By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — COVID numbers for SUNY Oneonta have steadily improved with more students getting the vaccine.
Danielle McMullen, chief of staff at SUNY Oneonta, reported to the Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21, that 94% of students had at least one dose of the vaccine while 88% are fully vaccinated.
McMullen said SUNY Oneonta was doing “really well, when compared to other SUNY schools,” and credited the “strong messaging campaign” with the rising numbers of vaccinated students.
“Students came back to campus really wanting that in-person, robust experience,” McMullen said. There was a “spike (in COVID cases) that we anticipated” McMullen said who spoke of the erroneous notion that the vaccine is a “silver bullet” but they took a look at “a lot of data points including students social activity” and were able to make determinations on how they could improve their response.
McMullen called it a “testament of our campus coming together” and “being honest with the local community.”
According to McMullen, 80% of staff reported they had received the vaccine, but the information was only given voluntarily, so it is unclear what those numbers are actually.
There have been no hospitalizations associated with SUNY so far this semester.
County Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, was present at the council meeting and expressed an interest in working with SUNY Oneonta to “strengthen public health.” He asked McMullen about ways to “spread the message” through communication and outreach.
As of Monday, Otsego County has 54% of eligible adults fully vaccinated, which is below the state average of 74% of adults and below the country wide average of 55%.
Lapin blamed Otsego County’s poor vaccination rate on “swirling misinformation,” which he hoped they would be able to “join forces and address that.”
There are 140 active cases throughout the county, which means that Otsego is still an area of high transmission.
City Health Officer Diane Georgeson said the spread of COVID was no longer coming from students but “all over the county.” She also brought the councils attention to a troubling statistic that 24% of infections in neighboring Delaware County are from pre-k-12 grade students and employees.
Mayor Gary Herzig urged the public to get vaccinated in spite of the good news from SUNY Oneonta.
“I think we all appreciate that. I think we all feel safer for that, but it’s a fact that 60% are unvaccinated in Otsego County,” Herzig said. “Lets all do our share. Its been fully approved by the FDA. We definitely can do better and there’s some upstate counties that have 75% and 80% vaccinated.”
SUNY Oneonta President Alberto Cardelle was also on hand to introduce himself to the council and whom Herzig described as having “demonstrated not only strength in administration abilities but also investing in the local community.”
Cardelle acknowledged that he was new to the community and said jokingly “just yesterday, I figured out where the coffee is.”
He said he would like to work closely with the city of Oneonta and students in order to “stem further infection from the pandemic” and “complete the academic year safely.”
Cardelle also suggested he would be interested in creating closer ties with the city of Oneonta, and said it was important to make SUNY Oneonta not just “in Oneonta but of Oneonta” saying there was a “wealth of human capital” that could contribute to the growth of the city.