News of Otsego County

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



STERNBERG: We Must Deal With Both Sides Of Pandemic


We Must Deal With

Both Sides Of Pandemic

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. Dr. Sternberg will continue to report on medical aspects of the situation throughout week.

Now, as the levels of COVID fatigue mount, emotional issues among the public and providers, especially those greatest at risk, continue to grow. This is producing new cases of morbidity and mortality related to the disease, but not directly due to the virus.

Social isolation is the state of having minimal contacts with the world. Loneliness is an emotion, a feeling of being isolated from others. Each can lead to the other.

Isolation frequently causes loneliness but, conversely, someone who is lonely may further retreat into a self-imposed isolation. Regardless of the etiology, both can lead to significant pathology, both psychological and physical.

Studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness are risk factors, including obesity, in some cases morbid obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, higher risk of infection, depression and anxiety, decreased cognitive function, Alzheimer’s disease, and by increase of any of these, increased risk of death.

The increased risk of developing dementia is particularly high. This is easy to imagine if we remember that isolating a person has actually been used as a technique for extracting information from someone by altering their mental status.

Effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19 can increase the risk of any and all of these conditions and which by themselves have a significant negative health impact including leading up to death.

Finding the correct balance of risk of contracting COVID-19 with the risk of complications from isolation and loneliness is now a topic of discussion in the medical literature.

There are no answers to what the correct balance is. Prior to COVID, most older adults living on their own or with a partner participated in social activities. This gave them an anchor and a feeling of mattering. They gained pleasure through their interactions and their contributions to society.

The current cutting off of contact with others to protect one’s health can lead to self-devaluation. This state can affect susceptibility to diseases, infectious and otherwise.

Patients in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and senior homes are also at high risk. Techniques necessary to protect against spread of disease – banning visitors and keeping residents in their rooms – contribute to the problem. Isolating from family visits that have previously been regular, is particularly detrimental.

So, what can be done?

Technology can play a major role in balancing the need to isolate with the need for contact. Mobile technologies have been instrumental in keeping people in touch and in some cases re-establishing lost
past relationships.

While the technology and apps probably need to be simplified for the elderly, especially for those with cognitive impairment, there is no question that they, with the constraints placed by the pandemic, have greatly expanded the use of these technologies especially for older individuals. (Use your own definition of older. For me it is everyone older than the millennials.)

Something as simple as very regularly contacting someone whether a friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger can greatly help their mental health and probably yours too.

ERNA: Fear Retirement, But Do It Anyway

Fearsome Retirement

Erna Morgan McReynolds, raised in Gilbertsville, is retired managing director/financial adviser at Morgan Stanley’s Oneonta Office, and an inductee in the Barron’s magazine National Adviser Hall of Fame.  She lives in Franklin.

Mom told me that they promised her the “Golden Years,” but she got the “Rust Years.”

She dreamed of retiring. Yet after a couple of weeks into retirement her litany changed from “can’t wait to retire” to telling me – “don’t do it.”

My Mom was born when women were supposed to stay home, while their husbands supported the family.

But my Dad, Mom’s husband, lost their farm and his health. He became too ill to work. With three girls under the age of 5 at home, my Mom had to go to work. She got lucky and landed a good-paying job at a factory. After a string of horrible jobs.

Not her Ozzie and Harriet dream. But good money to feed her family.

Mom was careful and saved from every paycheck. She belonged to a union and got a good pension. She planned golden years of traveling.

After a couple months staying at home, she wanted to go back to work. A week or two on a bus tour was okay but she didn’t want “vacation” all of the time.

Any point here? Sure.

You have probably already figured out that I did what most of us do – I didn’t follow Mom’s advice.
I retired.

Afraid as always. Maybe this time I was right.

Did you know 10,000 baby boomers retire every day?

You don’t need any statistics. You know. You live it every day.

Your long-time doctor and your lawyer have retired. Your plumber. Electrician. A year or so ago it seemed that all of the local CEOs, college and hospital presidents retired the same week.

Are they like Mom? Regretting every day that they retired?

Baby Boomers do retire a few years later than the Great Generation. They are healthier and more active.

But many work. Some because they can’t afford not to, but many are just like my Mom.

She really wanted a longer vacation. When she wanted to take it. Not a permanent vacation.

Recently I commiserated with a 36-year-old. He went from a structured job — which he loved — to self-employed when his wife took a job on a remote Caribbean island.

A sort of retirement. Hard to do, he said. No structure. No people coming at you making you react. No co-workers. He likes some of the freedom but he misses having a regular job.

A week earlier I had coffee with a 67-year-old who had retired almost two years ago. He has nightmares about his job. He loved his job. Didn’t really want to retire, but it was time.

Intellectually he was at the top of his game. But he had great successors from the next generation. He did the right thing, he believes. But why the nightmares? Does he have a mental illness? Is this normal? he worried?

For me, I retired at the right time, for the right reasons. I had plans. Spend more time with some
terrific non-profits with which I work. Mentor? Take up those old passions like gardening, go out for coffee or lunch.

I knew how I should prepare to retire. I coached clients for 30 years. “You’ll have a black pit
ahead of you. Plan,” I told them.

Frightening. Retirement — terrified me. Fear drove a planning frenzy for the next third of my life.

My French teacher was right — I am a perfectionist. I intended to corral my fears and do this perfectly.
But even with all of that planning I spent my first year in mourning. I missed my colleagues. I missed my clients. I missed feeling useful.

At a conference with my Adviser Hall of Fame colleagues — many of whom are my age — they applauded my courage. Said they envied me. They’re afraid to retire.

