By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — Dr. Diane Georgeson, city health officer, spoke at Common Council, Tuesday, Oct. 19, and offered a somewhat unclear picture of how COVID was shaping up in the country and specifically in Otsego County.
Also of concern was the rate of vaccinations among the Oneonta Police Department and the Oneonta Fire Department, which was lower than the general public, she said.
“Uncertainty is very much a theme,” Georgeson said. “No one really knows what will happen this winter.”
In the United States, the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations from it have decreased. However, in Otsego County, cases are still trending upwards. Otsego’s vaccination rates, at about 56%, remain below the state and national average.
Those hospitalized are evenly split between vaccinated and unvaccinated, although the more severe cases are from the unvaccinated, according to Georgeson, and 75% of COVID deaths are of unvaccinated people.
The highest positive cases come from 18-to-24-year-old people at nearly 33%, followed by 25-to-55-year-old people, who make up 32% of the positive cases.
Mayor Gary Herzig said he didn’t expect vaccination rates for public safety jobs to be lower than the general public, an issue he said he wants to explore “how to better understand and address this concern.”
“Personally, I would have expected the opposite,” Herzig said of the vaccination rates of police officers, EMS and firefighters. “And I am still struggling to understand why those who are so committed to protecting and saving lives are more averse to becoming vaccinated than others.”
Herzig said he would reach out to other cities who have had success with this issue in order to learn what they did.
Daniel McMullen, chief of staff at SUNY Oneonta, had more encouraging news about COVID in regards to the students.
McMullen said 96% of students were vaccinated, something she said was “super exciting.”
Two students are in isolation and three are in quarantine. SUNY Oneonta has approximately 5,300 students.
Herzig said the SUNY success was a “clear, unscientific indicator that vaccines work.”
Other topics of discussion included:
- Greg Mattice, city administrator, said West Street reconstruction wasn’t going to start on time and would start “as soon as we can in the spring.”
- The status of the building purchased from the 12 Tribes on Market Street, which was supposed to be demolished in the fall, has been delayed because of more asbestos than anticipated, as well as part of the foundation wall holding up the sidewalk needs to be addressed prior to demolition.
- A presentation by Jonathan Gibbs, city auditor from BST, said “things went very well” and there were “no significant issues” with city budget.
In addition, the Council passed the following:
- A motion that allowed services from Holdrege Design/Idea Kraft to purchase advertising as part of Oneonta’s Survive then Thrive marketing campaign.
- Approval of five-year contract with Pyramid Business Systems, from 2022 to 2026, for IT support at $59,400 annually and emergency services at $85 per hour (Len Carson abstained because of a conflict of interest.)
- Motion awarding bid for installation of Lower Reservoir Utility Access Bridge to Eastman Associates for $14,190.
- Passed resolution that Common Council would act as Lead Agency in Environmental Review for update to MU-1 Zoning Code.