News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.



MORGAN: Our Vast, Throwaway Nation


Our Vast,

Throwaway Nation

By TOM MORGAN • Special to

Many visiting Europeans are stunned by the huge number of derelict and otherwise empty buildings we have. They ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Most of our cities show signs of manufacturing blight. Especially northern and rust-belt cities. In this state, a city does not qualify as a city unless it can show several shuttered factories, an empty mall, vacant storefronts, office buildings half-empty.

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

Maybe an armory. Many of our small towns suffer the same blight with old school buildings and industrial caracasses. Upstaters have grown up with the sight of them. To them they are as much a part of the landscape as maple trees.

European visitors are shocked by the same sight. This is because Europeans do not have enough spare space to allow this. They cannot afford it. So they knock down or reuse old buildings.

We, on the other hand, are rich enough to leave the bodies where they collapsed. Gilbertsville, where I graduated high school, is still home to the remains of a factory that failed in the 1930s.

We are in the midst of adding to the body count of unused buildings. Before the virus struck we were losing shopping malls. One big bank predicted we will lose 25 percent of our malls by 2022. About 9,000 stores closed last year. Many were in malls.

The Wuhan Virus will surely steepen the decline. Victoria’s Secret announced this week it will close 250 stores. Already shaky Macy’s reports sales are down 45 percent. Bell-ringers are warming up the muffled bells. JC Penney and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor is looking at liquidation. Neiman Marcus is bankrupt. Nordstrom is closing 15 stores. Etc, bloody etc.

Meanwhile, small businesses are vacating downtown and mini-malls. Many colleges and universities are shrinking because the pool of available students has shrunk.

Some may go under.

Office buildings in cities are somewhat empty. Because so many office workers are lately home workers. Facebook, Google and Microsoft say most of their workers will work from home until 2021. I have to believe many companies will simply occupy less office space in the future. How’re you gonna lure them back to the office, after they’ve seen home cooked lunches?

Don’t forget movie theaters. They are dark now because of the virus. Many will never reopen. They were already edging toward the abyss. The virus is jettisoning them into it.

Old line churches have struggled for years. This virus may have people on their knees. But the praying has been at home. Some churches will perish.

The country will see thousands of clinics, shops, florists and mom and pops of all types close. Wait. They are closed now. Thousands will not re-open. Banks that have cut their corps of tellers to the bone will – in many branches – saw through the bone.

Local governments will take similar measures. My county is cutting a million from its modest budget. It is closing one of its DMV offices.

My point is that this country is going to look like a cemetery for deceased buildings. Even when the economy grows healthy again. And I believe it will. We knew more of our economy would go online down the road. The virus has brought the road to us. Down the road is no longer down.

We are accustomed to seeing empty shops on Main Street. And empty factories here and there. And the odd shuttered shopping mall. Well, the view from the highway is not likely to improve.

If you were in charge of degree programs at a university I would suggest a new one. An MS in Building Re-use.

From Tom…as in Morgan.

STERNBERG: Social Distancing Works – Do It!


Social Distancing

Works – Do It!


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?

ATWELL: Off To Civitan Convention, Lad Sailed On Packet Line


Off To Civitan Convention,

Lad Sailed On Packet Line

Young Jim Atwell embarked for Norfolk, Va., on the Baltimore Steam Packet Co.’s SS President Warfield, named after the company’s president.

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Fifteen years old. Never away from home overnight without my parents. And yet, wonderful! Sprung loose for two days on my own – with the night in between to be spent on a 250-mile trip on a steam packet, traveling down Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, Md., to Norfolk, Va.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

I owe that dazzling adventure to the Annapolis Civitan Club, which had a junior branch in my high school.

I was an officer of the junior club and several times had spoken at the senior club’s luncheons, reporting on our doings.

Admittedly I’ve always had a wide vocabulary and an easy flow in using it. And, impressed by the skills, the senior club’s president hatched a bright idea: The Civitan national convention would be gathering in June, down in Norfolk – about a thousand Civitaners from across the country, conducting the organization’s business by day and conviviating, genteely, in the evenings.

The Annapolis president’s idea: Why not send this well-spoken, if scrawny and bespectacled, boy down to Norfolk to address a plenary luncheon session? He’d wow them, of course, and cast admiration back on the Annapolis club.

I’m presuming my parents were at first uneasy. But the club president, an old friend of both, convinced them I’d be watched over – and, I think, clinched the matter by pointing out how valuable a listing this venture would be on college scholarship applications.

So, almost before I knew it, I was deciding the most exciting part of the venture: how to get to Norfolk. Annapolis Civitan offered two options: One, I could be flown down from and back to Friendship Airport (now Baltimore/Washington International) outside Baltimore. Mind you, I’d never flown before and so found this possibility very exciting.

But the alternative! A 12-hour trip each way, to Norfolk and back, on the S.S. President Warfield. I wasn’t conflicted for long. It’d be south by water, back by air!

Only a couple of days got me ready. I’d shot up a bit since getting a dark gabardine suit, and Mother had to turn down and then iron down pants cuffs before the legs touched my shoe tops. I already had a natty Tattersall shirt, a red necktie, and, of course, a bronze Civitan medallion for my buttonhole. Look out, Norfolk!

On departure day, I was picked up for the drive to Baltimore by a member of the senior club. He was an oculist by trade; perhaps that automatically makes for a very careful driver. He surely was.

