Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department staff clap to show appreciation to doctors and nurses from Northwell Health, for fighting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, New York, U.S. in this still image obtained from a social media video. Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department/via REUTERS

With loud cheers and applause, medical staff at New York’s Northwell Health network greeted 46 nurses on Tuesday who had arrived from all over the United States to reinforce hospitals as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus topped 24,000 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally. There were nearly 583,000 confirmed cases, over 200,000 of which were in New York state alone.

Treating the large number of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has challenged hospitals in its U.S. epicenter. They have scrambled to find enough ventilators and other equipment, as well as beds and staff.

Northwell, the largest healthcare provider in New York, said it had contracted medical staffing companies to help it buttress efforts to treat patients at 18 hospitals across New York City, Long Island and Westchester county.

The “clap-in,” with dozens of staff cheering loudly and holding signs saying “Nurses are the heart of healthcare” and “Welcome, healthcare heroes,” was a surprise for the nurses who arrived on Tuesday afternoon for a half-day training session. Hailing from states including California, South Carolina, and Indiana, they are undergoing training in subjects ranging from operating ventilators to dealing with electronic medical records.

“It’s so heartwarming to see so many nurses come from so far away to assist us in our time of need,” said Maureen White, executive vice president and chief nurse executive at Northwell.

About 300 nurses from other areas have been enlisted over the past three weeks, said Launette Woolforde, Northwell’s registered nurse and vice president for nursing education.

Marybella Cole, who had arrived in New York from Lewiston, Idaho, said community was important to her.

“There’s no bigger calling than something like this,” she said.

Raymond Woods said he had left kids and grandchildren behind in Indiana so he could help.

“I have never been more proud to be a nurse. This is by far the most rewarding career I’ve had in my life,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hofstetter; Writing by Bernadette Baum; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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