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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nurses employed by Long Island-based Northwell Health have been dispatched to western New York to help at two hospitals dealing with a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Sunday.

The 16 clinical professionals and two team leads are from the downstate region, including the New York City and Long Island.

They include intensive care, emergency and medical-surgical nurses and were sent to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo and the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for two weeks.

Brendan McDermott, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, will be teamed up with seven Northwell nurses in Rochester for the next two weeks. It’s currently an area where COVID rates are five to six times higher than they are in New York City, largely in part because of lower vaccination rates.

“Being able to take the experiences here and take them back to our experiences at home is going to be a great opportunity for us as well,” said McDermott.

Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital welcomed the nurses Saturday to begin orientation and training.

“We have gotten so much positivity infused in the organization when our staff is tired, they see this group help us and it’s just amazing, they’re willing to do this,” said Karen Keady, the chief nursing executive at URMC.

The team will help mostly in the emergency department and ICU. It’s a job the front-line workers are all too familiar with. Last year, McDermott worked in one of the hardest hit hot spots in Queens.

Over the next two weeks, they’re prepared to pay it forward to those who rose to the occasion in the city, at the height of the pandemic. 

“It’s our duty as nurses to help one another and to help whoever it is in need,” said McDermott.

COVID cases and hospitalizations in New York have been rising at a startling pace since Thanksgiving, Hochul has said. The surge is especially pronounced in some areas of upstate New York, which has accounted for nearly three-fourths of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in hospitals since August.

Thirty-two upstate hospitals in Niagara and elsewhere had to limit performing nonessential elective surgeries starting Thursday because of capacity issues.

One of the state’s worst hit hospitals, Glen Falls Hospital in Warren County, said 50 out of 165 patients had COVID-19 as of Wednesday. That’s the most infected patients the hospital’s ever reported, according to state data.

To combat the spike in cases, Hochul announced a new statewide indoor mask or vaccine mandate, which goes into effect on Monday.