Two people who are experiencing COVID-19 in uniquely pressing ways. Luis Pinzon, a pediatric emergency physician in a Florida hospital and Darryl Nau, a New Yorker who hasn’t left is apartment in 50 days...

Yesterday we posted an interview with Alexis Desolneux, a rider from France who was stricken with COVID-19 and battled it for two weeks. Alexis’ recount of his bout with the disease is a real eye-opener and it’s awesome knowing that he has since recovered and he’s even been riding again, as well. Today we continue our COVID-19 insight with two people who are experiencing this pandemic in uniquely pressing ways. Luis Pinzon, a pediatric emergency physician in a Florida hospital and Darryl Nau, a New Yorker who hasn’t left is apartment in 50 days because he’s living in the epicenter of the pandemic in the USA.

Luis Pinzon — Tampa, Florida

Luis is a lifelong BMX rider who works as a pediatric emergency room physician in a hospital. Fortunately, he hasn’t had any interaction with COVID-19 patients and his facility hasn’t been inundated with people stricken with the disease. However, the views and opinions of someone who could potentially be on the frontlines of this disease at any moment is a real eye-opener.  

Luis, home turf toothopick.

Where are you currently? And in general, outside of the work place, how crazy is the situation with COVID-19 where you are—are the streets totally empty, full quarantine, etc?
I am currently in Tampa, Florida. The situation here is constantly changing as it is in most cities. All bars, restaurants, skateparks, state parks and beaches are currently closed. There was a county wide curfew here for about 72 hours, but that was not well received and has since been discontinued. Our city is now advocating for “Safer at Home” which encourages everyone to stay at home or in their neighborhood. Certain parts of our city certainly feel empty, but the more popular walking, running, and biking paths have been consistently congested. I have been seeing more people out than usual on my road bike routes. It looks like a holiday everyday in those places and the sunny weather doesn’t help. So much so that there are often police officers stationed at the more congested spots and the city has fenced off the pull-up bars and other outdoor exercise equipment because people were using them in groups despite all the social distancing recommendations.  

You work in a hospital, right? Would you please describe what it is that you do…
I am a Pediatric Emergency Physician. My role involves seeing patients for emergent situations from the minute they are born until they turn 20 years old. As an Emergency Physician, I see a little bit of everything. I treat everything from respiratory infections and asthma to trauma and fractures. I’ve even had some patients from the local skateparks and BMX tracks—which is always a rewarding experience.

Have you had much contact with COVID patients?
Since this disease has been affecting adults much more than the pediatric population, I actually have not had contact with any “confirmed” COVID-19 patients. In addition, our city has not been hit nearly as hard as some other cities. Partners in my group have seen COVID-19 patients and that proximity is scary. When this all started, we had a very hard time getting testing approved for patients we felt were at risk. Originally, the Department of Health’s guidelines for testing patients was, in my opinion, too stringent. Initially we were unable to obtain testing without DOH’s approval even if our clinical suspicion was high. That situation has thankfully improved and now we have in-house testing in our hospital. Since young healthy people can often have mild or no symptoms, they can theoretically spread it to healthcare workers and they can subsequently bring the disease home. Contrary to the information we were given when this virus first presented, there are younger individuals who are getting very sick and dying. This is definitely, not “just like the flu” as some people are saying.

Overall, what’s the caseload been like where you are?
The overall volume of patients we have been seeing in our Emergency Department is down approximately 65% across both the pediatric and adult side. The rest of the country is seeing a similar trend as well. Only the very sick or possible COVID-19 patients are coming to the hospital. Everyone is too scared to come to the hospital and see us. It is a scary concept when you think that there may be patients experiencing heart attack symptoms, but they are too concerned about possible COVID-19 exposure to seek care. The hospitals in cities that are not overrun with COVID-19 patients are actually way below their typical census.

Florida is home to a large population of retirees, with the elderly at greater risk, what are you seeing?
My partners on the adult side are seeing a much higher number of COVID positive patients and some of them have been very sick. I don’t see any elderly patients as part of my practice. As I mentioned earlier though, this disease is also causing severe illness in young adults as well. One of our adult partners had a very sick patient in his late 20s.

