'Ghost town:' Nurse volunteering in Italy with NC nonprofit amid COVID-19 sends warning to the U.S.

BOONE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Samaritan's Purse, headquartered in Boone, North Carolina, has medical volunteers in Italy battling against the spread of COVID-19.

Kelly Sites is a nurse and is one of those volunteers.

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Sites said she has been a nurse for just over 20 years and has helped fight infectious diseases around the globe, but not quite like COVID-19.

"The streets are mostly a ghost town, because everyone is staying home," Sites said.

She has been on the ground with Samaritan's Purse in Italy since Tuesday.

The nonprofit has set up an emergency field hospital in the parking lot of Cremona Hospital, a large facility near Milan.

The emergency hospital has enough room for 68 patients. "We are definitely going to fill up."

Sites described what Italy has been like since arriving.

"We hear the sirens from when the ambulance picks up the patients and brings them to the hospital," Sites said. "All day, all night, it's constantly."
The Cremona Hospital, Sites said, has converted 500 of the 600 beds for COVID-19. The rest are reserved for pediatrics and maternity patients.

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Of the 500 patients, 100 are medical staff that once worked in the hospital, now fighting the disease, Sites said.

ABC11 asked Sites if she could speak to the American public, to those spring breakers in Florida who refuse to leave the beaches, what would you say?

To that she responded "Really, we don't want to see what's happening here, happening in the United States. It can happen and it can happen quickly. It literally was three weeks before Italy, from day one to where we're at now has been about 3.5 weeks... and happened very fast and it multiplied." She continued "The restrictions are placed on the United States aren't for panic or hysteria, it's a public health strategy."

For volunteers working tirelessly to push back against the pandemic, Nurse Sites asks for prayer and to do the right thing.

"That helps us be able to come home and take care of our families. It's hard to leave a disaster to come home to a disaster."
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