By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – With 46 cases of COVID-19 already identified in November, Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, has a warning for residents:
If you have symptoms, stay home.
“We’re getting lax in thinking that COVID is a possibility,” she said. “You get people thinking it’s the same runny nose they get every fall, and three days later, you lose your sense of taste and test positive for COVID. But you’ve been spreading it that whole time.”
The 17 cases last week were traced to three residential and nursing homes – including a cluster of 10 cases at a residential home in Oneonta.
“The employees had mild symptoms that, in other times, they wouldn’t bat an eye at,” she said. “But then they went into work and infected the staff and residents.”
Some of those infected were high-risk, but currently, Bond noted, there have been no hospitalizations.
The tough part, she said, is finding testing, with waits up to a week for results from testing at Bassett drive-thru clinics.
“It’s a challenge,” said Bond. “And it’s not just us, it’s the whole state. Health departments and health care workers are stretched, and they just don’t have the capacity to increase testing. I don’t know what the answer is.”
CVS in Cooperstown offers limited rapid-testing, as well as standard COVID testing, promising results in 2-3 days. Patients are asked to fill out an online checklist of symptoms to see if they qualify to make an appointment, with priority given to those who live or work in “high-risk” areas, including healthcare, prisons or residential homes, or who have been recommended for testing by a doctor.
WellNow, on Oneonta’s Southside, also offers COVID testing, including the rapid testing and
antibody tests, by appointment only.
“We need to remember not to go to work if you have symptoms,” she said. “Especially if you work in a sensitive setting. Go get tested.”
In the last four weeks, Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, there have been 172 cases and one death following a hospitalization, with another hospitalized patient recovered and released.
At Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, cases seem to be going back down, with only 11 reported total between the two colleges since last week. In all, the Hartwick College outbreak, traced to Red’s Ale House over the weekend of Oct. 16-17, infected 35 students over three weeks.
When students return home for Thanksgiving break, they will not return for the remainder of the semester, and finish with remote learning.
But Bond believes that even with students gone, the risks are still there. “Everyone is seeing an increase,” she said. “People are inside more. No one’s to blame, but we have to figure out that this virus is different for everybody.”
“It’s not going away,” she said.