Some know they’re staying too long. Missing the chance to spend time with their spouse, children, grandchildren. To do charitable work. Give back. Pick up those old hobbies abandoned to climb to the top.

Like the 77-year-old with whom I had dinner at that conference? She told me she was afraid to retire?
Her husband is sliding into dementia. He retired 17 years ago. Now she wonders where her courage was.

Too scared to have enjoyed those great years.

“Be Afraid but Do it Anyway” still seems to be working.

Now a couple of years later, retirement seems less scary, not so heart-breaking.

Eventually I plunged into my plans and some unexpected projects too. COVID has upended life, but also has bestowed its blessings.

HITT, LOTTERMAN: Is Ordering Pupils Back The Right Way To Go?


Is Ordering Pupils Back

The Right Way To Go?

Charlotte Valley Central School, Town of Davenport

Editor’s Note:  Two Charlotte Valley Central School parents provided this commentary on the reopening of the school.


Charlotte Valley Central School mascot

Over the last several months, it feels like we have watched the world fall apart. We have felt
scared for our country, for the world, for our families and friends, but most of all we feel scared for our children. Most recently we were shaken by the horrifying and far too-close-to-home COVID-19 outbreak at SUNY Oneonta.

COVID-19 has been standing at our doorstep and we have done our best as a community and parents to take the precautions to keep this disease out of our homes.

We fear that work may be undone.

HAYES: Feeling Blue?  There Are Remedies

Feeling Blue?

There Are Remedies


With fall getting underway, staying resilient calls for an extra focus on self-care, an essential ingredient of emotional and physical wellbeing of our families and our community.

Stress wears us down. How can we counteract that?

Let’s take a look at some basic protective factors: nutrition, sleep, activity and meaningful connections.
Mood, energy and resistance to illness are hugely impacted by body chemistry, and we can do things to improve that chemistry.

Notice what you tend to eat and drink, and make adjustments to ensure that carbs don’t crowd out other things. Easy to make, and comforting in the short term, they can put you on a rollercoaster of short-term energy alternating with moody energy crashes.

A good online site for ideas on the various foods we put on our plates is Click on “nutrition source,” and explore!

Be mindful of what you put in your grocery cart in the first place.

For people prone to depression, pay attention to what sweetener is in your drinks and food: Aspartame (Nutrasweet), commonly found in diet soda, low-cal yogurt and other foods, can magnify your depression. And remember that alcohol is a calorie-rich carb.

This leads to the next protective factor: sleep.

Sleep allows your brain chemistry to get refreshed. The best sleep is in large chunks that involve deep sleep, and is on a fairly regular schedule.

Alcohol-involved sleep is not as brain-refreshing. People working varying shifts should be as planful as possible to get good sleep, rotating shifts “forward” whenever possible, to allow the wake-sleep cycle to adjust. It might take several days to fully engage in the new pattern.

Another brain-chemistry factor is the decrease in daylight between October and March. Some people are more sensitive to this, and experience an increased sense of depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
While some depression may result from changes in activity and degree of isolation, the brain does react to daylight differently than artificial light.

Some people can benefit from using a daylight-spectrum light fixture to start the day by replacing the seasonally “lost” daylight that affects alertness and mood. And at the end of the day, take a break from “screen time” for a while to allow your brain to switch to sleep mode.

Activity remains important year-’round. It’s more challenging to maintain in winter, since, yes, it’s cold outside. But bundle up and get out there. Twenty minutes daily of sustained activity that boosts your heart rate is not only good for muscles and general fitness, but it makes your body produce something called endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers!

And, as a bonus, moving around outside exposes you to the benefits of natural light mentioned before! Double bonus: just noticing and being in awe of nature boosts your mood. Triple bonus: doing the above with others can diminish the sense of social isolation you might otherwise be experiencing. Which leads to the fourth protective factor.

Feeling connected with other people through shared meaningful activity and conversation is an essential human experience. Introverts may prefer less of this, while extroverts may thrive on it. Eye contact, rhythm and tone of voice, touch, words, sharing a meal, shared laughter, teamwork, sharing a religious ceremony, making or listening to music together, creating artwork, building things, athletics, and meeting a challenge together, all involve some reciprocal communication or visual engagement in some uniquely human activity.

It reminds us of our humanity, of our need for acknowledgement, of our ability to have an impact, and that we are not alone in the world. Even at a “social distance.”

Bill Hayes, a retired licensed clinical social worker at Bassett Hospital who is active in NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, lives in Toddsville.

STERNBERG: The President & All His Men

Life In The Time Of COVID-19

The President & All His Men

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. Dr. Sternberg will continue to report on medical aspects of the situation throughout week.

The good news is that the president seems to be doing OK medically.

The bad news is that people around him are being put at risk because of his refusal not only not to restrict himself in any manner but, in fact, his flaunting his ability to do anything he wants, whenever he wants.

So many of his senior staff, their staff, Secret Service, White House workers and people who were at his recent campaign events are turning up positive or exposed and they have to restrict themselves.

Also, the FDA and CDC which are both supposed to function based on science, are making decisions based on politics.

If you have friends and family members who have died, or have been very sick, you look at this very differently than if you are young and healthy. Though how anyone could consider greater than 210,000 excess deaths in the United States from COVID-19 reasonable is beyond me.

Tell me that the mortality rate is acceptable when it’s your close relative. My cousin’s father and aunt have died from it. Remember my column from last week about the 28-year old doctor who died of it.

