State Data Lags, Bond Says
By MIKE FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Sixteen Otsego County residents died from coronavirus-related causes in January and 10 to date in February, the county health department confirmed today. There were 19 COVID fatalities from the county in all of 2020.
For 12 consecutive days starting Jan. 17, the number of active cases among Otsego County residents exceeded 200. This had only happened once previously, in early September during the height of the SUNY Oneonta outbreak.
On Jan. 20, the county broke the record set in September for the number of active COVID cases. The following day, 30 new positive cases broke the record a second time, according to otsegocovid.com, a volunteer effort to compile local coronavirus statistics.
Active coronavirus cases in Otsego County have declined significantly in the past two weeks. There are currently 113 active cases, the county reported today.
There was a delay in reporting deaths from a January outbreak at Fox Nursing Home in Oneonta – now totaling 13 fatalities, after a new death confirmed Feb. 8 – due to a structural flaw in the reporting system, according to Heidi Bond, county director of public health.
Coronavirus deaths that happen in hospitals get reported directly to the county Health Department, which is in daily contact with Bassett and Fox hospitals.
In contrast, nursing homes “have to report directly to the state, so it bypasses the local level. I think we just got left off the reporting loop,” Bond said. “We knew about the virus cases, but just weren’t informed they had expired. It’s an issue that we in the health department have been trying to keep up with.” There was one COVID death at Fox Nursing Home on Jan. 16, then eight during the last week of January, and another four in February.
All COVID cases and deaths in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home get recorded in that county, regardless of where the patient lived originally. Hospital patients, however, are registered by their home address.
In general, Bond stated, the county has the most current data, and the state Department of Health reports are often delayed.
In Otsego and three adjacent counties – Chenango, Delaware, and Schoharie – the 2021 COVID death toll has already exceeded each county’s COVID fatalities for all of 2020.
In Delaware County, there have been 25 residents who died from COVID in 2021 and 14 in 2020. Chenango County has recorded 30 coronavirus deaths this year among residents and 18 last year. Schoharie County has had 9 deaths from COVID, five of them since the new year began.