I was raring to get going on my adventure. But my driver putted up the 30 miles of dual highway to Baltimore at a stately 45. He kept his window open to wave by the drivers of cars and trucks that, going 55 and 60, stormed up and careened around us, often shaking their fists. My oculist smiled and waved back, smiling. I closed my eyes finally and began to examine my conscience.
But we weren’t crushed or run off the road after all and finally parked quite close to our destination, Baltimore’s inner harbor. But keep in mind that, when I stepped out of the car, it was into a scene of 65 years ago.

Today, the whole sweep that curves around the harbor is a posh destination for tourists and shoppers. But back then, first impressions were of smells, though the main ones very pleasant. For the giant factory and packing plant of McCormick Foods fronted the road where we had parked, and the air was rich with the scents of spices and herbs ground there, then packed into signature red tins.

Delighted, I drew in scents that put me in my mother’s kitchen at Thanksgiving or Christmas, with a hefty turkey sharing the oven with mince and pumpkin pies; and arranged along the stovetop, lids ajar, were those little red tins. They’d been playing their part in a feast’s preparation.

I thanked and waved at my smiling oculist driver, and was glad to learn later that he’d putted safely back home. And, since I had a couple of hours before boarding the ship, I could amble along at a pace that would have gratified my oculist chauffeur.

The S.S President Warfield was not named for a U.S. president, of course, but for the steamship line’s president. (Interestingly, close kin to him was Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson, whose philandering with England’s royalty raised hob with that country’s kingly succession and brought about an abdication.)

Since I was traveling light with just a small suitcase, I could easily amble along a roadway paralleling the water and separated from it by lines of sheds, each with a dock extending out eighty or so feet. To the docks were tied local boats that had hauled melons, tomatoes and even blue channel crabs from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. More common, though, were literal banana boats, up from Central and even South America with cargos of bananas, plantains, and other tropical fruit.

All this made my walk an exotic one – even though I was still only 30 miles from my home. But hang on! More excitement lies ahead.

In a next column, I’ll climb the gangplank onto the President Warfield and entering a world of elegance that dazzled me.

INGRAM:  Worst Place Turns Out To Be Best


Worst Place To Live?

Oneonta Family Enjoys It!

Local readers of Reader’s Digest were surprised and delighted this week to discover Christopher Ingraham’s account about a story he wrote on the “ugliest” community in America ended up luring the Washington Post reporter and his family from the Baltimore suburbs to northwest Minnesota. (Ian Austin/
















The following May we moved to Red Lake Falls. Our family – me; Briana; Jack; Charles; Tiber, our 70-pound beagle-basset mix; and Ivy, our 12-year-old cat – arrived on a Sunday. The closing on the house was scheduled for the following day, but the previous owners, the Kleins, told us they’d leave the door open and the keys on the kitchen counter.

We hadn’t even gotten the kids out of their car seats before we were enthusiastically greeted by our new neighbor, who wanted to know whether we played any instruments because there was a great little
community band and they were always looking for new players. The Brumwells and the Kleins came over to help us get all our stuff out of the moving van. A few neighbors wandered over to pitch in as well, and with their help, we wrapped up the job in just a couple of hours.

It was an auspicious beginning, and our family quickly acclimated to small town life. Briana volunteered for the Civic and Commerce committee and was persuaded to run for city council, an election she handily won. The boys soon thrived under the personal attention at J.A. Hughes Elementary – even Charlie, who was diagnosed with autism and might’ve gotten lost in the crowd in a larger public School, like the one we had left in Maryland.

Most of the things we missed, including curry paste, sparkling wine, and books the tiny library doesn’t offer, we were able to order online or ask local proprietors to stock for us. We found plenty of culture and diversity, although we had to actively seek it out rather than experiencing the world simply by walking down the street, the way you can in a big city. The twins, now six, have spent more birthdays in Minnesota than they did in Maryland. And we have another son, William, who is three.

I can honestly say that there would have been no William had we not moved to Red Lake Falls.

It is my job to write about data. I’m a big believer in its power. But our relocation has been a humbling reminder of the limitations of numbers. It has opened my eyes to all the things that get lost when you abstract people, places, and points in time down to a number on a computer screen.

Yes, the government’s natural amenities index accurately captures the flatness of Midwestern farm country. The summer heat. The bitter winter cold. But it misses so much about that landscape: the sound of the breeze rustling the grain or the way the wheat catches the light, the dry-sweet smell of a field of sunflowers. It doesn’t tell you how a family can keep itself warm through the coldest of winters by building igloos and sledding down the town hill. Or how the vast winter night sky shines with the light of thousands of stars that people who live in cities will never know.

It doesn’t tell you about the heat put off by a big roaring fire in a park at the darkest time of the year, how the glow dances on the faces of those gathered around.

The people of Red Lake Falls bring light to the darkness and warmth to the cold. Glancing around the bonfire at last winter’s train lighting ceremony, when everyone clapped and cheered, I felt certain:
We were home.


STERNBERG: Your Arm, My Nose

Life In The Time Of COVID-19

Your Arm, My Nose

Richard Sternberg

In 1882, John B. Finch, then chairman of the Prohibition National Committee, wrote “… your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

This seems like a very appropriate commentary on the current argument between those who are concerned about easing COVID-19 restrictions now and those who want to open the economy immediately.