I read the criticisms of my column posted on Monday, Oct. 5, and found myself agreeing on some points. But if the person writing remembers that over two months ago I said that, if everyone wore a mask all the time outside of the home, almost all restrictions could have been dropped by now.

I would be comfortable in that situation. Instead we are averaging over 35,000 new cases daily in the U.S. over the past two weeks.

The president is probably getting care available to no one else on Earth but himself. He is on at least two and possibly three experimental medicines. They haven’t been released for general care and no one has any idea if they have unforeseen complications when taken together.

He is still highly contagious. He has multiple risk factors. If I was his doctor, I would have put myself on the line in order to keep him in the hospital. I would have refused to do something I knew defied standards of care. Nevertheless, he is the president.

The White House medical unit can create an environment equivalent to an ICU if need be if it doesn’t already have an ICU bed standing by at all times. The care he will get there is world class.

Basically, it is equivalent to Walter Reed but without the immediate access to special testing capabilities or surgery.

If he needed something it would probably take 30 minutes. But with a medical versus a surgical diagnosis this is not much of a risk.

The biggest problem with turning the White House into a Walter Reed annex is the cost. The hospital is already set up for this but hey, it’s only money.

Try as might I can’t bring this down to just medical issues. We know some, but only a little about the president’s physical exam, disease course, and labs. He certainly looks better than someone who is very sick and I’m hopeful that there is no relapse.

It’s hard to tell if he is manifesting side effects from the steroids which is very common. Dexamethasone is associated with psychological changes including mood changes such as increased aggressiveness.

There is also dizziness and headache among other side-effects.

Bottom line; I still have no idea which direction the president’s illness is going. He is getting great care, better than you or I ever could. If there are no negative changes by Monday, he should be out of the woods. If things change, I will update.

BUNN: Ceremony Evokes Hartwick Boyhood

Ceremony Evokes

Hartwick Boyhood

Editor’s Note: K. Wayne Bunn recounted these boyhood memories at the rededication of Route 205 through Hartwick hamlet in honor of Marine Sgt. John Kempe Winslow Monday, Oct. 5.

Sgt John Kempe Winslow

During the 1950s, I grew up two houses from Sgt. John Kempe Winslow, known back then as Johnny, on South Street in the hamlet of Hartwick. He was one year younger than I was, and one year below me in school, but we became close friends at a very early age.

We both attended the former Hartwick High School, which after 1957 became the Hartwick Grade Center, and rode our bikes to school each day during the warmer months. During the summer vacations,

I spent most days with Johnny and our other close friends (Darrell Risley, Ken Tabor, Ron Hurtibise, Orlo Burch, etc.) doing what young kids did back then during the summer: We played backyard football, baseball, basketball, rode our bikes, Little League baseball, Boy Scouts, got into minor trouble, fished for trout in the Otego Creek, hiked, and pretended to hunt deer in the woods around Hartwick.

Some of the best times we had growing up were days spent swimming at “The Fly,” a large deep hole in the Otego Creek near the bridge on North Street, where we would change our clothes in the bushes.

Another favorite time was riding on the back of Ken Foster’s milk truck as he picked up milk from area farms and then riding on top of the milk cans along the conveyor line with rollers which led into the former Hartwick milk plant.

As we got older, I would spend many days with Johnny at the Winslow camp on Otsego Lake where we would swim, fish, canoe, camp out, and hike around the area. We remained friends throughout high school and rode the school bus to Cooperstown each day. He was a very talented wrestler and golfer at CCS and he played the accordion.

Johnny was just a great kid, liked by everyone – I do not recall anyone not liking Johnny. I left for college one year before Johnny did, so I did not see him as much after high school, especially after he joined the Marine Corps in 1965.

Johnny, like all Marines, was very proud to serve in the Marine Corps and serve his country. During his first tour of duty in Vietnam, Johnny was wounded in the leg and spent several months recuperating in a hospital on Long Island. I recall talking with Johnny when he was discharged from the hospital and spent some time at home before resuming his duties.

He received the Purple Heart for his wounds in combat.

For whatever reason, he wanted to return to Vietnam and serve a second tour – perhaps to support his fellow Marines – but he never told me why and I never saw him again after that day. I just know that he was a true Marine and loved the Marine Corps.

Johnny followed in the footsteps of a military family – his father served in the Army in World War II and his older brother Chet served in the Army in the early 1960s.

It was a very sad day for me in July of 1969 when our neighbor Ford Risley told me that Johnny had been killed in Vietnam – he was only 22 years old.

Unfortunately, he was killed by a misguided friendly air strike during a combat operation in Quang Tri Province. He was scheduled to return home and be discharged from the Marine Corps in August of 1969.
It was a very difficult time when my mother and I visited the Winslow family at their camp to express our sympathy – my mother was Johnny’s third-grade teacher. I was able to drive several members of Johnny’s family during the funeral service which followed. Johnny was always late when it came time to do anything and we always told him that he would be late to his own funeral.

In fact, he was – the detachment from the Marine Corps from Albany was late in getting to the Patterson Funeral Home in Hartwick before the church service in Cooperstown so the service was delayed until they arrived.

To this day, 51 years later, I still miss Johnny.

I have very fond memories of Johnny and the Winslow family because they were so good to me over the years. Johnny’s father, Chester J. Winslow, Jr. – also known as “Big Chet” – was an attorney in Hartwick and had a profound influence on me as I was growing up, including why I attended Syracuse University (his alma mater).

