The Rules Are Clear, Says Proprietor,
But They Must Be Enforced Every Day
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
‘When I was a child, a classmate was one of the last Americans to have polio,” said Woodside Hall proprietor Stephen Cadwalader. “What if COVID-19 is like polio? That’s what went through my mind.”
So here we are, a year since the coronavirus arrived – Governor Cuomo reported Tuesday was the anniversary of the first in-state COVID case – and not a single case has appeared at Woodside Hall, a nursing home in the imposing mansion at 1 Main St.
“I’m proud to say, we’re the only facility in the county not to test positive for COVID,” said Joel Plue, the home’s administrator since last September.
Asked to confirm that, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond concurred: The only one.
“We look at residents as an extension of our family,” said Plue, sitting in the bright drawing room across from the grand piano.
The home’s secret? It’s not so much a secret, it turns out, as rigorously applying generally accepted standards.
First, Plue continued, “we take care of our staff. If they arrive with even a sniffle, they’re sent home. They come back to work as soon as they test negative.”
The fact that we now have two incredibly effective COVID vaccines approved by the FDA (with more on the way) is amazing and heartening to me. Those responsible for that speedy development with such fantastic efficacy deserve high praise, and our thanks.
Let’s talk about what comes next.
• Understanding the Shot
The remarkable speed of development of these COVID vaccines makes some of us understandably wary and concerned as to whether corners were cut.
I believe the answer to this is: “No.”
Researchers sped up their trials by using existing clinical trial networks. Drug companies assumed a financial risk by beginning manufacturing while the trials were taking place. And the FDA and CDC let the vaccines cut in line, setting aside other reviews and approvals.
In that way, labs, businesses, and government agencies accelerated the process without sacrificing safety protocols.
Those are the two concepts people in government and the tourist industry are using in discussing the news that the two youth-baseball camps, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and All Star Village in West Oneonta, are seeking permission to open someway, somehow, in the 2021 season.
“If they can conform to the state’s requirements and do it safely, they should be allowed to open,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. Others interviewed echoed her sentiment.
Dreams Park is planning to extend its season from May to September, with fewer players, who would stay on-campus, as in the past. (Early, it was incorrectly reported that the players would stay off-campus.)
All must present negative COVID tests on arrival. Dreams Park’s local lawyer, Gar Gozigian, is looking for state Health Department guidance and permission to proceed.
All Star Village issued a more general statement, saying it would implement all health and safety measures, and concluding, “As things change we are confident restrictions will expire and we will update.”
Earlier this week, Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director, said, “I think it will open up pretty quickly with Johnson & Johnson,” a reference to the new one-shot vaccine approved over the weekend.
It’s even encouraging to read the daily reports in the doom-and-gloom national newspapers.
Monday, March 1, the Washington Post told us the seven-day average of “cases reported” dropped from 248,128 to 68,040.
As of that day, WAPO said 50 million Americans had been vaccinated, about the same number of us over 65.
Now, that’s progress.
After the state website kept complaining the whole State of New York had only been receiving 400,000 vaccines a week for its 16 million eligible citizens, Monday, March 1, it posted:
“New York is expected to receive approximately 164,800 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, pending final FDA authorization.”
That, plus 400,000 a week we’re already getting: It would still take 80 weeks to serve New York’s eligible citizens, but it’s accelerating.
The good news is if New York State gets the vaccine, New York State can administer it.
Despite COVID-19, Much Let To Do,
Mayor’s Decision Firm: It’s Time To Go
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With would-be successors able to circulate petitions in the next few days, six-year Mayor Gary Herzig Tuesday, Feb. 23, announced what many expected and others anticipated with regret: He will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
“During the past six years, by working together, the people of Oneonta have achieved remarkable progress,” he said in a statement, “in developing new housing options, supporting our local businesses, and strengthening our infrastructure while continuously improving upon our high quality of life.
“Even an unprecedented pandemic was not able to slow us down,” he said.