What are your thoughts on how overwhelmed the hospitals are in New York?
My heart goes out to all the healthcare workers in New York. The amount of death that they have had to deal with is not something that most of us have been trained to deal with. In the US, we are used to having an abundance of resources, but we all saw how quickly those resources were pushed to the breaking point in places like NY and New Orleans. The lack of PPE for the healthcare workers added an additional stress to their situations. One of the big arguments for social distancing and staying at home is to slow the spread enough so that these hospitals can acquire the ventilators, PPE, and other equipment needed to successfully treat these patients. When everyone gets sick at the same time, this stresses the healthcare system resulting in delays which can lead to bad outcomes.

Being a doctor who works in the ER, I’m assuming you need to be even more vigilant as far as avoiding getting sick. What types of precautions do you need to take and how is that affecting your day to day life?
Luckily, one of my neighbors provided me with a box of N95 masks because by the time it became clear this virus was coming to the US, supplies were low everywhere. I have been extremely careful and I have been using an N95 for almost every patient encounter. Even if I’m taking care of a patient who lacks any obvious COVID-19 symptoms, I wear the N95. At this point, the virus is throughout the community and pediatric patients may have minimal or no symptoms, but they can still transmit the infection to me (I am 39 now) and I could subsequently pass it on to my wife or other patients.
As far as my daily life, I have been taking the social distancing recommendations pretty seriously. I would feel terrible if I picked up the virus at work and transmitted it to one of my friends and either they or their family members became ill. The loneliness hit me pretty hard the second week, but I’m getting used to it and most everyone is making sacrifices of some sort. Since my potential for being exposed and subsequently transmitting the virus is higher than most of my friends, I feel it is my responsibility to be as careful as I can. When I get home from work, I strip down to my boxers in the garage. My scrubs go immediately into the washer. I use disinfectant wipes on my shoes and lunchbox before coming into the house. 
When this all started, I was overwhelmed with anxiety over my job more-so than any other time in my career. I signed up for this job and worked hard to get it; being exposed to diseases is part of my job. While the fear of getting sick was present, that was not my primary concern. I was more worried about bringing the virus home and passing it on to my wife or one of my parents. I am glad that level of anxiety has lessened. All I can do is try to practice medicine the safest way I know how and take the precautions that will hopefully keep me and my family healthy.

On the BMX side of things, sorry to hear that you recently injured your knee. You have to wait now to take care of it, right?
At the end of February I was warming up on my new ramp and was wearing year old shoes and riding plastic pedals way past due for replacement. I slipped a pedal and tore my ACL, medial meniscus, lateral meniscus, and fractured the trabecular portion of my tibia. At this time, all elective surgeries are on hold. As “essential” as this surgery feels to me, there are more pressing matters in our country today. I know, right? Even elective surgeries require ventilators and these need to be available in the event of a COVID-19 surge in our community. My hope is once they are sure the ventilators will not be needed for COVID-19 patients then they will allow non-emergent surgeries again and I can get these mods and get back out on the ramp.

With all of the parks shut down, you lucked out with the timing of your new ramp. Despite the knee, have you been getting in any sessions?
Unfortunately, I tore my ACL right when things started to get serious in Florida. So I’ve been trapped at home staring at the ramp I dreamed about building for the last five years. I definitely moped around for a week or two after the injury, but I’ve been using the ramp as motivation for my surgery pre-habilitation program. I am so happy with how this ramp turned out and had about a month of enjoyment before my knee injury. I cannot wait to get back on it. I think I am about a month away from feeling good enough to start pumping around on the ramp again.
A few of the local homies have come by for a “socially distant” session on the ramp. I love that the ramp is still getting used because I poured a lot of money and energy into making that dream happen. I can’t tell you how many hours went into the planning and permitting process to get it done. I wanted to get the ramp plan and final construction approved by the city because I knew I was building something big and I didn’t want any current or future neighbors to be able to complain. Thankfully, all my neighbors have proven to be awesome. It took a lot of time and meetings with the city, engineer, and builder so I’m happy that local skaters and bikers are getting to enjoy it while I heal.