I wanted to be an attorney like “Big Chet” but I struggled with English, reading, and writing so I pursued a career as a civil engineer. It is interesting to note that “Big Chet” told me one time that he wanted to be a civil engineer but struggled with math and science.

I was so happy when I read in 2019 that a section of State Highway 205 in Hartwick was going to be named in honor of Sgt. John Kempe Winslow – 50 years after his death. What a great tribute to Sgt. John Kempe Winslow and his family, including his brother Mike and sister Maria who are here today.

A big “thank you” to the Hartwick American Legion Post 1567 for promoting this idea and, especially, to State Sen. Jim Seward and Assemblyman John Salka for sponsoring the bill that was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo to so honor Sgt. John Kempe Winslow.

I am so proud to call Sgt. John Kempe Winslow my long-time friend and to be a part of this dedication.

HENRICI: This Year, How To I Vote Q&A


This Year, 

How Do I Vote?

Editor’s Note: With changes in voting procedures resulting from this year’s coronavirus threat, Maureen Murray and Aviva Schneider of the League of Women Voters, Cooperstown chapter, interview Michael Henrici, Democratic election commission at the county Board of Elections, to help clarify the options.

Q: What should voters know about registration?

The deadline to register is Oct. 9. To check to be sure you’re registered, go to You can also go to that website if you’re not registered for everything you need to register. Or you can call (607) 547-4247 to get a registration form mailed to you.

Q: Do you expect difficulties this fall?

We are doing OK, though strapped for funding. The number of absentee ballots is large, so that should help. We expect more voters to come for early voting. Even though we rarely have trouble with lines at polling places, the 6-foot distance may cause the lines to be physically longer. But the number of Election Day voters is expected to be smaller due to absentee and early voting.

Q: What do you want voters to know about early voting?

That’s an important question this year. Voters who have always gone to their polling place might prefer to vote early.
Early voting will be Oct 24 to Nov. 1 at the Meadows Office Complex, 140 County Highway 33W, Cooperstown. On weekends, when few are at the building, there will be signage and a greeter at the door to direct people who are unfamiliar with the building. (Note: for times, go to

Q: What should voters know about using absentee ballots to ensure their votes are counted?

The most common errors for absentee voters are not signing the envelope and not sending it in on time. Absentee ballots that are not properly completed are not thrown out. The voter is contacted and sent an affidavit for affirming that the ballot belonged to the voter.
The last day to mail an absentee ballot is Election Day. The absentee ballot may be sent through the mail stream or dropped off at any polling place or at the Board of Elections.
Voters should allow 15 days to get their absentee application in this year.

Q: Regarding postage, will mail-in ballots have return postage-paid envelopes?

No, voters will have to place a stamp, as usual.

Q: Do voters who bring absentee ballots to polling places on Election Day have to wait in line, or can they just walk in and drop off their completed ballot?

Voters will be able to drop off ballots at the polls without waiting in line.

Q: Can someone show up at BOE with an application for absentee ballot and get it right then, fill it in and deliver it (in one visit)?

Since Sept. 18, ballots are on hand. If a person selects on the application “deliver to me in person,” then yes, the voter can complete the ballot and submit it all in one visit.

Q: How will the absentee ballots be counted?

In New York State, absentee ballots are always counted after the election. The state Board of Elections must check throughout the state to confirm that the ballot should be counted. A person who has voted absentee may vote in person on Election Day as well.
The in-person vote supersedes the absentee ballot.
They are counted by hand currently, which takes a few days, but we are looking at getting a scanner.
In addition, every household is getting a mailer, with polling place, dates and times for early and election day voting, as well as application directions for absentee voting.

Q: Have there ever been cases of voter fraud in Otsego County?

We don’t see fraud here. More common are mistakes. For example, a husband or wife signs the other one’s envelope. Or people with Power of Attorney sign
the envelope, which they cannot do.

Q: What about barriers for disabled voters?
We believe we have all the tools and assists for anyone with a disability to vote. The state Board of Elections has also made registering to vote accessible to all voters by offering multiple methods for completing a Voter Registration Form. Voters with special needs may also apply for an accessible absentee ballot using the Accessible Absentee Ballot Application with Instructions.
Q: Your website indicates one polling place change in our county due to COVID. Are these now confirmed or might there be more changes?
We feel pretty solid about what is on the website now. A Fox medical facility in Oneonta is no longer available because of COVID and has been replaced with another polling location. If any additional polling places are changed, we will send mailers to all households in the district, as well as publishing the changes.
Q: Please refresh us on affidavit ballots so we can inform our membership and the public.
An affidavit is for persons who haven’t kept their records up to date; for example, if a person moved but didn’t inform the Board of Elections. We will give the person a ballot and the eligibility of the voter will be evaluated before the ballot is counted.
Q: Do you need more poll workers?

We are well staffed. Otsego County poll worker training sessions have had to turn people away. Interested people can only serve as poll workers in their own county.

Questions, email

ERNA: Fear Of Swimming


Fear Of Swimming


Swimming. I was a kid who wanted to learn to swim.

It really started when I won a week at Bible camp by reciting enough verses. Just being there was scary enough. I was afraid to sleep in my bunk at night. Homesick.

Had all of the wrong clothes. All of the other kids had fancy clothes. My bathing suit was the only store bought thing I had and it didn’t fit. It was a hand-me-down from our neighbor.

Erna Morgan McReynolds, raised in Gilbertsville, is retired managing director/financial adviser at Morgan Stanley’s Oneonta Office, and an inductee in the Barron’s magazine National Adviser Hall of Fame.  She lives in Franklin.

