ICU Worker Hosts Livestream Parties to Cope With COVID-19 Stress
After a hectic week of caring for COVID-19 patients in a New York City ICU, 30-year-old anesthesiologist Steven Winnett blew off steam last weekend dancing and listening to music. He even stayed up until 4:30 a.m. on Sunday — a mighty feat for anyone past their twenties, especially a man who spends his workdays surrounded by tragedy and death.
“Did you see David Guetta the other night in Miami?” he asks Rolling Stone over the phone, his voice thrumming with excitement. “It was absolutely incredible. He was on an elevated pool deck surrounded by about 1,000 balconies. He was right on the bay, so there were tons of boats docked right where he was playing, and it was just … mind-blowing.”
More than one month into government-mandated self-isolation, the newly minted New York resident didn’t attend Guetta’s sundown performance in person — nor did he leave his one-bedroom Gramercy Park apartment at all. Instead, Winnett tuned into All Day I Stream, a site he and his friends created that compiles all the musician livestreams happening on any given day — and includes a Zoom link for friends and strangers alike to virtually hang out at shows.
“Music has always been one of my outlets for stress,” Winnett says. “Not being able to attend concerts and festivals was a tough reality check, but All Day I Stream has provided plenty of music and virtual dance parties to fill that void.”
When Winnett moved to New York on March 1st, he had it all figured out. After receiving a Doctor of Nursing Practice (Anesthesiology) degree from Florida International University in December, he accepted a job as an anesthesiologist at a New York hospital that would leave his nights and weekends free for his favorite pastime: seeing live music. In fact, Winnett says, he only really spends his money on food and seeing concerts, having attended festivals all over the world from Coachella to EDC Europe.
An optimistic believer in the power of “the universe,” Winnett found himself drawn to New York — despite hailing from the sunnier climes of Miami. “The last moment of affirmation — when I walked across the stage at my graduation — there were probably 30 songs that were playing,” he says. “When I walked across the stage, the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song, ‘Empire State of Mind,’ was playing. I was like, ‘Yep, all the signs are there.’”
Still, Winnett’s first day on the job was March 2nd — just five days before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. On March 16th, Cuomo commenced closing down bars, restaurants, and other nonessential services (a.k.a. everything that makes NYC NYC), and Winnett got word that his planned job was on hold and he would instead head to the ICU to help out with COVID-19 patients in dire straits.
“It’s a completely different beast when you work nights because your body is constantly fighting off fatigue,” he says. “You’re mentally drained, plus you’re mentally fatigued. Seeing these patients … it’s not the ideal sight, so I was really struggling with the stress of work plus the stress of quarantine. So, there’s not really an escape.”
As Winnett says, the work has been hard, testing his usually sunny disposition. He’s cried on the way to work; his voice shakes as he tells Rolling Stone that he’s not even sure what his new co-workers look like because everyone is always covered in protective gear from head to toe.
“I’m only seeing the sickest of the sick with COVID-19 because I’m in ICU,” he says. “I’m only seeing the fully sedated [people] on breathing tubes, fully reliant on medical devices to keep them alive. … I’ve worked in the ICU before. I’ve seen tons of people die. I’ve seen very, very sad things. I’ve seen very, very sad stories. But I’ve never seen a full ICU where almost every patient is the same exact story: COVID-incubated, sedated, not doing well — low probability for a good outcome.”
The combination of working long, odd hours and being quarantined alone in a new city sent Winnett’s spirits plummeting. “I’m a pretty positive person, and this was the first time in my life I really saw myself slipping into this negative mental space and being uncertain [and] anxious about stuff,” he says. Eager to bolster his spirits, Winnett’s friends created a video of encouragement (as seen below) and invited him to “attend” the now-endless selection of concerts cropping up online. The live-music industry has all but shut down in the wake of COVID-19, with festivals, tours, and concerts being canceled through the summer and beyond. To fill that gap, many musicians have started hosting fests and concerts online.
At the behest of his brother, Winnett initially checked out San Diego DJ Mikey Lion on April 3rd and found the experience of taking in live music in his own apartment strangely uplifting. “Everyone was [full of] just such good vibes,” he says. “It was just great music; it was great to see my friends. It was great to see people I never have ever met before, never seen before, having the best time in their living room, their bedroom. And it was like a reality check. I’m not alone, I’m not the only one home in quarantine — everyone is — but we’re making the best of it right now.”
Soon, Winnett and his friends had a comprehensive Excel sheet of upcoming concerts and livestreams in hand, which they passed along to other friends and acquaintances. As more people joined, Winnett and his friends came up with All Day I Stream, a digital evolution of the spreadsheet. Winnett purchased the URL and teamed up with his friends to create a site where music fans could pick and choose which shows to watch — and link up with friends via Zoom during concerts.
Miami civil-geotechnical engineer Melissa De La Rosa, 30, manages and updates streams on the website and maintains the company’s social media pages. Fort Lauderdale investment banker Ryan Hunter, 31, heads up the business, strategy, and legal discussions, while San Francisco software engineer Bill Prin, 33, handles the code for the site. All Day I Stream officially launched April 17th, and on Saturday night, Winnett says, he was partying with more than 100 people as DJ Mikey Lion spun.
“I was really struggling with the stress of work plus the stress of quarantine. So, there’s not really an escape.”
“I think the ultimate goal is to always provide the best music livestreams, every day of the week, all in one place, on our website,” Hunter says. Prin agrees: “I’d love to keep building a product that caters specifically to the music-livestream audience, especially in ways that more actively engage the viewers of the stream.”
“Steven is one of the most genuine and driven individuals I have ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with,” De La Rosa tells Rolling Stone. “Not to mention, he has a gift when it comes to keeping us all focused and in check, especially since we all have full-time jobs.”
Winnett says it can get crazy on All Day I Stream, with viewers dancing in little to no clothing and generally performing for fellow attendees. One of his favorite partygoers is Galeote, a chiseled man who once danced for six hours straight on Zoom. “There are characters,” he says. “I don’t know how to describe it. There are full-blown characters, unique characters that added to the experience.”
And those people serve as some solace as Winnett dons his N95 mask each day (he has his own PPE), commuting to the hospital to start on another long day of ventilators and suffering. His hospital plays Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” every time a patient is discharged, something he’s not privy to hearing in the ICU. Still, he’s hoping to hang a bell in his work area so he and his fellow health care professionals can celebrate every time a patient leaves. In the meantime, he logs into All Day I Stream whenever he can for his own personal celebration.
“The ultimate goal is to stream 24/7,” he says. “It’s going to be hard during the weekdays. And I think that we’re realizing concerts and live music, while the economy might open back up, might be one of the things that we have to wait and see when that gets back to normal.”