Opinions vary on whether or not people should be riding at all right now—and especially pros posting new riding content—as opposed to setting a good example to stay safe at home. As an ER doctor who also rides BMX, what are your thouhts?
I think it’s perfectly fine to go out and ride especially if its a solo session or if it’s with a close contact or roommate. I have been road biking almost everyday myself. If you take precautions and practice social distancing, I think it is fine, even healthy, to get some fresh air and ride. I can’t help but cringe a little when I see an Instagram story and there is a crew of ten dudes sessioning one spot or park. After riding hard and sweating that crew is going to go their separate ways and interact with their families or other close contacts and so on. A young athletic BMX rider could very well be asymptomatic and spread it to someone who could get very sick. The doctor side of me can’t ignore that. But as a BMX rider, I understand that there is no substitute for riding. While riding is fine, congregating in groups can lead to quickening the spread.
So to sum up. Go ahead and ride. In my opinion, ride solo or with your closest contacts. Try to use best hygiene practices and not high-five the squad after you’ve battled a trick for an hour. The whole country is making sacrifices in their own way so modifying your riding routine should not be that big of a deal.
As far as new content from pros, I really have been enjoying seeing some of the “throwback” footage that has been circulating as a result of people not being able to go out and film as much. I think there are some ways pros can still get clips and set a good example. It just takes a little more creativity and maybe even a tripod. Those clips of Walsh roasting his driveway come to mind. I may be responsible for half the view count. 

Has the virus had any serious effects on you personally/monetarily…or your family members?
I wouldn’t say any “serious” effects at this point but I did recently get diagnosed with “missing the homies.” I will say that until this started, I had never previously been scared to go to work and do my job. Even working in Africa or when I was at the county hospital in East LA, going to work never made me anxious. Luckily, those emotions have passed. Monetarily, my income is being affected much like the rest of the country. At this point, we just are not having many patients come through our doors. My income is largely dependent on there being patients for me to care for.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for anyone who is going stir crazy?
Just jumping on my bike and pedaling around by myself has helped me. I know some cities have some pretty strict “stay at home” orders though so that may not be an option for everyone. When I can’t ride, even just doing some basic exercises helps me clear my mind. I have minimal equipment at my house (a couple of dumbbells and a kettlebell) and I can easily get busy for an hour or so in the garage. That hour really helps me mentally. Maybe post some throwback clips or make a throwback edit for the gram. There’s also free video games for the phone, ps4, and xbox that can also help pass the time.

What do you think about the influx of people/brands using social media to help promote a positive mindset and encourage fun and unique ideas to stay busy while remaining socially distant?
I think it’s awesome! People are getting creative and because its social media you still get to interact with your friends and the riding community.

What, if any, lasting effects do you think COVID-19 will have on society (or BMX) once this dark time passes?
I think we all will have a new appreciation for just being able to ride with our friends again once things stabilize. The thought of sitting on the deck with some of my riding buddies seems so foreign at the moment. That carefree vibe of riding with my friends seems so long ago. BMX as a whole will get through this. People will be more stoked than ever to pedal once things reopen. 

Darryl Nau — Brooklyn, New York

Nowhere in the US had been hit harder by COVID-19 than New York City. Darryl Nau describes what it’s like living in the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the US while going on nearly 50 days quarantined in his apartment.

Darryl with a sun drenched double set jump during brighter times. Photo: c

You’re currently in the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. Can you describe what it’s like to be in New York at the moment?
New York City is very surreal right now, it feels like we are stuck in a twilight zone episode. One moment when you’re inside it can feel like a regular day, but then I talk with my sister who is a nurse or with friends that are sick or you the hear constant ambulance sirens or helicopters outside the window and it can get really heavy.
I’m in Brooklyn and people are very anxious. They are concerned not only about the virus, but a lot of people are under financial strain, as well. To live here and pay rent is a challenge for a lot of people, let alone owning a business. So to be out of work and have all of this uncertainty week after week can add a tremendous amount of stress.
For the most part, though, New Yorkers are really stepping up and doing their part by social distancing and staying inside. It can be a lot more challenging to do that here than in other parts of the country where you have more space, can go into a yard, for a drive or even a bike ride. There are some areas, mainly parks, where people are congregating, but for the most part the city is a ghost town.
I’m really proud and thankful for all of the essential workers that are keeping the city running from the doctors, janitors, clerical, MTA, delivery riders, supermarket workers, sanitation, FDNY, NYPD, EMT etc.

How many days have you been in quarantine? Does anything get you outside? And if so, what’s like out there?
Today (April 25th 2020) I’m on 48 days quarantine without leaving the apartment. It’s strange and feels bad to be inside and not on the streets helping more people, but at this current time they say the best thing you can do is to stay inside and make sure that you don’t get sick. I do my part and I’m fortunate enough to not have an essential job and have that choice. In comparison to someone who has to work in the hospitals or a social service job, it’s the smallest sacrifice that I can make. Thankfully, I have a little courtyard where I can go and get some sunshine on the face when the sun is out. That has been really helpful, but unfortunately, it’s been non-stop rain here for the last month and can really play on your mood. I’m doing my best to stay focused, really take care of myself in mind and body. I am very grateful to have food, water, heat and electricity.

