurse hero to the patients and nurses who he crossed path with. His death hit home… and it hurts."
Andy Humm, a board member of New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth, witnessed Kelly's heart firsthand in February when he observed the nurse care for a client who was "in constant agony and could not even sip water."
Kelly "showed up with a rainbow pin and a calm, caring manner and made things happen for the young man — getting him pain relief and pulling him back from the brink of wanting to take his own life," Humm wrote in a remembrance for Gay City News, a weekly NYC paper. "He was an angel to this troubled, homeless, African-American kid."
"Today I’m mourning Kious Jordan Kelly, a 48-year old gay nurse manager who died from caring," Humm concluded. "I was only with him for 15 minutes, but it was enough to see his unique power of healing. An unforgettable character. Honor his memory by not letting even one more health care worker die."
The Brooklyn Reporter has highlighted several GoFundMe accounts for those who wish to donate money to provide PPE and other supplies to health care workers. As of this article's publishing, the crowdfunding for Kelly's funeral and family had raised $2,400 of a $10,000 goal.