My week at camp seemed to get worse, scarier every day. After our morning calisthenics, we put on our bathing suits, huddled in our towels for the frigid march to the lake.

Most everyone could swim to the dock. Not me. I came from a family of non-swimmers. Mom was too scared to put her face in water.

Watching me shiver, a cabin mate decided to push me in — way over my head.

I sputtered, swallowed water till the guard pulled me out.
I was afraid, but I wanted to swim.

Never again – no more being trapped in dark terror, I said to myself. But it did happen again at friends’ ponds.

More than one time I climbed onto rafts with my friends. They jumped off. I fell into murky, reedy water way over my head. Not sure why I didn’t drown.

So when I heard I could take swimming lessons at a summer school program, I put on another ugly swimsuit.

Worse still, since I was 11 and embarrassed. Chubby size 16 that year. Wearing a hand-me down. Budding breasts made that clingy suit even worse. But I walked a mile from my house every day.

Joined the others at the local swimming hole in the creek just outside the village. Finally, I thought.

But it wasn’t to be. A gangly man and a chubby woman were in charge. They got us in the creek. Had us put our faces in the water. Stretch out on our stomachs in the dead man’s float. But then, a few seconds later, they shouted “buddy up.” I became an expert at buddying up. Could lie on my stomach in water without touching. After a whole summer.

I still wanted to learn to swim, though.

In Wellington, they had a pool. I joined. The water smelled like Clorox and was hot. I tried to do it. Still, after a year all I could do was the dead man’s float. Had buddying up in my kit bag. Just in case.

Before I could learn to swim I moved. First to my new TV/radio job. Then six months across the Pacific, America and finally London.
In London, after a lot of “temping,” I got a permanent job. On my way to work I passed the Drury Lane baths (swimming pool) every day.

After my near-drownings, I was terrified of water over my head. But I knew I could do it. Day after day I practiced widths at the shallow end. First the dead man’s float; then I added kicking.

Next I tried the doggy paddle. Widths. But I got really good at widths and thought: I should move on to lengths.

The first time was a disaster. I doggy paddled and paddled but suddenly the bottom of pool fell away. No way I could touch it. Or doggy paddle over the terrifying water. Shaking inside, struggling to float, kick, somehow made it back.

Days, weeks, months passed until I could make it to the far end.

The saga continued. I beat my fear. Swam an hour every day for years.

At a dinner party years later, a friend asked about how I learned to swim. I got to the buddying up, dead man’s float part.

Suddenly, my husband asked if the teacher was really tall and wore glasses?

It was my husband. First time we met.

Years later I learned that without knowing it when we first met — he taught me what I needed to know to beat my fear. Taught me how to do it.

SEWARD: Trouble At Nursing Homes


Trouble At

Nursing Homes

By State Sen. JIM SEWARD • Special to

Nursing home policies in New York State have been under the microscope throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and a number of significant concerns remain.

James L. Seward, who has represented Otsego County in the state Senate for 35 years, resides in Milford.

Back in July, after months of silence and inaction, Democrats finally heeded the call to hold legislative hearings.

Unfortunately, the Senate Investigations Committee refused to issue even a single subpoena to compel documents and testimony from the Cuomo Administration or state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

While Commissioner Zucker took part in one hearing, he failed to answer a number of questions and did not provide accurate facts and figures regarding the number of nursing home residents who passed away during the pandemic. The commissioner avoided a second hearing entirely.

The lack of transparency is appalling and, certainly, not what grieving families deserve.
One major concern the commissioner was questioned on during the hearing centered on nursing-home visitation policies. Loved ones and facility staff who testified at the hearings discussed the negative and severe physical and mental health impacts the lack of visitation was having on residents. The testimony was heartbreaking in many instances.

For months, all visits to nursing homes were prohibited. Then in July, limited visitations were finally allowed as long as a number of conditions were met.

Unfortunately, the extremely stringent guidelines still made it nearly impossible for family members to visit their loved ones, continuing the isolation for many.

Finally, after repeated pleas, the guidelines were updated on Sept. 15. However, there are still major roadblocks in place.

Under the altered guidelines from the Department of Health, nursing homes are allowing limited visitation to resume for facilities that have been without COVID-19 for at last 14 days. That is down from the previous rule of 28 days, a benchmark that most facilities in the state were unable to reach.

The Department of Health boasted that the new rule would open limited visitation to about 500 of the state’s over 600 facilities.

However, here’s the rub, the new guidelines include a major hurdle – in implement-
ing the new guidance, the state also added a new layer of rules, prohibiting those under 18 from visiting and requiring visitors to have a negative COVID-19 test result within seven days of their visit even if the visit is to be safely distanced outdoors.

The testing requirement is particularly onerous for loved ones; as a result, times across the state vary significantly, with many New Yorkers currently waiting 10 days or more to receive their test results.

Immediately upon the release of the new guidelines, family members began contacting my office, pointing out the problematic fine print. Tests can be difficult to come by, there are many individuals who cannot afford them, and results take time to receive.

Many family members, who previously met with nursing home residents outdoors, were forced to cancel upcoming visits due to the new guidelines.

The health and well-being of nursing home residents must be a top priority. However, we need to formulate a procedure that will allow safe visitations to occur. We also know that a negative test from a week ago, or even a day ago, does not ensure protection for the residents or staff of a facility.

There is a rapid test available that can instantly alert a visitor and nursing home staff to a COVID-positive result in a matter of minutes. Access to this test for nursing home visitors would be a game changer. By utilizing the 15-minute test currently approved by the FDA, a visitor could be checked upon arrival to a nursing home and know almost immediately
if it is safe to enter.