Sadly this, like almost all things in this country, has become highly politicized with each side having its own facts. Interestingly, there appears to be a reasonable compromise to allow rapid and safe recovery of the economy while decreasing risk of propagation of the disease: Everyone wears a mask while in public, all the time, everywhere.

I am indebted to Martin and Meg Tillapaugh for directing me to the article “Masks for All? The Science Says Yes” by Trisha Greenhalgh and Jeremy Howard.

In it the authors, in very easy to understand language, discuss the epidemiology of disease spread, the physics of droplets and aerosols, the material science of masks, the mathematics of disease transmission, the politics of mask wearing, mask-wearing experiments, the behavioral science of mask wearing, the economics of mask wearing, and the anthropology of mask wearing.

The bottom line is that most of the scientific evidence supports mask wearing and, to quote Governor Cuomo, “It’s disrespectful to me (for you) not to wear a mask.”

In my opinion it would be much easier for me, someone who has six co-morbid conditions for complications with COVID-19, to accept opening things up more if everybody did everything
reasonable to protect each other.

The arguments against mask wearing that I’ve heard include its uncomfortable, it looks funny, I’m not at risk, kids and young people don’t get it, it’s a free country, I don’t have to do what anybody tells me, and it’s a Democratic conspiracy. None of these are valid in this situation.

Well, we are all at risk. We are all at risk of spreading it to friends, loved ones, other human beings, and of becoming infected, contracting the disease, getting sick, and dying.

Children are not immune. They can become very ill and die or transmit it to someone else who becomes sick and dies. One form of the disease in children, Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is particularly nasty.

If the number of children dying of this wasn’t overshadowed by the unfathomable numbers dying overall there would be public uproar of why we weren’t doing more to help these poor children.

Trying to out yell or politicize this disease is not going to lead to solutions. Marching on state capitals while refusing to social distance and not wearing masks, thereby putting everyone including the children present at risk, and carrying semi-automatic rifles which in that context can be for no reason but intimidation, which no government could capitulate to, doesn’t win any additional support.

On the other hand, if everyone who wanted to see everything open up quicker than it has so far, and that should be about everyone, were to wear masks whenever in public, transmission rates would drop, new cases would drop, and deaths would drop, all strongly supporting allowing a return to normalcy.

To quote a famous American, “Why can’t we all get along?” If we all work together and compromise in what we are saying to each other and in what we are doing, we will find that all win. This would not be a you or me, win or lose, but win/win all the way around.

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.

HAYES:  All Had ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

Guest Column

All Had ‘Adverse

Childhood Experiences’


Research on the impact of what are known as “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” described in more than 70 studies over more than two decades, shows the potential long-term health and mental health consequences of unusually stressful childhood experiences.

These contribute to the risk of developing diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, heart disease, obesity, liver disease, sexual victimization, depression, substance abuse, and a host of other issues.

The impact of corrosive childhood stress can be cushioned by protective factors such as parents’ capacity for empathy, having a nurturing extended family, economic stability, accurate knowledge of child development, effective stress management skills, engagement with nurturing and supportive role models, and children’s access to mitigating experiences.

Take the ACES survey. The number of “yes” responses is your ACE Score.

In the initial study of 17,000 employed, mainly white middle class people with good health insurance as adults, 2/3 had at least one ACE, and of these, 87 percent had two or more.

More ACEs were correlated with more adult problems.

A score of 4 or more meant a 390 percent increase in the likelihood of COPD, a 460 percent in likelihood of depression, and a 1,220 percent increase in likelihood of suicidality. Mitigating factors can make a big difference, if available.

Consider what policies and budgetary decisions contribute to heightened or overlooked risk – or to mitigation. Consider that large and complex caseloads, or staff turnover, or lack of resources to turn to affect the effectiveness of DSS and other agencies’ work.

In 2019, Otsego County Child Protective Services staff responded to 1,034 reports of suspected child maltreatment, an especially difficult and sometimes dangerous job. Of 29 caseworker positions, at times six were vacant in 2019. Eight positions are specifically CPS.

They are fortunate to have the Child Advocacy Center, under the District Attorney’s auspices, to assist with assessing challenging situations. In 2018, the CAC dealt with 90 cases. In 2019, a 30 percent increase to 127.

We know what it takes to make a difference. Keep your ACES awareness alive as you contemplate the value of an “ounce of prevention”. Take care of yourself. Take care of the children. Get and offer help.

For detailed information on programs serving Otsego families, see our Parent Handybook, found on the county website at; click on Social Services, then on Parent Handybook. This is in the process of being updated, hopefully to be completed by late summer 2020.

Finally, take a moment to enjoy the blue and silver pinwheels displayed around the county, reminding us of happy and secure childhoods, and of the protective power of prevention.

Bill Hayes, a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a member of the Otsego Committee on Child Abuse & Neglect, lives in Toddsville. He prepared this column in April, Child Abuse Prevention Month.

SEWARD: Don’t Forget Lyme Disease

The View From Albany

Don’t Forget

Lyme Disease

State Sen. Jim Seward

The Coronavirus threat continues to dominate our lives in so many ways. As the weather starts to improve and people spend more time outdoors, while practicing social distancing and following other safety guidelines, there is another issue to keep in mind – Lyme disease.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and with the number of reported cases in New York rising each year, it is important to arm yourself and your family with the tools to avoid the disease when possible, and detect and treat when necessary.

