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New York City healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus battle are being treated to complimentary vacations courtesy of American Airlines and Hyatt hotels.

More than 4,000 employees at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst in Queens will get three-day trips to a variety of destinations in the U.S. and the Caribbean once COVID-19 subsides and they’re able to take time off, the two companies said Friday.

Doctors, nurses, physician assistants and even food-service workers are among those receiving the thank-you gift.

“We are extremely grateful to Hyatt and American Airlines for this generous gift to our healthcare workers, who have been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Israel Rocha, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals’ Elmhurst facility, said in a news release. “Our doctors, nurses, and other staff on the front lines of this unprecedented healthcare crisis really appreciate the outpouring of support from two of America’s major companies, and we look forward to taking advantage of these well-earned vacations in the near future.”

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With more than 188,100 confirmed cases and 19,324 deaths, the New York City area has become one of the U.S. epicenters in the coronavirus pandemic and comprised the majority of that state’s 338,337 cases and 26,584 deaths reported as of Saturday evening, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  

At NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, the capacity in the intensive care unit has been increased by 500% to handle the onslaught of patients, Hyatt says.

“We’ve heard from so many of our colleagues and members who simply want to do some good and find a way to share their gratitude for some of the heroes of this pandemic in one of the hardest-hit areas of New York,” Hyatt president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian said in a statement. “We are humbled by the healthcare workers’ dedication to saving lives. Now it’s our turn to take care of them like members of our own family, and we look forward to making their stays special when they are able to take a hard-earned break.”

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American says this is the carrier’s largest ever donation of flights to a single cause.

“Every worker at Elmhurst has seen and experienced challenges many of us cannot imagine,” American Airlines president Robert Isom said. “They’ve given so much of themselves and chose to serve their community with care, compassion and equity for every patient.”

The giving won’t stop in New York. Both Hyatt and American are encouraging members of their loyalty clubs to donate points so more health workers can be given free trips.

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The travel industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with most business and leisure travelers opting to cancel their trips, citing health concerns. American has estimated it will cut its fleet by as much as 20%, while Hyatt has furloughed some workers and cut pay for others.

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Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges

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