By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – As state and federal officials debate when and how to reopen parts of the country, weekly increases to the number of local cases of COVID-19 are slowing down.
But Otsego County’s Public Health Director Heidi Bond said it is too early to tell when restrictions will be lifted here. Governor Cuomo will be the one to make that determination, and so far he has not said when or how it will be done.
There continue to be new cases locally, and people are being advised to remain vigilant.
“I do not think Otsego County has reached its peak yet,” Bond said in an email. “We continue to see new cases, although it has been a little lower number of cases being reported in the past couple days.”
Key takeaways from the Health Department as of Tuesday, April 14, when this edition went to press, include:
• The number of those under mandatory quarantine is now 30, down from 113 a week ago
• Hospitalizations are holding steady. Five people are in the hospital now and that number has never risen above 6.
• Of 46 people found to have the virus as of Tuesday, 19 have recovered and been deemed free of the virus.
Two people have died in Otsego County, the second one on April 8. One is 63-year-old Brenda Utter of Morris and the name of the other is not known.
Tracking the contacts of known positive coronavirus cases continues, Bond said. Most patients for whom it is possible to know where they got the disease, got it from someone in their household,
A workplace, Bond said, had been identified as having several infections but has not seen any new cases.
Bond, following county policy, has declined to identify the workplace or say how many people associated with it have the virus.
Bond said she would alert the public if a person who worked in a business many people visited, such as a supermarket or drug store, became positive for the disease. She does not know of any such cases here.
Bassett Healthcare Network is experiencing a similar trend to Otsego County’s in its eight-county network.
“We have been seeing some numbers trend down,” Network spokesowman Karen Huxtable-Hooker said.
Just 6 percent of people tested at Network facilities are positive for the virus. That’s down from 10 percent a week ago, she said. In New York City, those numbers have been over 50 percent in some areas.
“Hopefully these trends continue,” Huxtable-Hooker said.
Calls to Bassett’s 607-547-5555 hotline are less than half what they were at their peak, she said. When Bassett announced the line as many as 500 people called some days.
So far, no downstate patients have been sent to Bassett and no equipment has been requisitioned for harder hit areas, she said. Governor Cuomo had instructed hospitals statewide to prepare for that possibility last week.
The low number of COVID patients has led to a loosening of restrictions on those accompanying patients of all kinds.
At the beginning of the outbreak, Bassett implemented stiff rules eliminating visitors and tightening restrictions on those acting as support for sick people.
The low numbers are good for the community, and they mean Network practitioners have not been slammed the way hospitals downstate have.
But as it geared up to fight COVID-19, Bassett suspended all elective surgical procedures. That was meant to open up inpatient beds that would have been used for those recovering from surgeries for COVID-19 patients and free up those doctors.
Though many other hospital functions continued, patients have been choosing not to come into hospital facilities in an effort to avoid contagion themselves. That has translated to a decline in revenue.
The Network has begun reassigning some personnel to COVID-related duties. Employees who cannot be transferred because of their skill sets or for other reasons may need to switch to a part-time schedule. Unused leave pay can be used to offset the lost hours, a statement from the Network said.
orkers who must work fewer hours than usual will continue to receive benefits, the statement said.
“Initially, this plan will be implemented for one month and will be re-evaluated on a regular basis thereafter,” the statement said.
“Bassett believes these actions will allow us to continue providing the highest quality care to communities throughout our region while also protecting the jobs and incomes of our employees under these extraordinary circumstances.”