Lyme disease is an infection, caused by bacteria, that is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Lyme disease can affect the skin, joints, nervous system and/or heart.

When detected early, it usually can be treated with oral antibiotics. If left untreated, it often causes serious health problems.

According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State has the third highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the country, trailing only our neighbors, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

While this problem has historically been concentrated on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, the state Department of Health reports that it is quickly migrating to other counties across New York.
Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease; they become infected after feeding on infected animals such as mice or other small mammals.

Transmission times for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases vary, and the sooner a tick is removed, the lower the risk of infection. Always check for ticks after spending time outdoors. You cannot get Lyme disease from another person or an infected animal.

Ticks can be active all months of the year when temperatures are above freezing. However, most tick encounters occur from April through November. Their preferred habitats are wooded areas and adjacent grasslands. Lawns and gardens at the edges of woods may also be home to blacklegged ticks.

Ticks may feed on wild animals such as mice, deer, birds and raccoons, but domestic animals such as cats, dogs and horses can also carry the ticks closer to home.

I have worked to enact several new laws in New York State to improve our response to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. We have also taken steps to upgrade education efforts and enhance efficiency when it comes to treatment and reporting measures. However, more work remains.

One bill that I have co-sponsored would serve as a major step forward for treatment of Lyme. The legislation would create specific protocol to notify individuals of their diagnoses related to Lyme and other TBDs.

The bill would require the commissioner of health to work with health care providers to develop a standard protocol and patient notification for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and TBDs.

In discussing this issue with individuals who have contracted Lyme and doctors alike, it is clear that diagnosis and treatment plans vary greatly. We need to develop a uniform health care strategy that will increase positive outcomes so people aren’t left guessing if they are infected or if they will be left to struggle with a debilitating disease for the rest of their lives.

Additional information regarding Lyme disease prevention, how to remove a tick, and symptoms is available through the New York State Department of Health website at By knowing the facts and taking precautions, you can enjoy the outdoors and avoid Lyme disease.

Turing our attention back to the Coronavirus pandemic, please keep in mind the health and safety guidelines along with ever changing state policies. Complete information is available at

It is terrific to see improvements regarding health statistics. Moving forward, I will continue to advocate for a commonsense regional approach to re-open our economy. Again, let me stress, public health needs to be the top priority as New York makes informed decisions during this crucial transition period.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has represented Otsego County in Albany for 35 years.

ATWELL: No Need For A Brick


No Need For A Brick

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Nope, I’m not addressing you from the front porch – it’s icy out there. Rather, I’m sitting just inside a front window, woolgathering.

Though, in fact, it’s not woolgathering that I’m doing, literal or figurative. Just now I’ve been spending our prescribed aloneness running through gratefully the crowd of adults who shaped my once young man’s values. And one of those was my Great Aunt Mame.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

In fact, you’d hardly think she could loom large in any way. Born in the 1870s, Mame stood just short of five feet. She was a registered nurse, though Lord knows how she changed bed sheets and helped patients turn over. But she did.

In late 1917, Aunt Mame felt a patriotic call to join an overseas nursing corps: to cross the Atlantic and nurse the wounded boys then fighting “over there.”

That dear little woman had her trunk packed and was ready to climb a gangplank when, wouldn’t you know it? The war went and ended on her!

Crestfallen, Mame and her small trunk ended up back in Annapolis. Because my mother had mailed the trunk for her, it was delivered from the train back to her home. Mame went there and unpacked it, including the stash of chocolates that she had been sure would cheer the injured doughboys. She left the trunk behind.

Donkey’s years later, after Mother’s marriage and my brother’s and my plopping
onto the scene, that small green trunk became a major prop for our childhood games. We’d climb in and out of it, fire volleys at Hitler and company from behind it. You won’t believe it, but I once took down Herman Goering and Heinrich Himmler with a single shot!

During those times, though still a part-time nurse, Aunt Mame was a regular visitor to our house, and she shared many meals and stories with us. Among the stories, ones about her quashed trip across the Atlantic figured strongly. And between us, Denny and I created fictions of her exploits, as if she’d actually gone there.

When I think of our visits with Mame, we three were often together under the dining room table, propped back against the comfortable curling legs. Mame, of course, was of a size to be at ease under there, and happy in our ready acceptance of her as an equal in games.
I was grown and in the Christian Brothers as Mame grew old, deaf, and steadily more infirm. Pulling some strings, I got her a place in a Catholic nursing home just outside Washington, D.C.

Our dear mother took care of Mame’s now empty house. She had spent a hot, humid July day at Mame’s, mowing grass and taking down dusty lace curtains to bring home and wash. Those curtains were soaking in our basement when, upstairs, she was stricken.

It was a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and she stayed conscious just long enough to
groan protest to Pop’s picking her up from the floor and carrying her to their bed.

My brother and sister-in-law arrived at the hospital just after they brought Mother in, and after a 30-mile drive through pelting rain, alternately clearing the windshield and wiping away tears, I got to the hospital just in time to kiss my mother’s lifeless forehead.

Days later, my brother, his wife Shirley, and I went to Washington to tell Mame. She brightened at sight of us but was looking behind us for sight of Mother.

Mame was profoundly deaf by then, and it fell to me to kneel, face inches from her ear, shouting, “Mother has died! Mame, Mother is dead!”

And I was just that close to Mame as it dawned on her face the terrible thing I was saying. Within days, it was the death of her.

