A PHOTO of dozens of heroic medics flying to New York to help contain the coronavirus outbreak has inspired hope for many.

About 30 health care professionals, all from hospitals in the Atlanta area, raised their hands in the shape of a heart as some wore masks and gloves.

An Atlanta ramp agent took the photo of the health care workers, other passengers, and flight crew before the plane departed from Georgia on Friday, Southwest Airlines spokesman Derek K. Hubbard said on Sunday.

The regularly scheduled flight was due to land in New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Southwest airlines shared the snap over Instagram, writing: "While so many of us continue to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one knows what is happening quite like our medical professionals.

"These brave souls soldier on in the midst of tremendous risk and exposure, constantly putting the needs of others above their own.

"Their selfless sacrifice is a beacon of light during such a dark time in our world, and no amount of gratitude and praise would ever be enough."

The airline praised the workers for their "bravery, courage, and sacrifice" in giving other Americans "a fighting chance".

The post ended with a tribute to all those working on the front line: "Thankfully, this group and countless others do it each day, and for that we are forever grateful and in their debt."

The photo has since been shared by tens of thousands on Facebook and Twitter, with many comments praising the health care workers for their bravery.

US coronavirus cases passed 143,000 on Monday as total deaths reached more than 2,500 – driven by soaring infections in New York City and other hotspots.

The United States has become the world's number one country for total coronavirus infections, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.

About half of the cases of coronavirus in the nation have been identified in New York state at the epicenter of the outbreak.

It's the most deaths in a single state in the country.

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