Out of My Shell

Column by Dr. Richard Sternberg

Out of My Shell

Last week, I took a major step for myself and poked my head out of my shell. I decided that the situation with COVID is really not going to get much better. It is going to be endemic like the flu or the common cold and we’re going to have to deal with it. It’s time to get life back to as normal as possible.

I decided to take a trip to New York City, specifically Manhattan. There were several things that I wanted to do, and I haven’t been able to do for over two years. My personal schedule gave me a small window of opportunity to make the trip. I was also interested to see the response in the city to the continued presence of COVID and increase in lab-positive cases.

I went to a museum and I went to a Broadway show off Times Square. I also had a report from a friend of the crowd reaction at New York Rangers hockey game.

One day I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically to see a special event, a major retrospective of the works of Winslow Homer. By the way, if you have any interest in American art, you must get down to see this exhibit. It is worth the trip. These major retrospectives of Homer occur only approximately once every 25 years. This one is every bit as spectacular as the last one was in the mid-90s.

When I arrived at the museum, the lines to get in snaked for blocks both in front of the main entrance and the side entrance. It was probably an hour or more wait at both. Additionally, there were thousands of schoolchildren milling about in front of the museum with their teachers trying to organize them to bring them inside.

Inside, mask wearing was mandatory, and if one attempted to go without it they were gently reminded by a guard. Pretty much everyone was properly masked. Vaccination was recommended but not mandated. Social distancing was recommended. Coat check was closed. I felt perfectly comfortable and relatively safe given these restrictions. Spent about four hours touring the exhibit before I left. I felt safe even with about 15,000 people in the building.

On a different day, I took in a Broadway musical. I parked my car at a garage and walked three blocks to the theater. The streets were packed but the majority of individuals were wearing their masks properly. This despite the fact that masks are not required outdoors. When I got to the theater, I had to show proof of vaccination and that I was wearing my mass properly. There was an announcement in the theater about 15 minutes before curtain, and again immediately before curtain an usher came out and made it very clear that if the actors saw somebody unmasked they would actually stop and insist that they either mask-up or leave. This threat seemed to be enough.

Everybody enjoyed the show. The mask was no big deal.

Finally, at the hockey game probably less than ten percent of the fans were masked. Typical raucous behavior, and of course a fight broke out.

I am now comfortable with the requirements of the first two situations listed above. I am vaccinated and boosted. I don’t enjoy wearing a mask but I’ll do it even if it’s a nonmandatory recommendation.

I think that is all a small price to pay for getting things pretty close to normal.

I needed to get a COVID test for another purpose when I came home. It was negative.

Dr. Richard Sternberg,
retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective during the COVID-19 threat. Also a village trustee, he lives in Cooperstown.


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