Letter From ANDREW STAMMEL
To the Editor:
As we enter Phase One of the easing of COVID-related public health restrictions, it is important to reflect on where we are, but also where we came from and where we are going. We are poised to surpass the sobering milestone of 100,000 dead Americans this Memorial Weekend, after just two short months of viral spread.
NY’s “PAUSE” went into effect as the rate of infection and death was escalating in our state and county. At this point, Otsego County has suffered a lower rate of infection and serious illness. But the deaths of four of our neighbors is significant and their families should remain in our thoughts and prayers.
The lack of large-scale local viral spread is partly the result of luck and our rural geography, but mostly the product of concerted efforts. The early pro-active moves of our Department of Health, hospitals, and schools have had a positive impact.
Finally, the prudent decisions and sacrifices made by every county resident have helped to protect our vulnerable neighbors. We will never know how many lives were saved by these actions but social distancing, improved hygiene, and wearing masks have certainly flattened the curve.
These sacrifices have come with a cost. Grandparents miss their grandchildren; young people are missing classmates, graduations and other milestones; and our local businesses have been battered by the social and economic lockdown.
This paper’s suggestion that the governor is now arbitrarily “setting us free” is unhelpful. The economic pause was always intended to be short-term, allowing us to weather the first wave of virus and to build up our public health resources.
Weeks ago, state health experts outlined the health metrics and infrastructure that had to be present to begin reopening. Our county board endorsed the regional phased and science-based state plan in a tri-partisan nearly unanimous vote.
Because of the sacrifices residents and the work of local government, we have now met the criteria. It won’t be like flipping a light switch back to “normal.” We are instead dialing down health restrictions and transitioning to something new.
As the weather warms and summer holidays approach, many are tempted to throw caution to the wind. We must instead continue to show personal responsibility and exercise good hygiene and social distancing. After all, most of us engaged in this behavior not because the government directed us to, but because we knew protecting our vulnerable family and neighbors is the right thing to do. Let’s not backtrack.
We cannot predict when the health threat will finally end. Many experts expect the virus to follow the pattern of other respiratory illness and spike this fall and winter.
In the absence of strong and clear leadership at the national level, we’ve seen some governors fail to enact any precautions or others who have reopened their economy while their infections continue to accelerate. This may lead to hotspots that eventually find their way here.
We should continue to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Whenever this viral threat ends, I trust that Otsego County will emerge a stronger and more compassionate community. You’ve all done so much to look out for each other already. Let’s keep up the good work!
Town of Oneonta
County representative, District 4
Chair, Health & Education Committee