One by one, they paired a hospital-issued plastic dress, a headgear and gloves. They spent a few minutes saying emotional goodbye to the lifeless body of the 56-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, a Pentecostal church leader who washed trucks to provide for the family.
His only son, Daniel Moran, said a night prayer at St. Joseph Hospital on Long Island. He squeezed his dead father's hand.
"One day we will join you in heaven," he cried.
Sixteen days later, father and son were buried together.
Miguel Moran died of acute respiratory failure from Covid-19 on April 16, according to his death certificate. Eight days after he prayed over his father's body, Daniel himself had died of the disease.
Elder Moran's wife and daughter, who also lived with him and visited the hospital the night he died, later tested positive for the coronavirus – as did two other family members who were also in the room that night.
The situation of the family highlights the many challenges of the pandemic. The changing separations of dying patients and loved ones who would normally be by their side as they drew their last breath. Overloaded health care systems that balance it with mandates to protect visitors and employees. hospital struggling with access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
"It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this happen initially," said Dr. Cassandra Pierre, Medical Director of Public Health Programs at Boston Medical Center. "But also that you have to keep your family member, or you don't even get the opportunity to do it without having PPE in place, is just so unnatural. This is where we are going to keep people safe right now."
The extraordinary measures to stop the infection have affected seriously ill people, their vulnerable families and overloaded hospital staff.
"I really feel for that family," Pierre said. "I feel for the health station trying to accommodate them. It's such a strange time where you can't even properly provide for family members."
The situation is & # 39; painful for all affected & # 39;
Hospitals across the country have suspended the most visits. Many critically ill patients have been deprived of the comfort of a familiar face in their last moments. Grief happens from afar. Business policy is left to hospital administrators.
"I feel like everyone does it when we go together," Pierre said of visitor protocols. "Sure, at the very least, everyone should wear a surgical mask in almost every hospital room. But other than that, I think it's in a way that the institution discretion."
Catholic Health Services, which operates St. Joseph's at Bethpage and other Long Island hospitals, declined comment beyond referring to its visitor policy for Covid-19. Also it has suspended all except life at the end of life, births and pediatricians.
"Exceptions for visits will be made on a case-by-case basis by hospital and (skilled nursing facility) management in connection with infection prevention management and will follow appropriate CDC guidelines for screening for COVID-19 infection BEFORE admission is permitted," the policy states.
Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, said the health care centers have had to make tough choices.
"The extraordinary reality of COVID-19 has forced many hospitals and health systems to take extraordinary measures to keep patients and communities safe," she said in a statement.
"It is necessary for everyone's sake that we restrict visitors, and it is painful for all concerned, including the staff who must insist on it. We do not take lightly the sacrifices we ask individuals and their loved ones to make. We will not do so with unless it was absolutely necessary. "
Miguel Moran himself went to the ambulance and died two days later
Miguel Moran began to feel ill the week before his April 16 death. His boss at a company that washes fleets of trucks and ambulances sent him home one day with a fever. His daughter said she took him to a doctor. Her father was not tested, but the doctor was "100% sure" that Moran had the coronavirus.
He himself quarantined at home – and did not get out of his room, according to his daughter, Mercedes Moran, 31, and his wife, Reina Garay, 53.
"We took every precaution we heard on the news," said Mercedes Moran in Spanish from the family's Farmingdale home. "We didn't come near him. Dad was isolated. We put food on the door. My brother was always in his own room."
Two days before his death, Moran sweated profusely, and the fever increased. His breathing was strained and he was having trouble moving. Still, he went himself to the ambulance that took him to the hospital, the family says.
The next day, he said to his wife on the phone: "I'm going to die. The doctor says I'm not going to."
& # 39; Papi, wake up. Let's go home & # 39;
Moran died just after 2 p.m. April 16. The hospital allowed five family members individually to say goodbye. They shared a plastic sheath and head cover provided by the hospital.
Moran's wife went first. "I touched his head, his feet, his hands," she remembered.
Mercedes Moran was surprised that his father had been intubated. After all, he had gone to the ambulance two days earlier. He was wearing a hospital dress under a blanket that was pulled to his neck. She stroked his face. His eyes were closed. She clicked a last photo with her phone.
"& # 39; Papi, wake up. Let's go home, & # 39;" she said to his lifeless body. "I was in shock. He had to sleep. I kept telling him to get up."
Daniel Moran went on. He was overweight, and the dress didn't cover his body completely, according to the sister. Later he told her that he had prayed and held their father's hand.
At the end of the visit, the hospital staff instructed them to shower when they got home. A week later, all five family members would test positive for coronavirus, according to Mercedes Moran and the mother.
"He would not end up being intubated like our father," said Mercedes Moran. "He said, & # 39; Most of the dead are Latinos and African Americans. I don't want to die far from you. & # 39;"
On the afternoon of April 24, his condition worsened. His mother, sister and another relative helped him to the car for a short drive to the hospital. On the way Daniel struggled to breathe.
"He was dying in the car," his mother remembered.
They stopped outside a local firehouse. When an ambulance arrived, Daniel climbed onto it himself, said the mother and sister. He fell face first – unconscious – on the floor of the ambulance.
"My grandson screamed, & # 39; Please, help us! & # 39;" Said Reina Garay. "When they turned him around, my son had already turned blue. His arm fell to the side. He was dead."
At the hospital where he was pronounced dead, family members were asked if they wanted time alone with Daniel. Mercedes Moran declined, saying they had been with him when he died.
"I didn't want to put my mother in danger," she said. "We just have each other now."
Father and son are buried in the same grave
But much about the novel coronavirus is still unknown.
"At our hospital, we are very careful to deal with people who died from Covid to ensure there is minimal contact, especially contact without PPE," Pierre said.
Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, physician and fellow of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and other specialists said it is unlikely that the son became ill from touching his father's body. He was more likely to be infected at work or at home or visit a grocery store, they said.
Many hospitals have had PPE deficiency. Some healthcare systems limit a person's end-of-life visit. Others need face shields or goggles. Ideally, dresses should not be shared, experts say.
"Nothing is ever foolproof," Pierre said.
Saskia Popescu, hospital epidemiologist and expert on infection prevention at George Mason University, said that most hospital visitors are not trained to use PPE because there are so many other priorities.
"It's very challenging right now," she said. "We are very stressed in the health care system. Whether it's supplies or staffing or very critically ill patients. So having to really follow a family to make sure they are trained and educated and being safe is an extra layer."
Popescu visits have been unusual during the pandemic, Popescu said.
"When they're in the room, that's where I've seen cross-contamination happen," she said of hospital visitors.
In the early afternoon of May 2, Miguel and Daniel Moran were buried in the same grave at Amityville Cemetery. A procession of cars, pickups, and bonfires with their crates drove by the Pentecostal church where they worshiped.
"Papi and Daniel say goodbye to the church that brought them so much happiness," cried Mercedes Moran in a video posted on social media.
"And they brought us so much happiness," she said later.
CNN's David J. Lopez contributed to this report.