Coronavirus restrictions have shut down just about everything, but essential services like physician offices remain open.
At practices like Monroe Pediatrics, the way patients are seen has temporarily changed.
“People have stopped wanting to come in,” said Dr. Jamee Goldstein. “Our hours have changed (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the sick/well sides; weekends by appointment) so we can see patients, maintain our staff and be able to keep the lights on.”
Similar to others, Monroe Pediatrics is using “telemedicine” video conference calls to see patients.
“The technology is much better than I had expected,” Goldstein said. “I do want to see my patients face-to face because the interaction is important. There’s some things you can’t do online. Some patients will still need to come in to drop off specimen samples or for blood work. But, I have walked out to the parking lot to swab someone’s throat.”
If patients need to come into the office, they wait in their cars and handle registration on their phones. When it’s their appointment time, they’re called into an empty office (excluding staff) and go immediately into a room that was thoroughly cleaned beforehand and will be equally cleaned afterward.
Staff also wear masks and gloves.
“We’re protecting everyone, our patients and ourselves,” she added.
Goldstein stressed the practice’s well side is still open.
“We prefer that everyone stay on top of their physicals and vaccines,” she said. “When this is over, we know everyone will want to come in. Remember, it’s important to be vaccinated. For our newborns and babies, it’s important to get their vaccines on schedule. We’re fortunate that we have a separate well side, where no one should be sick.”
Yes, Goldstein said, the practice has patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
“As far as we know, all these patients are doing well,” she added.
What’s Goldstein’s advice to the community?
“Stay home,” she stressed. “Stay home, just stay home. Don’t visit your friends. I’ve heard about things going on in the community when it’s questionable as to if people are listening to the ‘stay home advice.’ I see it on social media, too. The intent must be to stay home, unless you have to go out to the grocery store or pharmacy or you’re an essential worker. We need you to stay home. Wash your hands. There’s so many people who have to go to work, they need to be protected. They put themselves in the line of danger. They do that, you should not.”
‘Thank you for supporting me now’
The normally bustling Empire Diner in Monroe is empty, dark and closed, except for its modified hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 9 p.m.
The diner is just one of hundreds of small businesses trying to cope and be creative with keeping some revenue coming in while being available for customers. Eateries are allowed to be open only for takeout and delivery service.
“We’re down somewhere between 80 and 90 percent (in business), really closer to 90 percent,” said owner David Wenger. “We have one cook and one person answering phones. A lot of the staff, their hours have been minimized to next to nothing. It’s more cost-effective to close, but we want to be there for our community and our staff.”
During Empire Diner’s limited hours, there’s curbside takeout only. No one is allowed inside.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure safety with our food handling and the cleanliness of the building,” said Wenger. “We haven’t had anyone come inside, other than our employees, for over two weeks. I want people to know they can rely on us to serve them safe food they can feed their families.”
Deliveries are made for a $20 minimum order.
“There’s a lot people who can’t get out and we can deliver,” Wenger said. “But, we also have the first responders, the nurses, the doctors, the police officers and the essential employees. They need a place to stop to get their lunches or pickup dinner for their families.”
Wenger said he’s grateful for the community’s support.
“I see a great response from the community,” he said. “A lot of my customers are getting takeout and delivery. That means a lot to us. But, people are scared. They’re scared of the sickness and they’re scared of the financial ramifications of what’s going on.”
The diner is offering $5 specials, Wenger said, and patrons can find them on Empire Diner’s Facebook page or website, www.monroeempirediner.com.
Wenger said his greatest wish is for everyone to stay healthy and safe. Still, he’s worried about what the future holds.
“As not only a business owner, but someone in the community, I’m afraid the footprint of small business owners is going to change dramatically in the community,” he added. “Small businesses are what sustain the community, the baseball team, the school fundraiser, the church events. You’re not just a number at my business, you’re family, whether you’re an employee or customer. The people who come in and eat at my place allow me to support the community as I do. Thank you for supporting me now.”
‘Never in a million years did I think all this would happen’
She’s just about six weeks away from graduating with a nursing degree from SUNY Orange, and if the COVID-19 outbreak reminded Cara Aubry-Shea of Monroe of anything, it’s that she’s ready to become a nurse.
This past week, Aubry-Shea and other OCC students returned to classes all online.
“I have two tests left, a quiz and a final,” she said. “I was supposed to do a preceptorship at a local hospital - three, 12-hours shifts - but that was cancelled. I do miss being at the campus a lot, that was my time to hang out with my nursing peers. We’re still helping each other with everything.”
Aubry-Shea said the college was very innovative with how it’s handling online learning.
“In place of my clinicals, we’re doing something on line called ‘i-Human,’ a very in-depth, virtual patient,” she said. “The school correlates it to what we’re learning in school. This week, we’re studying neurology. My virtual patient has Parkinson’s Disease. It’s cool to learn the technology.”
She praised her instructors for their commitment to their students.
“The whole faculty is super understanding and great,” Aubry-Shea said. “My lab teacher is a nurse practitioner who works at NYU. She and others say it’s scary out there. They’re all worried about getting COVID-19 themselves and their families getting it. They know people who have gotten it and they’ve seen people die. They’re the ICU nurses.”
For now, Aubry-Shea said the college hasn’t made a final decision two huge events: The nursing pinning ceremony and commencement.
“There’s no definitive answer,” she said. “I’m supposed to have a pinning ceremony in May. I don’t think that will happen. If not, we are going to have it maybe in August. It’s a rite of passage for us. My fellow nursing students feel the same. The pinning ceremony is a more intimate ceremony. It’s what makes us nurses.”
After graduation (ceremony or not), nurse graduates have to sit for the state board exams. The state, Aubry-Shea said, is modifying the exam but ensuring test takers the rigor is still there.
“Never in a million years did I think all this would happen,” she said. “It’s devastating for me to have this happen before I graduate because I want to help and I feel helpless.”
Aubry-Shea, whose grandmother is a nurse, aspires to be a labor and delivery nurse someday. If Orange County is looking for nursing students to volunteer in some way, she’d be among the first to help.
“It a makes me happy that I know at the end of the day, I chose the right career path,” she said. “2020 is ‘The Year of the Nurse’ and I think that’s being tested right now. Nurses are always there. Nurses are the ones people go to for almost everything.”
Nursing, Aubry-Shea acknowledged, is a true calling.
“This calling is being tested,” she said. “This (COVID-19) doesn’t make me nervous. When you go into this profession, you know you put yourself at risk for getting sick. As a nurse, you deal with this every, single day. It’s either you want to be a nurse, or you don’t. If you see this and it scares you, and if you’re not willing to be on the frontline and take that risk, then nursing is not for you.”
Her advice to others is simple: “Listen to what all the health professionals are saying and stay home. It’s not worth it to get yourself or someone you love sick.”