Those are awful memories, but by no means my strongest of that diminutive lady. Perhaps the strongest is from my teenage years when, while I helped her up onto our front porch, she took a step ahead, and bright-eyed, smiling, faced me head on.

“Boy! You’re just growing too fast! I’m going to have to put a brick on your head!”

No need for a brick, dear old girl! Especially to stop growth of my love for you!

ZAGATA: Better Living Through Plastics


Better Living

Through Plastics

By MIKE ZAGATA • Special to

Governor Cuomo is about to extend the temporary ban on fracking in New York and make it permanent via his budget Bill. Some will cheer that action, but those who understand its unintended consequences won’t be among them.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

Indeed, they will live in fear of another pandemic where we don’t, as a result of his ban, have access to the materials needed to combat any medical illness – not just virus attacks.

Remember, fossil fuels like oil and natural gas aren’t just used for fuel.

How can a rational individual make those statements? Well, here’s how. Hydro-fracking for oil and natural gas, in addition to traditional production techniques, provides the raw material for all plastics and most pharmaceutical drugs/medicines.

Plastics are essential in the manufacture of those things needed to combat disease and save lives. They are used in thousands of products that increase the quality and safety of everyday life.
The list includes, but is not limited to: those much sought-after ventilators, face masks, goggles, IV bags and tubes, nearly all medical PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), heart stents, surgical gloves, syringes, insulin pens, catheters, inflatable splints, incubators for premature babies, dialysis tubing, artificial hips and knees, plastic pill casings (medicine), plastic implants for hearing, plastic cups and pitchers, eye patches, inhalation masks, disposable gowns, urine continence and ostomy products, tamper-proof caps, Petri dishes for microbiology cultures and thousands more.

Please read the list carefully and determine what your life might be like if you were no longer able to get one or more of the items you need to maintain the quality of your life.

One or more versions of the hydrocarbon methane (natural gas) are used as feedstock during the manufacture of most of the drugs we rely on to save, or maintain the quality of, our lives. Picture your world without them.

On a more morbid note, think about body bags. Consider that, if all natural gas
drilling was banned, we would be wrapping our meat at the grocery store and those who perish from the coronavirus in newspaper instead of plastic. What would that look like today in New York City?

Beyond medical uses, plastics have numerous other applications including, but not limited to: Motorcycle, skiing and cycling helmets, window safety glass, seat belts, nylon/polyester air bags and seat belts for safety in cars, cushioned foam dashboards, shock absorbing car bumpers, firefighter PPE (including jacket, pants, and boots), space suits, fishing waders. bullet-proof glass, clothing, eyeglasses, etc. Are those things you want to be without?

Think about what’s going on right now in our hospitals.

Can the healthcare providers and patients afford to rely on the wind and sun to provide the energy necessary to run the ventillators? What happens when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining – about 40 percent of the time between the two?

We all want a quality and healthy lifestyle along with a quality environment. We’re beginning to understand that without an abundant supply of oil and natural gas at this moment in time, both are at risk.

We’ve done a great job in this area of basing our economy on tourism and discouraging manufacturing. This summer will tell us if that was a wise decision.

STERNBERG: What’s All This Testing About?


What’s All This

Testing About?


At his Sunday, April 19, press conference, Governor Cuomo reported his 22-year-old daughter had asked him, “What’s all this testing about?” He seemed to be a little surprised by the question.

He said he thought he was explaining this well during his previous press conferences but realized he had not been getting his points across to everybody. He went over this again.

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.

I will try to explain the different types of tests, roughly how they work, what their purposes are, and how they help us make decisions about what to do next.

Up until recently, Governor Cuomo has primarily been talking about the test to determine who actively had the novel coronavirus. He has also been talking about obtaining the testing equipment and getting the chemicals necessary to do the tests.

On Sunday, though, he was also talking about a different test, an antibody test which would tell us who is immune to the virus, and he explained how this is going to be rolled out in New York State, with 3,000 random samples to be taken over the next week or so.

These tests look for two very different things.

One, the test that has been primarily talked about for weeks looks to see who actively has the virus.

Theoretically, once a person recovers, or if he or she has not been symptomatic once the body clears the virus, this test comes back negative.

This test can only show who has COVID-19 and thus is currently infectious, but it can’t tell you anything about whether a person had COVID-19 and is now relatively immune.

This test looks specifically for RNA, the genetic material of the coronavirus. Different manufacturers make this type of test. While the different companies’ tests are slightly different, they basically all work the same way.

The best simple but complete explanation may be obtained by Googling “here’s how coronavirus test works.”

Two, more recently, a test has been developed that looks for people who have had the disease. This distinction is important.

The best way we are going to safely open up the economy is to know what percentage of the population has recovered from the disease and is now relatively immune – and where possible, specifically who is immune.

These people could now return to normal activities and safely go back to work.

This test works by looking for antibodies to the virus in a person’s blood.

An antibody is a large protein produced mainly by a type of white blood cell. It is used by the defensive or immune system of the body to neutralize bacteria and viruses.

To make informed decisions, we should know who has the disease, who had the disease, who never had the disease, and what proportion of the population each group makes up.

While it may not seem intuitive, using the science of statistics, it can be determined by doing random testing of a small but significant number of people in a population what these numbers probably are.

The bigger the proportion of a population that is tested, the more highly confident we can be in the percentages determined and the more accurate are our predictions.

