Facing Cluster, Hartwick Confines Students

Facing COVID-19 Cluster,

Hartwick Confines Students

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA –  With 12 cases at Hartwick College since Friday, Oct. 23, President Margaret L. Drugovich is asking students to stay in Oneonta for the next 27 days.

“And if you choose to travel to a red or orange zone, you will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the fall semester,” she said in a video posted on the college website, www.hartwick.edu.

The State of New York began identifying in-state “hot spots” as red, orange and yellow zones.
Though Otsego County is not considered a “hot spot,” Chemung, Orange and Rockland counties are “red zones,” as is Brooklyn.

After weeks of almost no on-campus infections, many of the new cases traced to a gathering at Red’s Ale House, a popular college bar on Main Street.

Others infections resulted from socializing in dorms and having “personal contact” while not wearing masks.

As such, the college has also “rolled back” policies on socializing, banning students from having anyone other than roommates in their dorm rooms.

“We know these cases are the result of individual choices,” she said. “At this time, there is no evidence of classroom transmission.”

Also, students must now fill out a “travel declaration form” before leaving the city.

It’s the second such cluster in the last week: According to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, 19 people have tested positive for the virus following a wedding at a private residence in the Town of Otsego.

“Our challenge with this wedding is that they have not been the best at cooperating,” said Bond. “We have not yet received the guest list, so we have not been able to notify everyone that they need to quarantine so we can stop the spread.”

Last week, a staff member at Cooperstown Elementary School tested positive, prompting the classes to go remote until Monday, Oct. 26. That case was linked to the wedding, as were the three positive tests in people who live in a group home.

According to Bond, the wedding hosts were issued a ticket for violating the public health law prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people.

There are currently 40 active cases in the county, and that, despite the college outbreaks, the spread to the Oneonta community remained minimal. “There are very few cases outside of the college in the city,” she said.

Bond did note, however, that no cases have arisen from the NY Harvest Fest, a weekend-long pro-marijuana gathering of more than 1,500 people in New Lisbon Oct. 9-11. The organizer, George Knarich, was ticketed for failing to adhere to the gathering guidelines, as well as trespassing.

“I’m hoping that the work we did to get it on the radar paid off,” she said. “Maybe it wasn’t as well attended as it might have been.”

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