By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Three of the latest five cases of COVID-19 reported were Bassett Hospital employees, according to Heidi Bond, county public health director.
“We don’t know where (two) employees picked it up, but they gave it to a family member, who also works at Bassett,” she said.
The three cases are part of a five-day spike that saw an additional 18 cases throughout the county, nine at SUNY Oneonta, one at Hartwick College and seven in Milford, Otsego, Edmeston and New Lisbon.
According to hospital spokesman Karen Huxtable-Hooker, the hospital was made aware of the incident last Friday, Sept. 25.
Working with the state and county Departments of Health, testing and contact tracing, the third case was identified.
“It appears that the employees contracted COVID-19 outside of work,” Huxtable wrote in an email.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 29, 80 Bassett employees have been tested, with no additional positives outside of the reported three. In addition, Bassett has postponed some elective procedures as an added precaution while the contact tracing and follow-up testing continue.
“These latest cases of the coronavirus serve as a reminder to all of us to continue to follow the well-established precautionary measures to protect against COVID-19 and help prevent the spread of this virus,” wrote Huxtable.
The SUNY Oneonta students, who were tested off-campus, are all isolating. One student is in quarantine on campus, awaiting test results.
“We will still see cases at SUNY for the whole semester, unfortunately,” Bond said. “The nature of that age group is that they want to gather and they don’t want to social distance. It makes it difficult to stop the spread.”
However, she noted, four of the nine SUNY students had recovered, with tests reported late.
In another development, the SUNY Oneonta Control Room, a town-gown oversight group, met again Monday, Sept. 28, and focused on the campus reopening for the spring semester.
“We want to give students a voice so we can prevent what happened in the rest of the fall semester and, hopefully, when students return in the spring,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.
Colleen Brannan, SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris’ chief of staff, said she had met by Zoom with students to brainstorm how to encourage social distancing and mask-wearing among their peers.
Student Emma Sarnacki recommended the college offer more socially distanced activities on campus, such as trivia nights and lecture series.
“We’re fundamentally social creatures,” she said. “It’s going to happen one way or the other, so if it’s on campus, it can be in spaces where it’s safe.”
However, there was concern raised that students were attempting to make their own rules about gatherings, such as making friends show proof of negative tests ahead of large gatherings.
“You can be negative today but get it tomorrow,” warned Dr. Diane Georgeson, city health director. “None of the laws give you permission to not wear a mask or social distance.”
“Students are not alone in trying to figure this out,” Herzig said. “My friends are going through the same challenges too. Who is in my pod? How many people can I safely fit in my backyard? It’s challenging for all of us to figure out.”