One person who wrote me put it this way: “Nursing home visits are essential for the elderly. They are at the end of their lives.”

The Department of Health needs to step up and provide nursing homes with the rapid tests so that visitors can safely visit their loved ones while adhering to the new mandates.

BERKSON: After 50 Bombing Missions, Airman Enjoyed Tranquillity


After 50 Bombing Missions,

Airman Enjoyed Tranquillity

An airman during World War II, Jim Andrecheck of South Columbia thought his life was coming to an end 75 years ago. Instead, he and wife Mary celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary earlier this month.  (Terry Berkson/

By TERRY BERKSON • Special to

Airman Andrecheck in his WWII flight gear.

SOUTH COLUMBIA – World War II veteran Jim Andrecheck, who lives just north of Richfield Springs, recently fell and broke his hip.

He’s almost 99 years old and I thought the injury would end his and his wife Mary’s independent life style.

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing frm Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York kDaily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

Up until a year and a half ago, Jim was driving a pickup and tending his own vegetable garden. Miraculously, his hip has mended and the two (Mary will be 100 next week, on Oct. 6) are back in their home again with much assistance from their son Tim, who like his father was in the Air Force, but during the Vietnam era.

Tim’s cousin, Patty Lewis, a retired nurse practitioner, was there to help out at the time I was visiting. Also, Candy, a healthcare worker, stops at the house five days a week.

During recovery at a rehabilitation facility, Jim said the physical therapy he was getting wasn’t aggressive enough.

So, unlike the choice he made some 75 years ago, to stay in the air with his crippled B24 bomber, he bailed out of “recovery” and headed for home, which is why he feigned dissatisfaction and where he really wanted to be.

Obviously, you can’t keep down a survivor of more than 50 bombing missions, missions where many men and air ships were lost.

Andrecheck was a flight engineer but his diminutive size made him a perfect fit for the seat of a ball-turret gunner, so the 22-year-old filled that position as well.

Over Steyr, Austria, the German antiaircraft was very heavy. In a short time six of the seven planes in Jim’s squadron were knocked down. An engine on Jim’s plane was failing and the fuselage was riddled with holes.

The pilot ordered the crew to bail out, but they held fast to the crippled ship as smoke rose from their demolished target. Fortunately, they made it back to the base, skid landing on one nose wheel and one big wheel.

Bullets and flak had made the bomber look like a ravaged bee’s nest.

Jim Andrecheck, front row, second from right, poses with the rest of the flight crew.

Not long after the Steyr bombing, Jim’s crew was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross, our nation’s highest award for extraordinary aerial achievement, but the paperwork fell through the cracks and despite efforts by several individuals in and out of the military, the deserved medal has not been awarded.

Nine years ago Jim traveled to West Point where he and 50 other men received the French Medal of Honor for participating in the bombing of German-occupied France in preparation for the landing at Normandy.

Andrecheck was looking forward to his 99th birthday on Sept. 26, while getting around with the use of a walker.

With some hard work he optimistically expects to eventually graduate to a cane, but he’s worried about the tremendous medical bills he’s incurred and is hoping that a government whose country he helped to defend will come to his aid.

On Labor Day, Jim and Mary celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary.

I’m hoping Jim recovers enough to once again pick cherries off my trees to take home to Mary who he says, “makes the best cherry pies in the world.”

BENNETT: Praising Judge Ginsburg, Except


Praising Justice Ginsburg

…With One Reservation

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

We mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, she taught at both Rutgers and Columbia, and became Columbia’s first tenured female professor. She was director of the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU during the 1970s, and argued six important cases on gender equality before the Supreme Court, winning five of them.

President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980, and Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Her intelligence, intensity and persistence remain an inspiration to millions of women here and around the world, and to all who believe in gender equality. She will be rightfully honored and remembered not only for all the doors she opened for women, but also for her gender-blind positions on all law. Initially regarded as a moderate to liberal justice, she became a liberal bulwark as the court moved to the right.

Ginsburg brought a substantive legal mind to and was a force on the court. She is perhaps best remembered for her dissenting opinion in the case of Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election. Disagreeing with the court’s majority opinion in favor of Bush, Ginsburg concluded her objection with “I dissent,” a not-so-subtle and cutting departure from the traditional “I respectfully dissent.”

Her celebrity most likely began then. She became a celebrity in many parts of our world, from law schools to SNL skits. She enjoyed unprecedented publicity for any justice of the Supreme Court. Even locally, Ginsburg’s love for opera and her talks at the Glimmerglass Festival made her a celebrity in Otsego County.

Having said that, I want to consider the idea of celebrity. Supreme Court justices are seldom celebrities, though many are considered illustrious, from Warren to Douglas to Scalia – and often regardless of their politics. Yet in my 71 years no Supreme Court justice attained the level of celebrity and fandom as did Ginsburg. Douglas came close, and he was revered by many for his 36 years on the bench. Yet in 1975 he retired at age 77.

Ginsburg did not retire when Obama was president, even though she was into her ’80s and had been through several bouts of cancer. When the suggestion that she might retire was raised, she asked the question: ”Who do you think that the President could nominate that could get through the Republican Senate? Who would you prefer on the court rather than me?” Since the President appoints, not the Senate, he could have gotten a nominee through, even with compromises. If Ginsburg had retired at 80 Obama would have had four years to replace her.

Even for the best of us, celebrity and fame comes with the lure of hubris.