He vowed to spend his final “10 months working harder than ever” on opportunities that “will certainly present themselves in the post-COVID world.”
The political community was prepared for the announcement, with Common Council member Luke Murphy, in charge of the Democratic campaign, saying he expects a candidate, perhaps a woman, will announce by the end of the week.
Editor’s Note: By covering stories other big newspapers have ignored, the New York Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, is regaining some of its luster. In this latest editorial on the Cuomo Administration’s latest crisis, it questions whether campaign contributions played a role in the March 25 order requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients. Also, below, is a sampling of editorials on the issue.
Governor Cuomo is trying to rage his way through the horrific nursing-home scandal, vowing to “take on the lies and the unscrupulous actors” even as he repeats his own lies blaming the feds for his fateful March 25 mandate that homes accept COVID-contagious patients. Will the feds let him get away with it?
New Yorkers who lost family members in nursing homes were cheered by news of a federal probe into the matter. But the Biden Justice Department might buy his effort to blame the Trump administration, even though it’s transparently false.
Statistics Miss Victim’s Stories – Like Thom Parrotti’s
By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Alicia Chase wants you to know about her best friend, a man she calls her “work husband” after the years they spent employed together at Bassett Hospital.
Thomas Parrotti worked as an interpreter and manager at the hospital for nearly 20 years. One month ago, he was enjoying semi-retirement, raising goats with his husband Brett Miller on their small farm in Hamden – 38 acres of hilltop woods and pasture.
Parrotti ran his own interpreting business and judged dog competitions until COVID put a hold on both. Lately he’d been employed part-time as a coronavirus contact tracer for the state of New York.
This month he returned to Bassett – as a patient critically ill from COVID-19.
Thom Parrotti spent January as many of us did, working from home, watching the news, commenting about it on Facebook. “Stop being Democratic or Republican. Be honest, have
morals, show empathy, value, integrity. Be a GOOD HUMAN,” he posted on Jan. 21.
VIRTUAL CONCERT – 7 p.m. Dance to local alt rock band Hanzolo in the safety of your home this Cooperstown Winter Carnival. Visit www.cooperstownwintercarnival.com for info.
COVID-19 TESTING – 8 a.m. Free rapid testing for people with no symptoms of Covid-19. Appointments required. Oneonta Health Center, 125 Main St., Oneonta. 607-433-6510 or visit www.bassett.org/covid-19
Someone was remarking the other day that, over almost four decades, Otsego County had two key players that could be called upon in any crisis.
One, Bill Streck, Bassett Healthcare Network president/CEO since 1984, who spent years developing contacts in Albany. A Democrat, he was a go-to guy around here, someone who could call the Governor’s Office and expect an answer.
Two, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who served in Albany from 1986 until this past Dec. 31, rising to leadership and maintaining it until the Senate shifted to the Democrats. Even then, he – like Streck – knew where the levers of power were and how to push them.
In the past year Streck, 74, and Seward, 69, both retired. In tackling the largest crisis in a century, which arguably the COVID-19 pandemic is, their departures left a void.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is consistent – politicians are placing blame for the effects of the virus at the feet of other politicians, policymakers and providers, but nobody is focusing blame for the consequences of the virus where it truly belongs, with:
• The virus itself
• The state’s “hospital-centric” approach to combatting the virus and
• Historic underfunding of long-term care.
At the onset of the pandemic, the State of New York failed to immediately focus fully on the needs of nursing homes, and instead implemented a “hospital-centric” approach that led to limited access to testing, extensive staffing and PPE shortages in nursing homes.
The COVID-19 virus first appeared in the United States at a nursing home in Washington State, with devastating consequences. New York disregarded this fact and implemented a “hospital-centric” approach to combatting the virus, instead of looking at the people who were most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus – namely nursing-home residents.
New York’s “hospital-centric” approach focused the state’s limited resources on hospital-based solutions such as the Javits Center and the USS Comfort, that ultimately proved to be ill-advised, while nursing homes throughout New York State were left scrambling to safeguard their residents and staff.
