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President Trump said 'don't be afraid' of COVID. What does a survivor think about that advice?

Ted O'Brien Photo: News10NBC. Ted O'Brien

Berkeley Brean
Updated: October 06, 2020 06:15 PM
Created: October 06, 2020 06:01 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)  When the president left the hospital Monday he told Americans "don't be afraid" of COVID-19. News10NBC took that advice to infectious disease doctors and a COVID-19 survivor. 

Six months ago, former state senator Ted O'Brien was in a coma and his survival was in doubt. But he lived to tell about it and offer us insight into the president's advice. 

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Brean: "When you heard the president say "do not be afraid" what did you think?"

O'Brien: "Well I thought it was dismissive of literally the 210,000 people that have died and so many more than were in my position where I was hospitalized for 68 days."

Brean: "He told Americans do not be afraid. What is your advice?"

Dr. Emil Lesho, Infectious Disease, Epidemiology, Rochester Regional Health: "Be afraid."

Doctor Emil Lesho is an infectious disease doctor at Rochester Regional Health. 

Brean: "Are you currently treating people at the hospital right now who are infected with COVID?"

Dr. Lesho: "Yes."

Brean: "So that's still happening in the hospital right now."

Dr. Lesho: "It is. There are still people, new diagnosis. We just made a diagnosis of a new patient today."

The Monroe County Health Department says 29 COVID-19 patients in the Rochester Finger Lakes Region are in the hospital as of Tuesday. Six are in intensive care. 

The county says 5,237 people have survived COVID. 300 have died from it. 

Dr. Lesho says they're learning how to treat it. They don't use the same drugs they did six months ago. 

Brean: "Since the treatment now is different than it was six months ago are you more likely to get better now than you were six months ago?"

Dr. Lesho: "It's possible. It's still too early to tell."

The family of William Saturno, a COVID-19 victim

Brean: "How did (the president's advice) strike you and what did you think? 

Ann Marie Booth, father died from COVID-19: "I agree with the fact that we shouldn't be afraid of it. because there are so many other things out there that for years we've had to deal with."

Ann Marie Booth lost her father, William Saturno, on May 11. He was a Korean War vet and cancer survivor. He died in his nursing home.

Booth: "But as far as taking it seriously? I still think it's a very serious thing. It's not something that is going to go away anytime soon."

Dr. Paritosh Prasad, URMC Director of the Highly Infectious Disease Unit: "Fear is not an optimal response to any challenge."

Dr. Paritosh Prasad runs the infectious disease unit at Strong Hospital.

Dr. Prasad: "But I think the message that I as a health care provider and most health care provider want to communicate is that this is a virus, this is an infection that demands respect."

Let's look at how the disease has changed in our area. 

These are the numbers for the first three and a half months of the crisis.

  • 250 deaths. 
  • 3,248 confirmed cases.
  • On June 15, 136 people were in the hospital. 

In the second three and a half months:

  • 50 deaths. 
  • 2,580 confirmed cases. 
  • On Tuesday, Oct. 6, 29 people were in the hospital.

Brean: "If someone is infected with COVID-19 right now are they better off than someone who was infected six months ago?"

Dr. Prasad: "That's a very fair question... providers here in Rochester and across the country, this was a new disease for all of us. So certainly our ability to provide care, the development of treatments that seem to have benefits against the virus we have a better tool kit than we had at the beginning."


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