Today we face an almost certain third Trump nominee, setting the stage on the court for another 20 years. Any non-celebrity, moderate judge that Obama might have appointed would have been preferable to this situation. Ginsburg did us no favor by staying on, regardless of all the love for her and her resultant celebrity.

The media-driven fame game is part of what is rotting our nation and society. It needs to be corralled. Public servants should do their duty and then go, opening the way for others. The Congress, Presidency, Vice Presidency, and the Supreme Court offer a grand total of 546 seats. In a nation of 330,000,000 we can certainly find other intelligent, capable, and – yes – persistent people to fill those seats. Even on the U.S. Supreme Court.

STERNBERG: Tragedy Proves COVID No Hoax


Tragedy Proves


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 graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine in 1978.

Adeline Fagan graduated from the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine in 2019. She started a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology in Houston. She died from COVID-19 Saturday, Sept. 19, age 28.

She most likely became infected working a shift in her hospital’s
emergency room in the late spring.

From what I’ve read, Adeline was lovely young woman. Since childhood she knew she wanted to be a doctor. The second of four sisters she had matched to a training program in Houston in 2019. She was a delightful caring person.

According to her sister whom she lived with, she always went to work with a smile on her face even if she had a 12- to 16-hour work shift ahead of her. She volunteered and served on three medical missions to Haiti before completing medical school. She played lacrosse. She was a good sister, daughter, and friend.

She was one of over 1,100 healthcare workers who died from COVID-19 in the United States.

Adeline became symptomatic in the first week of July. She was hospitalized on July 14. In early August she was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine. This is similar to a heart-lung machine which pumps blood out of the body where it is then oxygenated allowing the heart and lungs to rest. In her case her lungs were not adequately functioning to get oxygen to her body.

She fought courageously for two months. Much longer than most people last but eventually effects of COVID-19 and complications of the ECMO overtook her and she died. She was unable to say goodbye.

I repeat, she was 28 years old. I repeat, over 1,100 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Actually, I haven’t really taken it well so far.

People who claim COVID-19 is a fraud, a conspiracy, not really dangerous, and refuse to protect themselves or their families, other people, and me: Please have the integrity to be consistent and not ask for care when you and yours get sick.

Get to the back of the line when vaccines are being given out, (but ultimately get the vaccine to protect
the rest of us).

Taking care of you puts all healthcare workers and first responders at risk.

Now that you realize it is real, just crawl into bed, isolate yourself and your family, avoid direct contact with anyone not fully protected, cross your fingers, and pray.

Healthcare workers are already burned out, just like pretty much everybody else but even more so. They really don’t want to take care of people who had no respect for them.

To all the clowns at SUNY Oneonta who flagrantly defied social distancing and mask rules, you need to carefully read about the life and death of Adeline Fagan. Shame on you. Adeline was your contemporary.

For those still able to read about her, you are very lucky not to have contracted COVID-19 or if positive, get sick or die from it.

To those of you who assumed that students would behave responsibly and let that be your plan, shame on you.

To those so inclined, please join me in contributing to the GoFundMe page set up by Adeline’s sister. The money collected will help to pay their expenses that have accrued, loss of income of her family over the past three months, and funeral expenses.

Go to, hit search (the magnifying glass), and enter Adeline Fagan’s name.

BERKSON: Man Socks Rooster


Man Socks Rooster

Geezbrook’s happy now.

Last late fall, I was getting ready to box up my chickens and take them to Knight’s auction in West Winfield so that we would be free to spend some time in sunny Florida.

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His articles have appears in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

My neighbor, Jim, who lives across the road, surprised me when he offered to keep my birds in his coop for the winter. “Why would you want to do that?” I asked.

“Body heat,” was Jim’s answer. “The more chickens in my coop, the warmer it will be.”

Jim raises Bantams and their diminutive and less heat-producing size would allow plenty of room for the heat of my Golden Comet hens and my big white Leghorn rooster.

Actually, I was concerned that the much larger chickens would abuse his little birds – especially my rooster, who had spurs at least 3 inches long. To ease my mind I went out to the coop that night, got a hold of Geezbrook, the rooster who’s as blind as a bat in the dark, and trimmed about an inch and a half off of those tines of his.

I was surprised when the next day we released the chickens in Jim’s yard and two of his Bantams immediately attacked my high-stepping rooster, who always looks like he’s climbing stairs.

Incredibly, he cowered into a corner, but what was even more surprising is that my hens came to Geezbrook’s defense and fought off the bantam roosters.

After a couple of days the newcomers were accepted and things settled down.

All my chickens made it through the winter and, according to Jim, they produced eggs prolifically.

Now back in my yard, the hens who had come to Geezbrook’s defense started picking feathers from his neck to such a degree that all that was left was a 3-inch length of his bare red skin.

Could it be because he proved to be a “woose” when the bantams attacked him?

I didn’t think so. Maybe it was the hens’ way of flirting with him, but in any case he looked so bad that I had to do something about it.

I have a drawer full of single socks that somehow lost their mates somewhere between the trip from the hamper to the laundry room. I accuse my wife Alice of being careless with the cloths. She accuses me of not putting pairs in the hamper.

Anyway, I use the unmatched pairs for sleeping socks in the winter and, because I have restless-foot syndrome, many of the heels have holes in them, rendering them useless even if a mate is found.

Why not cut the toe off of one of these socks and slip it over Geezbrook’s head to protect his neck?

That night I went out to the coop with a toeless sock I had cut with a pair of scissors. Alice went with me because I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to slip the sock over Geezbrook’s head – especially because we would have to turn on the lights so we could see what we were doing.