When was the last time you rode your bike?
It’s been too long…Way too long. I don’t even want to think about it. I was able to go the trails and put some digging time in the first days of March and that was one of the last times that I left the house.
I was a little bit early on the self-imposed quarantine because of Kane from China. He called me when I was announcing Simple Session and warned us of a possible spread during that event. I flew back to the USA with fellow rider and Our BMX filmer, Andrew Knight (@ElevatedPerspective) and we were concerned about the virus on the plane ride. That was the end of January, start of February so it was heavy on my radar. My friend Hannah in Italy warned me that sadly New York City is just a few weeks behind them so it gave me an idea of what was to come and time to prepare.
It took a lot of energy warning friends and family how serious this was and some people looked at me like I was Sara Conner in Terminator warning them judgement day was coming or I was some end of the world conspiracist. At the time, the president was still calling this a “democratic hoax”. I didn’t have a magic ball to predict the future, all you had to do was look at the numbers and you could witness this really bad car crash in slow motion happening and our government not taking action.
I was supposed to fly to Tokyo at the end of March to announce FISE and the Olympic Test events, but I knew there was no way those events are going to happen and instead jumped into action trying to get as many supplies as I thought possible in case of worst case scenario (18 to 24 months) before anyone was at the stores.
So I set up a basic gym at home and ordered a lot of the foods that I eat. I didn’t panic buy or hoard, but I normally eat a lot of the same healthy foods and buy in bulk so I just re-upped. I also talked to friends who were sick with the virus and learned what supplies would be helpful in case of emergency and got them. I also want to say thank you to Oceanna at Garden of Life for rushing a package out to me so that I have proper supplements and nutrition during this time. I’m blessed to have them as a sponsor.

Opinions vary on whether or not people should be riding at all right now—and especially pros posting new riding content. Obviously, the situation is more sever where you are, but what’s your opinion overall?
I always encourage people to be students and not followers. Even take what I’m saying and come to your own conclusions. That said, I’m not staying in the house because the government told me to. Just like I’m not riding my bike because “you’re not supposed to.” It’s my choice because this is a very serious illness that we don’t know a lot about right now.
In the coming weeks we will know more and I can adjust my actions accordingly. Maybe the mortality rate will be way less than we thought because more people have been exposed with minimal symptoms. Hopefully we will know about duration of immunity or if you’re even immune with antibodies at all. We will hopefully have a few more medical treatments and also know why there is a wild swing in people’s symptoms to it. At that time, I might even decide to get infected by it so I can resume a “normal life”, but for right now for me the potential risks vs rewards—for me—is not worth it. I would act differently if I were in a different part of the county, but I’m currently in the most dangerous hot spot in the world. There is a potential risk walking through my apartment building to take out the trash or go to the mailbox—so I act accordingly. Even if you’re skeptical of this and think it’s “fake news” or an “over hyped flu” we’ll know more in a few more weeks, my suggestion would be just to hang out for a bit until we know more data and then you’ll be able to make a better decision for you.
In terms of riding, another factor that you also want to weigh is potentially getting hurt and having to go to the hospital. I know you can get hurt walking down the stairs, but for me right now I just really want to limit any potential risks that would put me in the ER for possible exposure and also add to the strain of the hospitals that are already pushed to their breaking point in New York. So as of today, I choose not to ride.
I’ve been focusing a lot on keeping a schedule. I fill it up with big things, little things, work outs, stretching, reading, learning, cooking healthy meals, taking online classes to get more personal training and nutrition certifications and teaching zoom group physical fitness classes. I make sure to work out two times a day, once with weights and the other training Krav Maga and martial arts.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for anyone who is going stir crazy?
Yes, make a schedule and stick to it. It takes a lot of discipline, but if you ever wanted to be your own boss or entrepreneur well now is your chance to really work on a skill you are going to have to develop. I make a schedule six days a week and fill it up. Starting at 5 am and going until 10pm. If it’s hard be happy you have that to focus on and remember that the struggle is the teacher. If you look at this as a time where you can learn and grow as opposed to being “stuck somewhere” you will be able to make the most of the time. With the internet you have endless access to books, classes, lectures and skills to learn. Set goals and work to achieve them. Try to limit TV and news time. Be kind to yourself. If you get overwhelmed take a moment and talk nice to yourself. Think of little things that you’re doing good, like that you brushed your teeth, made your bed, drank water, are being nice to family etc. Take timeouts if need be. If you’re cooped up with other people be aware of their needs. Maybe have a “time out word” where you both can say it, be understanding of each other and have some compassion. Every time you have idle time try to do something nice for people, even if it’s sending them a complimentary message. Make a game out of it.

