Summer festivals? No, not this year

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It’s time to say “no” to Rochester’s festivals for this summer. All of them.

To date, more than 150 Monroe County residents who happily greeted the new year are gone forever, victims of a virus that we do not yet control. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted, it leaves a big hole in our collective hearts.

Over 1,800 Monroe County residents have been infected with the coronavirus, many requiring hospitalization, all suffering in one way or another.

Neil R.Scheier

We are also finding that Covid-19 has residual effects, even upon the previously healthy. Persistent difficulties with thought; persistent lung, heart, kidney issues—they all can occur.

What we thought we knew is that isolating oneself and staying six feet apart when in a more community situation controls the spread of virus—and it clearly does. However, it seemingly does not eliminate risk completely.

I am currently working at the University of Rochester’s Covid Respiratory Clinic, established as one component of the university’s systemwide effort to address the Covid crisis. We see patients upon referral from UR-associated primary care providers who, having communicated either by phone or video with the patient, have a concern for Covid potential. 

A few days ago, I met a lovely patient in their 80s, on a single baby aspirin as their only medicine, described by usual caregivers as robust and the picture of health, isolating with their spouse over the past month with sojourns to the supermarket as their only out-of-home activity. Five days ago they “just didn’t feel well,” nothing specific. A day later, a low-grade fever appeared. Two days subsequently a chesty sensation and some shortness of breath developed. In office, they looked peaked, a bit dry, and by measurement were not oxygenating well. An exam confirmed some pulmonary findings. A chest X-ray looked even worse than the exam suggested, and they are Covid positive. 

Last week, I saw a 57-year-old, a regular exerciser, the picture of health for their age, no medical problems of note. They had trouble walking from the parking lot into our office, they sat in front of me struggling for breath. Covid positive.

As we all know from news reports, there are a number of studies ongoing in which researchers are seeking both a vaccine and antibody tests—two criteria to truly gain control over this horrid virus. UR boasts some wonderful researchers devoting extraordinary time to this effort. It is an effort, though, that takes time, takes experimentation, more research, an international sharing of data. It will be many months, perhaps even into the next new year, before we are confident in our fight against Covid-19.

So, it is time to say no to festivals this summer, to encouraged gatherings of people. 

I would eliminate all crowd-gathering events. Although I admit to following the Red Wings and enjoying the ballpark, the real reason for their existence is to give Triple AAA ballplayers an opportunity to further hone their skills in the hope that they would progress to the major leagues, where their performance is televised, analyzed, and provides fodder for radio, TV, newspapers, online discussion et al. If a local TV outlet is interested in televising Red Wing games so that we can watch, great. Otherwise, they need to play in empty stadia, and, as is already being done in the reopening European soccer leagues, players should be quarantined together, living a bus-to-hotel-to-ballpark-to-hotel existence, and Covid swabbed frequently.

Yes, it will lengthen the summer for most of us, a boring summer it will be—but it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be careful as to how we get back to the life we once lived; let’s be judicious in our approach; let’s use June, July and August to “regroup.” Perhaps we can rename September and October as our Festival Months 2020 and cram a host of fun activities therein; hopefully by then we will know more, we will have a better grip on how to deal with this virus that has disrupted our old normal. Let us be careful in our approach to the new normal.

Neil R. Scheier M.D. is a clinical senior instructor in medicine at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. All Rochester Beacon coronavirus articles are collected here.

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