I snatched him off his perch and held the rooster down as Alice slipped the sock into place while mumbling, “Sounds like a man bites dog situation.”

The procedure was a success – in spite of the rooster screaming bloody murder.

Minutes later, there he was back in the coop with his vulnerable neck protected. He tried to work it off but the elastic on the relatively new sock was holding.

For the next couple of days, Geezbrook was no longer henpecked. I was proud of successfully executing my idea.

Then, Alice walked out to the coop one afternoon, gestured towards Geezbrook and said, “I found the mate to that sock.”

deBLIECK: More Than Ever, People Need Guns


More Than Ever,

People Need Guns

Garrett deBlieck, an organizer of the local Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, lives in Unadilla.

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution), let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
Thomas Jefferson

Clearly among too many politicians, arrogant academia, and New York State itself, there is an awful lot of “squeezing” going on! The intoxication of gun controls has been adopted as the preferred narcotic to disenfranchise the People their Right to defend themselves.

Over the decades it has been repetition ad nauseum. Like cocaine, there is never too much control, and never so little reflection to the very reason the Second Amendment was placed as an essential human Right to secure a Free society.

This Right is stated as follows:
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The word “infringe” can be substituted by “transgress, violate, breach, wander, offend, etc.” Only the politically corrupt or the intellectually dishonest would choose to transgress this Right.

We the people of Otsego County have had enough of this blatant hypocrisy of those in office who “swore” an oath to protect the Constitution, and those who feign wisdom, but yet avoid true analysis.

Recognizing the intellectually shallow arguments among those who are opposed to this Right are ridiculous. For example, if gun control makes people safer, explain why the vast majority, and most bloody, of shootings primarily occur in “no gun zones.” Or, if supporting the 2A is akin to supporting a “gun culture,” explain how spikes in gun violence are skyrocketing  in cities who are virtually entirely run uncontested by gun-hating Democrats over decades?

To quote Thomas Paine, “the balance of power is the scale of peace.” This is the foundation for the Second Amendment and therefore is absolutely necessary. This fact can be revealed simply by observing the reality that a miscreant would think twice before attacking a person if that person could reasonably be also armed.

America today has spiraled into violence. Not by supporters of the Constitution, but rather by those bent to destroy it. Blood will be, and is, upon the hands to those who strive to eliminate the people from defending themselves.

I am proud to be among a fantastic team of the Otsego 2AS grassroots organization. Indeed, we have thousands of signatures soon to be formally presented. We adhere to the Constitution with both reverence and understanding. We believe the Constitution is in dire need of both protecting and defending; a sanctuary for an enduring free society.

Likewise, to those who have been elected to political office in Otsego County, we expect you to abide by your oath of office. Each of you have sworn an oath to protect the Constitution. That means that those laws, personal beliefs or beliefs of certain misguided constituents to which are each repugnant to the Constitution, you have sworn the unenviable duty to deny and reject. That is the essence to why an oath
is sworn.

Therefore, if one has neither the courage nor the scruples to stand upon their sworn oath, he/she has no business participating in a Constitutional Representative Republic!

ZAMBELLO: On Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Opera


‘These Dark Archangels,

Will They Be Conquered?’

As the Glimmerglass Festival’s general & music director, Francesca Zambello hosted Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an “Opera and Law” program nine summers in a row in Cooperstown.

As many people may know, the Young Artist Program at the Glimmerglass Festival is an integral part of our work. One of our recent alumni, Alexandria Shiner (last seen as Bertha in the Barber of Seville 2018), went on to become part of the Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera and to win the first prize of the Met auditions.

A few weeks before COVID closed everything, Ali took the lead role in a version of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul” in the Supreme Court’s private chambers. The opportunity came about because Justice Ginsburg held occasional musicales at the Court, carrying on a tradition started by Sandra Day O’Connor.

Rob Ainsley, the director of the Cafritz Young Artist Program, and I wanted to do something different than just a concert. We asked Justice Ginsburg if we could present a one-hour version of “The Consul,” an opera that deals with immigration issues not unlike those currently being hotly debated.

We had already presented the opera in various locations as a kind of outreach work, but all these were previews leading up to what we felt would be our most important showing of the piece.

We arrived in the morning to rehearse in the chambers like a funny band of traveling players carrying our costumes and props into the Supreme Court.

How strange – and how moving – to be telling this story of political dissidents, government overstep and visa frustrations before an audience of men and women who had sworn to uphold our country’s ideals.

RBG always loved meeting the new young artists and this was a special year. I still remember Ali, as Magda, staring into the eyes of one justice after another as she sang these words:

To this we’ve come:
that men withhold the world from men.
No ship nor shore for him who drowns at sea.
No home nor grave for him who dies on land.

To this we’ve come:
that man be born a stranger upon God’s earth,
that he be chosen without a chance for choice,
that he be hunted without the hope of refuge.

To this we’ve come.
(To the Secretary)
And you, you too shall weep!
If to men, not to God, we now must pray,
tell me, Secretary, tell me,
who are these men?
If to them, not to God, we now must pray…

Who are these dark archangels?
Will they be conquered? Will they be doomed?
Is there one, anyone behind those doors
to whom the heart can still be explained?
Is there one, anyone, who still may care?
Tell me, Secretary, tell me!

As she threw the papers in the air screaming “Papers, Papers,” the room felt electric. I shall never forget this, nor will anyone there.

RBG, with a wink, told me how she loved the simple and direct performance of “The Consul” so close to the halls of justice. I am grateful for all she gave to our Festival over the past decade.

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