Movie theaters closed, restaurants closed, bars closed, even schools closed. But liquor stores remained open. They were deemed "essential" during the epidemic

And alcohol use has climbed.

Nielsen market research shows that total alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants have risen 24% during the pandemic, and mental health experts fear people are turning to alcohol to combat the stress of dealing with COVID-19. Our alcohol culture has followed us online, and quarantine cocktail parties have become a thing.

But an estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

If you do choose to drink, do so in moderation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol use as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. However, the guidelines do not recommend that people start drinking for any reason, and women who are or may be pregnant should not drink.

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We suggest replacing that martini with some other type of stress relief. Physical activity, such as walking the dog, ice skating or snowshoeing ticks two boxes on the "preventable death" list. Thumbs down to too much alcohol.

A boon to business

Collider, a pro-business non-profit that nurtures Rochester entrepreneurs, recently developed a series of programs titled Basics of Entrepreneurship: From Idea to Customer.

The once-a-week class is just the latest in a growing library of programs offered by the small business incubator.

Budding businesses can find podcasts of interviews with entrepreneurs, one-on-one guidance through its Ecosystem Navigators program and co-working space, among other resources. Thumbs up to Collider's commitment to local businesses

Parking ramp woes

Among the new Rochester City Council's first items of business was to approve the search for a contractor to address an estimated $100,000 in repairs at the city's newest parking ramp on the northwest corner of First Street Southeast and First Avenue

The $100,000 repair project will fix waterproofing issues and other concerns at the ramp, which opened in 2019. But the expense will not address plans to build eight floors of housing atop the $31.4 million structure. The city spent an extra $512,000 to ensure the ramp could support the added floors, but it was later determined that added work would be necessary to make the housing floors possible.

The city's attorneys are working on litigation to determine who should be financially responsible for the repairs, but the litigation could take years. Thumbs down on the problem project