STERNBERG: Rotary Edges Toward In Person Meetings


Rotary Edges Toward
In Person Meetings

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

There comes a time in the history of an epidemic when the risk of discomfort, disability and death begins to be outweighed by the risks of continued isolation and continued restrictions on normal societal behavior.

If we can stay the course on the rate of vaccinations that we’ve seen lately since the mega-sites opened, we can soon reach that point. The CDC has indicated that if all the individuals in a space have been fully vaccinated, they can congregate in small groups and without masks with very low risk of illness.

This also assumes we are beginning to reach a level of herd immunity so that the risk of a person who is infected coming into contact with a person who has no protection is decreased solely by the numbers of safe people around them.

The CDC has recently changed its guideline regarding distance that schoolchildren must stay apart. It is been reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet somewhat with the comment that the extra 3 feet doesn’t really matter much. It doesn’t mean that there’s a decreased risk of communicability, it just means that the distance between masked children may be decreased.

There is also a consideration of increased damage to the population from the isolation of individuals from normal society.

I am president of my local Rotary Club. As such I have strong input into the decision to meet openly indoors, in person, again. Lately my thoughts have changed and turned towards figuring out how to do this safely, and what point to do this, rather than simply say no it’s not time yet.

We will have to take into account proximity, whether a person has been fully vaccinated, and what distance we are able to maintain, especially while sitting down to eat and removing our masks.

In my judgment, if the vast majority of adult Americans are fully vaccinated, even if there’s as much as 10 percent that isn’t, it will be relatively safe for us to reopen with reasonable social distancing precautions. This does mean though that many people who are vaccination skeptical need to get vaccinated.

The paradox of this is that those who are most adamant about opening despite the risks or do not believe that there are risks at all, despite over 500,000 Americans having died of this disease alone all, are the ones who are willing to do the least to bring us to the point where we can open completely and safely.

In my opinion, COVID-19 is so contagious, partially because it is transmitted in the air, just like measles, that is going to take more than 80 percent of the population to be immune to give adequate protection to the remaining 20 percent.

And whether or not that remaining 20 percent says that they’re willing to take their chances, when they get sick, they still seek the healthcare system to bail them out. This puts the healthcare system in stress and still manages to put healthcare workers at risk whether from the disease or the fatigue they have felt fighting the disease for over a year.

One of the senior members of my group who has been fully vaccinated said he does not feel he is ready to go back to public meetings, since it has already been shown that having COVID or having the vaccine does not necessarily fully protect you from getting infected, and that he is high risk of serious complications.

Other members have been pushing from the beginning to continue to meet and wanted to have lunch as if nothing happened.

For myself and for my organization I feel that, by September, it is going to be reasonable to return to meetings again in person mostly with the same protocol that we had before the illness.

This course is predicated by a significant number of Americans being vaccinated. We have decided to plan for an annual fundraiser, previously done in the spring, that we’re going to do this year.

It’s important to remember that the above represents my opinion and is based only on my interpretations of the facts currently available. The final decision is not mine alone. Everybody in every organization ultimately will have to make their own decision if it’s safe again to go back to normal activities that are made available to them.

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