FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida emergency room doctors are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’re worried.

Seventy-six ER doctors wrote a letter to the community, saying in part, “We’ve never written a letter to you before, but we’ve never experienced a crisis like the one we are currently facing. We are the people who are witnessing first-hand the impact that COVID-19 is having on people in our community, and we have seen a frighteningly rapid increase in the number of people with severe and life-threatening respiratory illnesses coming into our emergency rooms. The low number of confirmed cases in published reports does not show the true number of people who have been infected by the virus in Miami…”

“I am worried about this for a few reasons,” Dr. Warren Sturman of Broward Health said. “Number one, this could easily overwhelm our healthcare system.”

Sturman is forming a medical response unit. He is organizing doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers now, so they can step in if there is a shortage.

“As healthcare workers test positive and have to self-quarantine, there are going to be gaps,” Sturman said. “We anticipate there is going to be a huge need for medical volunteers in the future.”

ICU nurse Mary McNerney understands that all too well.

“We are being exposed, and we feel like we are at high risk,” she said.

Because of a shortage, McNerney said nurses are having to reuse N95 masks, so she went on Facebook and asked South Floridians to donate unused masks.

“A lot of people have a couple of boxes of these hanging around in their garage,” she said. “Construction workers, painters, roofers, anybody who can get their hands on these. We are looking for donations.”

In their letter to the community, ER doctors stress how serious COVID-19 is, and how the only way to stop it is social distancing.

“One of the most insidious aspects of this epidemic is that it draws strength from people’s skepticism and feelings of invulnerability,” they wrote. “If people need to personally experience COVID-19 by having a loved one or close friend infected in order to take this crisis seriously, then it will be too late, and we will suffer the full brunt of this epidemic. The worst-case scenarios indicate that over a million Americans may eventually die of COVID-19 if we are unable to control its spread.”

“We are trying to figure out what we are doing and how we are going to be protected and take care of these patients as best we can,” McNerney.

If you are a healthcare provider who wants to be on the medical response unit, the contact info is:

Broward County Medical Association

Also if you have N95 masks to donate, contact nurse Mary McNerney at

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