I love Otsego County. My love for our area was the foundation of my 34 year service as State Senator. That certainly didn’t change with my retirement in January. If anything, living here without duties in Albany has only solidified my connection to my neighbors and friends.
As COVID-19 continues on, that love fills me with urgent concern.
As you may remember, COVID-19 is a very personal issue for me. My wife, Cindy, and I first tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in late March of 2020 We were concerned, but also relieved to be diagnosed with “mild” cases. I expected a short hospital stay followed by a quiet quarantine.
That plan was interrupted. Within a week, I was on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma in the ICU. I have no memory of that period of four days in the midst of my infection. But I have vivid memories of the weeks that followed. I struggled through a slow, painful and exhausting recovery process, while Cindy, along with our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, bore the weight of concern for my condition.
I am profoundly grateful to God, my medical team, and the support of countless friends and area residents for getting me through it and that I do not wish this disease on anybody.
Given my experience, I was quite relieved when the vaccines became available at the end of last year. I followed the development of the vaccines and knew they were effective and created through a transparent and rigorous process. I, along with everyone in my family, got a vaccine as soon as we could.
My relief grew as our COVID-19 rates dropped and things started to open up again. I want to see our economy humming again. I want our kids to be able to fully participate in in-person studies, activities and sports. I want to see visitors coming to our area museums, concerts and games. Oneonta, Cooperstown and Otsego County have so much to offer to others. The longer the pandemic drags out, the more I miss sharing the place I love with everyone.
But it seems like this plan, too, is being interrupted.
The more contagious Delta variant is sending our positivity rates climbing again, bringing back county mask guidelines, and having a fresh impact on public activities.
What the Delta variant demonstrates about pandemics is just as concerning. Variants arise through mutations as a virus reproduces. Letting infections continue unchecked opens the door for even more variants—perhaps variants that are more contagious, more deadly, or more resistant to our first vaccines.
This is why I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. I know that there are a lot of reasons why you may not have gotten a vaccine yet. For some, it has been difficult to get to vaccination centers or distribution points. Thankfully, Bassett Healthcare Network, for whom I work as a consultant, now has vaccines available in all of their primary care offices. You can contact your provider and get a vaccine on your next visit. I urge you to make an appointment today.
If you have been avoiding a COVID-19 vaccine because of concerns, I urge you to talk through your decision with your doctor. The vaccine greatly protects you and your family against the serious sort of infection that I had. It offers the double benefits of increased safety and peace of mind.
Our area is strong, my friends. We can overcome this pandemic together. Our success so far is tenuous, but not lost. Vaccines are our best hope of a full return to normal.
James Seward represented Otsego County as a State Senator for 34 years. He is a Milford resident.