Without good testing we are not going to have any idea what the actual infection rate is and how quickly immunity is accumulating in the population. Once we know all this good, safe, informed decisions can be made on how to proceed with getting back toward normal.


If you would like me to go over this and other related topics please contact me through the Freeman’s Journal.


SEWARD: On Mend, Seward Turns Sights On Coronavirus


On Mend, Seward Turns

Sights On Coronavirus

I want to start this week’s column with a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have reached out to me and my wife Cindy over the past few weeks as we both battled the Novel Coronavirus.  Your well wishes and prayers meant a great deal and gave us both strength during our fight against this sinister virus.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has represented Otsego County in Albany for 35 years.

As the pandemic continues there are so many on the front lines that are deserving of our respect, admiration, and thanks.  Nurses, doctors, first responders, police, corrections officers, grocery store and pharmacy workers, truck drivers, and many others are risking their health and spending countless hours away from their families to help our state and nation endure through these difficult times.

I understand many are struggling with health and economic issues.  There are no easy solutions moving forward and additional aid will have to come from the state and federal levels to help with our recovery.

Already, I have joined with my Senate Republican colleagues to push for a couple of key actions.

First, a letter was sent to the U.S Department of Agriculture calling for assistance for our farmers.

Agriculture is New York’s top industry and vital to our health and way of life.  Unfortunately, in the best of times, farming can be a struggle and the Coronavirus is taking a devastating toll on many farms.

The letter reads in part:

“New York dairy farmers need urgent assistance. To be clear, they are not looking for a handout, and they are not in this grim position because of their own failure. Government action to respond to COVID-l9 — while necessary — has artificially eliminated the natural demand for dairy products, so it is the duty of government to rectify the situation and help dairy farmers remain financially viable in this difficult time. For this reason, we look to USDA for help.”

The recently passed CARES Act appropriates $9.5 billion to USDA, and we urge you to use that funding for direct financial assistance to farms who have faced harm because of COVID-l9.

Additionally, we urge the Department to make purchases of dairy products like fluid milk, butter, cheeses, and dry milk powders. Direct commodity support and export assistance would also help farms manage their decreased domestic demand.

At a time when so many Americans are out of work, more individuals are turning to food pantries for their next meal. However, many food pantries lack cold storage space to keep milk products fresh.

This is an excellent opportunity to create a voucher program for people in need through the Milk Donation Program, as authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, to facilitate the distribution of donated milk through grocery stores and other venues.  Doing so would help poor Americans keep food on the table, and also add demand for dairy farmers.

Late last week, the USDA announced $16 billion in direct support for farmers in need.  Another $3 billion will be used to purchase meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables with excess food going to food banks.  This is a big win.

Additionally, I am calling on the governor to release scheduled raises for essential state workers.  The state is delaying the 2 percent raises for 80,000 individuals who are on the front lines, and in some cases, performing very dangerous jobs.

The letter reads in part:

“Recognizing this service in these unprecedented times, then, I appreciate this opportunity to urge you to immediately provide an exemption for essential workers unable to work from home, and unable to take adequate social distancing precautions on the job, from your freeze of their scheduled two-percent salary increase. These include corrections officers, law enforcement officers, nurses and other public hospital staff, and direct caregivers in nursing and group homes, and mental health care facilities.”

These are just a couple of elements.  I will be highlighting many others as we continue to respond to this health crisis.

LEVINE: Building A Foundation, Together


A Foundation

– Together

Community Foundation

Takes Aim At COVID-19

By HARRY LEVINE • Special to

COVID-19 has changed our world. Our community faces dire health and economic shocks that have disrupted our way of life and will continue to affect us for the foreseeable future.

The Community Foundation of Otsego County was created in 2019 with the mission of improving the quality of life for all the Otsego County area. We were about to publicly announce our formation when COVID-19 attacked. Rather than wait until the emergency passes, the Board of the Foundation has decided now is the time of greatest need and the Foundation must take a leading role in addressing the challenge.

Harry Levine, former president of the Otsego Land Trust, is now leading the formation of The Community Foundatio of Otsego County.

For those not familiar with CFOC and how we have been building resources to announce our introduction to the Otsego County community, we are an IRS designated nonprofit public charity (501c3).

Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all in the Otsego County area primarily through gathering financial assets to direct to existing nonprofits in our county – to help them solve problems we all recognize and that are common to rural areas. We have an excellent Board of Directors with members dedicated to our mission.

Community foundations across the nation have taken leadership roles in establishing COVID-19 relief funds. Albany, Syracuse, Utica and Rochester all have established their funds through local community foundations. In each city, local governments, businesses, and service organizations have joined as sponsors, making these funds a central point for donations to meet the emergency needs of their communities.

CFOC has now set up a fund for Otsego County. Initially, the Fund will direct its resources to emergency relief. Once the crisis abates, and if resources remain, the Fund will shift its emphasis to recovery efforts.

The Fund will gather money to address immediate needs in Otsego County (the relief part of the Fund). We know that unemployment is rising and we are seeing growing numbers of
Please See NEW FUND, A6potentially fatal illnesses. The service sector of our economy will be faced with overwhelming assistance requests.

The Fund is a general fund. Every $1 donated will be disbursed as awards (CFOC will underwrite the administrative expenses). Awards will be made to existing organizations that have proven abilities to deliver services (CFOC does not currently have the expertise or time to evaluate new organizations).

