With schools and business reopening roughly six months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the area economy, and residents now regularly venturing out — albeit with face masks and frequently sanitized hands — local physicians are warning that Covid-19 remains a genuine threat.
Dr. Marc Sicklick, a Lawrence resident with a Cedarhurst practice who specializes in allergies, asthma and immunology, recently wrote a three-page letter that was emailed by the Village of Lawrence to residents. Sicklick noted that there had been an uptick of cases in Nassau County and in the Five Towns, and said he was joining the nearly unanimous chorus of doctors who are “warning and begging people” to take the pandemic seriously.
“My take is that we have to get across that this is not over,” Sicklick told the Herald. “There is a prevalent feeling in this community that the pandemic is done.” We are in fact in the middle of the pandemic, he said, and facing a possible second wave.
Pointing to a University of Washington projection for New York state, Sicklick noted that if mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings do not remain standard practice, there could be up to 300 deaths per day statewide by November and December. At the peak of the pandemic earlier this year, there were nearly 1,000 deaths per day across the state, and now there are fewer than 10 per day.
Sicklick, who is also Lawrence’s liaison to Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management, said that Covid-19 numbers for the Five Towns are fairly high, with Woodmere, the original Five Towns hot spot, having nearly 700 cases at press time. “People are not taking this seriously if it’s not impacting them directly,” he said, acknowledging that people are “burned out and tired,” but emphasizing that that doesn’t excuse them from following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health.
“There is nothing in religion that says to listen to religious leader over doctors,” Sicklick said, adding that Covid-19 took the lives of two longtime friends of his, has kept him from hugging his grandchildren and has sickened members of his family, though, fortunately, they have recovered. “No one has the right to violate CDC or health department guidelines. We should err on side of caution.”
Not wearing masks and failing to social distance would most likely accelerate the rate of infection, he said, describing reopening schools as a “necessary risk” and adding that the upcoming High Holidays, with people attending synagogue, would also be a risk. But because of what the medical community has learned in the past six months about the use of anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting drugs and anti-virals, Sicklick said, he believes the second wave will be not be as deadly — if people follow the guidelines.
Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau and a Woodmere resident, has also continued to stress vigilance and the fact that the virus has not disappeared. “It is critically important for people to understand this is absolutely not over,” Glatt said. “There needs to be an urgency that social distancing most be practiced at all times. Lives will be saved. If people don’t socially distance, there will be serious consequences.”
He agreed that reopening schools is a higher risk, because children may bring the virus home, and said that residents must remain aware of its dangers. Glatt, who is also an assistant rabbi at Young Israel of Woodmere, the largest Orthodox congregation on the South Shore, said he was proud of the synagogue’s 100 percent compliance with wearing masks properly — covering both the nose and mouth — and social distancing.
Earlier this month, 100 doctors with practices in the Five Towns signed and distributed — via email, media and social media — an open letter to the community emphasizing their support for “some positions that we feel are medically indisputable.”
“Masking to prevent Covid-19 infection has a strong evidence base that is agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of doctors and public health experts,” the letter read. “There is no credible evidence that masks have any risks for those who wear them. They are most effective when worn both by those who have the virus and those at risk of catching it.
“Wearing a mask is not just about one’s personal choice,” it continued, “but also about not spreading the virus to others in the event of asymptomatic or early infection.”
Both Glatt and Sicklick signed the letter.
For information from the CDC, go https://bit.ly/2Rn88fd.