“We are in a state of emergency. Black people are dying in a state of emergency” Tamika Mallory, activist Pictures of a white Minneapolis police officer killing unarmed black man George Floyd provoked an immediate and furious response. Angry protests demanding an end to entrenched racism erupted in scores of cities across America. Floyd’s last words ‘I can’t breathe’ have become a rallying cry. White and black, young and old, across 50 states, have protested peacefully against police violence and racism.
The Big Apple is in bad shape. It’s the epicentre of the US fight against the corona virus outbreak. Its people are in lockdown while frontline services wage war against the pandemic. With over fourteen thousand dead, New York City accounts for around one third of all corona-related deaths in the US. Every day, there are hundreds of new infections and deaths. The city’s hospitals are overflowing, health workers lack medical and protective equipment and morgues have run out of space. Foreign Correspondent’s reporter Karishma Vyas, a New York resident, goes behind the lines of the city’s battle to slow infections, save lives, protect its vulnerable and bury the dead. We follow paramedics as they respond to emergency house calls, helping desperate families. We discover many who die of COVID-19 don’t make the official death toll. We film with the police union as they hand out desperately needed personal safety equipment to their officers. “I thought I’d seen it all on September 11th, but I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re anticipating this getting even worse. So that’s why we’re trying to get this equipment out to our guys”, says a Union officer. We speak with an ICU nurse who’s travelled from out of state to lend a hand in a Bronx hospital. He tells us about working double shifts, often with no break, and the pressure of looking after multiple critically ill patients at the same time. A good day is when none of his patients die. One overworked doctor describes his frustration with the US health system. “I’ve had people come in barely breathing and their first question isn’t ‘Am I going to survive?’ It’s ‘How is this going to impact my family financially?’” “This illness exposes all the fault-lines throughout American society”, says the doctor. And we catch up with characters who embody the city’s spirit of defiance and survival. “I want to be remembered as someone who never left the frontlines and who was essential”, says the Naked Cowboy, a performer whose stage is Times Square – rain, hail or coronavirus. This is an intimate and powerful portrait of a city in crisis. About Foreign Correspondent: Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.