The Fund will be a major county-wide effort to use private donations to address the COVID-19 emergency. To do this, CFOC must partner with many individuals, businesses, and other community organizations, and private foundations. We are asking you to join us as contributors to the Fund.

To be clear, this fund is an additional resource and cannot replace local, state or federal funding. Nor is it designed to shift funds away from existing nonprofits – in fact, awards by the Fund will go entirely to nonprofits to deliver services. Please do not support our efforts at the expense of your continuing support of existing and productive nonprofit organizations.


Our immediate concern is relief. We will rely upon existing nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines of responding to these needs. Awards will be issued to meet the following priorities:

• Support for medical workers, EMTs, police, firefighters, and others in essential industries who risk their own health to serve the community.
• Prevention measures such as education and sanitary supplies to limit the spread of the virus.
• Support for vulnerable populations, i.e. older adults with compromised immune systems, and people who are unhoused.
• Practical needs, in case of disruption in services to vulnerable populations, such as meal delivery and daily living support for homebound older adults.
• Food access and other practical support for people who have lost wages or are unable to stock up on food, specifically those who fall in the gaps of government-led responses.
• Support for workers, especially low-wage workers, to address lack of access to healthcare and paid sick leave, lack of proper safety equipment, economic impact of lost wages due to quarantines, cancelled activities, reduced hours/layoffs.
• Other emerging, immediate needs.

As we learn more about the impacts of the pandemic, priorities may change, but the overarching purpose of the Fund will remain the same.


The Fund has been organized to work smoothly. See our website at for more details and how to make a contribution. We can accept checks or credit card payments.

We are operating with unpaid volunteers and will underwrite all development and administrative costs. CFOC will not charge any fees to the Fund.

The Board of CFOC has authorized an initial investment of $50,000 to start the Fund, of which $30,000 is a $1 for $1 matching challenge to the community to participate.

Please join us as we work as One Community – One County to rise to the challenges created by this pandemic.

BENNETT: It Isn’t All Gloom And Doom


It Isn’t All

Gloom And Doom

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

The title of this column is, “We are all in this together.” It’s a statement of a simple reality, but it’s also a dream about working together that I wish to be true for everyone – from our town, to our state, to our nation, to our world.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Now that the world is all in this together with the COVID-19 nightmare, it’s useful to look at how we are responding to the crisis.

Different nations are taking different paths, some more successful than others.

Early on China exercised its authoritarianism to suppress the bad news, until the bad news became insuppressible. Then it used that same authority to impose a lockdown that seems to have worked to slow the spread.

In Europe the spread was treated somewhat predictably. In Italy, never a nation known for its governmental stability and consistency, the virus raged out of control for weeks until the political became less important that the practical.

In Germany, a nation where discipline and high regard for democratic authority is combined with governmental compassion for all its people, the outbreak has been minimized as much as seems possible. The German government explained its reasoning and rules fully and enabled its citizens to comply.

Sweden, a bit of an odd outlier, chose to not impose a strict response, believing in its ability to weather the storm differently. Their decision now seems foolhardy, as cases there grow.

In the U.S. we know what happened. The president, never one to consider the facts when his instincts tell him differently, decided the economy ­­– and his election prospects – were more important than anything else.

Used to blustering and bluffing his way out of tight spots, he gambled that he could do the same here. But no one can bluff biology and he failed miserably.

The U.S., with 1/20th of the world’s population, now has over one quarter of the world’s cases (555,000 cases out of 1.8 million) and almost 20 per cent of the deaths (22,000 out of 113,000).

Still, even as the president continues to misrepresent the truth and as he tries to present himself as our war leader, I think we, the nation and the entire world, have come together. We have a newfound appreciation for our medical professionals who have proved to be amazingly courageous and dedicated, literally the heroes of this disaster.

When the pandemic comes under control, I think we will all be more willing to offer stronger support for them, to fund more medical research, and to try to implement a more equitable health care system.

Another way we have come together is in reconsidering and adjusting our relationships with other people. Millions are hurting, are running low on food and other essentials, and are out of financial resources. Americans are responding by building up food banks, by donating to helping causes, by doing tasks for others who can’t do them.

Many companies, even as they are being battered economically, are doing more to assist their communities. State governments, often derided as ineffective and bureaucratic, have stepped up to support, protect, and lead their citizens.

Many national governments, notably excluding ours, along with international institutions and corporations, are beginning to work together more effectively to share assistance and information.

To be sure, there are exceptions to the above, and we are far from winning this battle, but there is reason for hope. There is mounting daily evidence that people can rise above their own self-interest and work for the greater good. There is more proof we are all in this together, and for the better.

Finally, I’d like to remind us all that we can play a part. We can find a way to help today. Needs are everywhere. Contact your church, your food bank, your local government, and local charities.

STERNBERG: A Pearl Harbor Moment, Plus


A Pearl Harbor

Moment, Plus


Two weeks ago, Surgeon General Jerome Adams made comments that last week would be a Pearl Harbor moment in the battle against COVID-19. Others picked up on the statement. I believe the President used that phrase at one point in a press conference. Others are calling this a 9/11 moment.

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.

This is nothing of the sort and is probably an insult to Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was a highly dishonorable way of declaring war against the United States by the Imperial Japanese Empire; 2,403 people died in it, mostly sailors, but also soldiers and marines, and some civilians.