Almost 80 percent of New York State’s nursing home resident care is paid for by Medicaid. The state has cut Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes for over 12 years in a row – creating a reimbursement void that was only exacerbated by the state’s primary focus on hospitals through-out the pandemic!
The statewide average cost of providing around-the-clock nursing home care is $266. However, the statewide average Medicaid reimbursement for 24-hour care is $211, resulting in nursing homes being reimbursed $8.79 per hour to care for our most vulnerable! Most folks pay their babysitter more than $8.79 per hour!
Policymakers and legislators must stop the blame game, work in partnership with nursing home providers and view long-term care as an investment not an expense. Nursing homes are highly regulated providers that are essential in ensuring critical care to the State’s most vulnerable residents.
By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Call it COVID fatigue.
Shocking as it may have been at another time, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s announcement last week that this year’s July 25 Induction Ceremony will be broadcast on TV by the MLB Network, that’s it, has been largely accepted in Baseball Town.
What was expected to be record-breaking crowds cheering superstar Derek Jeter on the Clark Sports Center fields into the Hall of Plaques has turned into a so-far unspecified number of people in an unspecified venue.
The word of the week is “disappointed,” sometimes followed by a “but.”
“While the village is disappointed,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, “I think the Hall of Fame made a wise – and probably the only – decision they could make.”
“To say it’s disappointing is an understatement,” added Jeff Katz, Friends of Doubleday president (and former mayor), “but not a surprise. I’d be surprised if anybody was shocked.”
I was asked to give a talk at the Center for Continuing Adult Learning recently in Oneonta. It was supposed to be on vaccine development and distribution, but two days before I was to give it, I was asked by a participant to address treatment of active COVID-19.
Up to this point I have avoided discussing this because each physician chooses treatment for each patient based on many factors, including recommended protocols, approved medications, and most important, consideration of each patient as an individual.
Nonetheless there is some general advice from the NIH (National Institute of Health).
The NIH divides severity levels for COVID-19 into five parts with their recommendations.
►ONE: Not hospitalized, mild to moderate COVID-19.
There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against any specific antiviral or antibody therapy.
SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies are available for outpatients who are at high risk of disease progression.
Antibodies bind to the virus, block its ability to get into a cell, and trigger a response from white blood cells to come and attack the virus.
Antibodies could be natural or manufactured. Dexamethasone is a steroid anti-inflammatory which is approved in more severe stages and should not be used here.
►TWO: Hospitalized but does not require supplemental oxygen.
Dexamethasone should not be used. There are insufficient data to recommend for or against the routine use of Remdesivir. (Remdesivir is a drug specifically to treat viral diseases). For patients at high risk for disease progression, the use of Remdesivir may be appropriate. (Yes, I too find this statement very confusing.)
►THREE: Hospitalized and requires supplemental oxygen, but does not require high-flow oxygenation, mechanical ventilation, or an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenator – sort of like a heart/lung machine used in open heart surgery).
Use one of the following three options: Remdesivir for patients who require minimal oxygenation, Dexamethasone and Remdesivir for patients who require increasing amounts of supplemental oxygenation, or Dexamethasone alone when combination therapy cannot be used or if remdesivir is not available.
►FOUR: Hospitalized and requires oxygen through a high-flow device or non-invasive ventilation. Use one of the following options; dexamethasone or dexamethasone and remdesivir.
►FIVE: Hospitalized and require mechanical ventilation or ECMO. Use dexamethasone.
There are other drugs that have been considered for use in COVID-19.
One is Invermectin. Others are monoclonal (all one type) antibodies as described above. Another drug fluvoxamine (Fluvox) is a drug used for obsessive-convulsive disorder and was hypothesized to block excessive inflammatory reactions.
Bottom line if sick is, find a physician who you trust. A good physician will listen to a patient’s concerns and questions and then when you are comfortable with them, your best shot is to follow their instructions.