What, if any, lasting effects do you think COVID-19 will have on society (or BMX) once this dark time passes?
I hope that we as a society might be able to “reimagine” a new way of doing things and actually make a lot of the changes about pollution, traffic, energy, health and government policy that politicians have talked about my entire lifetime, but have never made any real progress on.
This might show the World on other issues if we keep putting off making the changes and if we wait for our environmental consequences to make us change rather than us be proactive the results might be a lot worse than this pandemic.

How many stay at home challenges have you participated in? And do you have a favorite?
I teach work out classes and guided stretching through zoom. If you’re interested in challenging yourself on the daily you can hit up my Instagram for info or shoot me a DM to join @darrylnau.
I just finished running 50 consecutive miles in NYC (YouTube edit out next week) and was training for my biggest physical challenge yet in September, but I had to put that on hold because I don’t want to do anything that will strain my immune system. Not to mention this will most likely still be going on. So I’m going to start to do some personal challenges in the house.
On Monday I will be climbing the stairs the equivalent to the amount that are in the Empire State building—if you feel like following along you can on my IG @darrylnau.

What do you think about the influx of people/brands using social media to help promote a positive mindset and encourage fun and unique ideas to stay busy while remaining socially distant?
I always think positivity is a good thing, especially at a time like this. But it does seem a little strange when it’s manufactured to sell a product. There is a funny video going around online that is edited using a lot of commercials from major companies together showing that they are all identical fluff pieces, but just with the logo changed out at the end.

Has the virus had any serious effects on you personally/monetarily…or your family members?
My job has been put on an indefinite hold as I’m assuming that all of the BMX events and contests that I announce will be cancelled for the year and possibly next—including working with the Olympics. I had to cancel personal training sessions with clients because gyms have been closed. And all of the events, art shows and parties that we were producing are on an indefinite hold.
More seriously, my sister is a nurse at one of the busier COVID hospitals in Long Island so it is very stressful. I am very proud of and her commitment to this, but it’s not just long hours that are very stressful, but she also has to quarantine herself from her family for a long unknown duration of time.

Do you know anyone that’s gotten sick?
Yes, unfortunately I know over a dozen people that have gotten sick. One close friend who is 35, healthy, works out, no prior health conditions, non-smoker got sick at the start of this. In the middle of the night with no warning she woke up to feel like she was drowning and going to die. She tested positive at the hospital, but they were full and they sent her home armed with an inhaler and said if she’s going to die to call 911.Thankfully she made it through the worst sickness of her life, but it’s been over 40 days since her initial infection and still has trouble breathing, fever and symptoms. I have some of other friends who were really the sickest they ever have been for about two weeks and thankfully feel better now. They are still very concerned because still don’t know if this virus will have lasting effects in people or even if they have immunity.

Any closing words?
Much love to everyone around the world who is going through challenges—if it’s from COVID directly or indirectly from financial hardships or feeling lonely not being able to be around family and friends. In terms of the virus, I highly recommend you doing your own research and always come to your own conclusion of what works best for you. Some great resources are Johns Hopkins, Bill Gates Foundation and Survivor Corps FB group.
I look at this as we are all climbing a very tall, scary and unknown ladder. The goal in our day to day is to not look down because it can be paralyzing. Just keep moving one limb in front of the other and keep climbing. The truth of the matter is that most of us will survive from this disease and you want to think about who you will be when this is over and how you handled yourself. I’m cheering you on to be brave, to check in with your friends and family and if you need someone to talk to you can always reach to me, even if we never met before.

Click here to read about Alexis Desolneux’s experience having COVID-19.

4 thoughts on “COVID-19 From ER To Epicenter With Luis Pinzon & Darryl Nau

  1. You’re interviewing a pediatric nurse who hasn’t come into contact with the virus and a normal person quarantining for insight on the virus? This is about as informative as asking a 2 year old about global economic policy. Real “in depth” shit here. Also, grammar check exists. Figure it out.

    1. You mean a pediatric emergency room physician, not a nurse. And we interviewed them specifically because they’re BMX riders in said situations. And we were sharing their perspectives with fellow BMX riders. Sorry to hear we didn’t meet your definition of what in depth is. Bummer that some grammar mistakes slipped by, our copy editor was having a bad day.

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