On 9/11, 2,977 people, mostly American citizens, including 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, 71 metropolitan area law enforcement officers, one officer in Pennsylvania, and 55 military personnel were murdered.

Those who have died of what has been deemed to be 9/11-induced illnesses is probably greater than 3,000 considering first responders, clean-up crews and people who lived in the area. Let’s say 6,000 fatalities in total.

As of April 12, 2020, 20,488 people, up approximately 2,000 from the day before, have died of documented COVID-19 in the U.S., which is more than twice the combination of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 together.

There have been additional deaths well above the statistical averages not listed as COVID-19 but which highly probably are. Documented new deaths per day from COVID-19 are fast approaching the total at Pearl Harbor.arbor.Harbor.

The rate of the increase of deaths in New York State has leveled off but the rate of increase elsewhere in the U.S continues to rise.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are singular moments in the history of the United States and of the heroism of its military and municipal services. They were moments of national resolve but they were moments.

COVID-19 is a relentless killer that will continue worldwide unless a way to either cure it or prevent it is found. It wears us down.

The worldwide death toll could easily exceed millions unless vigilance is maintained. While it is an infectious disease on an individual basis, on a global level it is like a cancer, metastasizing everywhere and overwhelming the host, that is the population of the entire world.

Trivializing it as a moment, however monumental that moment is, does not prepare people for the continued fight ahead and gives them the false sense that if only we make it past one specific day everything will be well.

As terrible as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were, the surgeon general using that analogy does disservice to those events and actually gives a false sense of security that the pandemic is less devastating than it is and it is abating.

MORGAN: Bad Numbers, Good News


Bad Numbers,

Good News

By TOM MORGAN • Special to

Let us call it The Finger-Pointers’ Dilemma.

The toll of the virus has been less than what we were promised. The WuFlu medical experts assured us the sky was definitely falling this time. Maybe 2 million of us would croak.

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

These experts convinced themselves of this. They convinced our public health officials. They convinced Big Media. All of them teamed up to convince our leaders.

And so, our leaders shut down our economy. They turfed over 17 million Americans from their jobs. And we are still counting. Upward. They cut the legs from under hundreds of thousands of small businesses. They sentenced many of them to bankruptcy. They pushed us into, likely, a recession. And, perhaps, into a depression. They saddled the country with trillions in new debt, to try to buffer the damage to workers and businesses.

Our leaders did this because experts demanded they do so. There was no alternative, they and the experts insisted. The prospect of 2 million deaths makes it imperative, they said.

After a few weeks the experts lowered their estimates. They now proclaimed that only 1 million or so Americans would die from WuFlu. Still a pretty daunting figure.

Then the experts lowered their estimates again. Only 240,000 of us would die from the virus. They were really serious about this number, they said. Pay attention to this number.

Then the experts lowered their estimates to 100,000 or so. Then 80,000. Then 60,000.  And they admitted that lots of people who were tagged as virus deaths were actually victims of such diseases as pneumonia.  They concluded this because far fewer folks were dying this year from pneumonia than die normally. Given that, maybe the WuFlu deaths would be in the 50,000 range.

Well now, this presents a lot of critics with a predicament.

This is because the President will probably claim that he and his crisis team must be miracle workers. After all, the experts told us 2 million would die. But after his crisis team went to work on the problem only 50,000 died. If that. He will suggest we toast his success. With a cocktail of that drug he touted. You know, the one the experts said nobody should take.

All hail to the conquering Trump. He and his team saved way over a million and a half lives.

WAIT! We can’t have that. No, no. We absolutely cannot give these guys such credit. Remember, half the country hates Trump. Thinks him an idiot.

Big Media cannot possibly give him or them credit. Not after declaring Trump’s every move was wrong. His every utterance a lie. His optimism unfounded. They claimed he had blood on his hands. They wailed that thousands of people were dying because of his decisions.

Trump was wrong on allocating supplies. On suggesting medicos look at that hydry-cholor, whatever, drug. He closed down travel from China too soon. No, he was too late. He was too late shutting down European travel. No, he was absolutely wrong to do it at all.

Given that mountain of vitriol and criticism Big Media cannot now give the sod credit. His political opponents, who called him racist and xenophobic and idiotic – for starters – they cannot afford to give him any credit. No. Absolutely not. Trump successful? Impossible!

So the question begs: If he and his team did everything wrong…if their efforts were not successful… how do we account for the much lower numbers? Oh dear.

It must be the experts. Let’s attack those experts! Yes, yes, good plan. But, but, but…those experts who were wrong include Dr. Fauci, who is now sainted. Canonized. Headed for a Nobel. They include the venerable World Health Organization. These experts told us, and advised the President, that the virus was no big deal. Travel bans were not necessary.

A dilemma. That is what the critics face. They assure us Trump & Co. screwed up everything. Trump was wrong about everything, everything! Until, that is, the unthinkable happened: We got a good result. Compared with the predictions of the experts, we got a miraculous result. To go from 2 million deaths to 50,000 is like a reverse Loaves and Fishes.

In the musical “The King And I”, the king declares he is confounded. “There are times I almost think nobody sure of what he absolutely know,” he sings. “Everybody find confusion in conclusion he concluded long ago.  And it puzzle me to learn that tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know. Very quickly he will fight.  He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!  Is a puzzlement.”


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