STERNBERG: Social Distancing Works – Do It!

LIFE IN TIME OF COVID-19

Social Distancing

Works – Do It!

By RICHARD STERNBERG • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

One and one-half weeks ago Otsego County, as part of the Mohawk Valley Region, was allowed to begin reopening following almost two months of lockdown to try and prevent the spread and decrease the incidence of COVID-19.

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

Reopening is something desired by pretty much everyone. As long as all reasonable measures would be taken to prevent further spread and it is reasonable, if not necessary, to start to remove restrictions and allow the economy to reopen.

One would think that the majority of people would be overjoyed
to have increased freedom, the ability to either go back to work or extend their working hours, and to come out and move towards getting normal life back.

It seems I am mistaken.

I try to walk half to one mile a day as part of my rehabilitation exercises. I chose to do this on Main Street in Cooperstown from Chestnut to River Streets. This area is relatively flat and has the benefit of having things to look at and the occasional bench to sit on.

The first few days that we were reopened, I found pretty much everybody either wore a mask or had one around their neck which they could then put over their nose and mouth when they came near somebody else.

It seems that each subsequent day fewer and fewer people even have masks with them and what’s worse fewer people fail to separate themselves as they pass others on the street.

On Memorial Day I was out and about. There were many more people on Main Street than there were a week ago. A majority were not wearing masks.

Twice I came across people walking their dogs who neither had masks nor gave way when they came near me. Additionally, I saw multiple people running both on the sidewalks and around the village and, while I agree that they frequently did not come into contact with other people, they occasionally did so. None of them even had masks around their necks.

I see businesses having difficulty enforcing distancing rules. I saw three gatherings of at least 20 people, none of whom were wearing masks and many in close proximity. Additionally, they were playing games and sports such as football and Frisbee.

If we don’t keep the numbers down and they start going up again not only will we not be allowed to advance reopening but we could have to go back to lockdown. Why people who most want to see us come out and return to normal are behaving badly is really beyond me.

I know that Americans like to say that nobody will tell them what to do. This is so obviously inconsistent with our normal daily lives, why is the simple action of social distancing and wearing a mask so important to violate rules and recommendations?

Multiple studies have shown that social distancing works. Wearing a mask is a part of that when one can’t be at least 6 feet apart. It’s clear that the governor telling people to do so seems in many cases to have a counterproductive effect.

Does it make a person feel good to stand up to the government? Is this worth the risk of spreading the disease to one’s loved ones? Of being disrespectful of others? Of leading to new restrictions?

In order to continue advancing to normal activity we must keep the number of new cases and deaths down. Social distancing works. Is that inconvenience too large a price to pay to avoid unnecessary deaths and worse restrictions?


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