COOPERSTOWN – Bassett Healthcare has suspended visitations to all hospital and long-term care visitors at Bassett, Fox Hospital and all other hospitals in the network, as well as Fox Nursing Home.
Additionally, access to clinic buildings and outpatient services areas in all Bassett Healthcare Network facilities, including clinic buildings and outpatient services, is being limited to only patients with scheduled appointments or required business, such as prescription pickup.
COOPERSTOWN – Though six local people have been voluntarily quarantined as precautions against coronavirus (COVID-19) since the first case was reported in New York State, said Bassett Hospital President William LeCates Tuesday, March 10.
As of presstime, none had developed symptoms or tested positive, Dr. LeCates said.
“We’ve administered between two and five tests, and not one has come back positive,” he said. “I’ve been keeping track of all reported cases, and we haven’t had a single case in Otsego, Herkimer, Schoharie or Delaware counties.”
Currently, four travelers from Italy, including a student studying abroad, are under precautionary quarantine, according to Heidi Bond, public health director for the county.
“They’re all doing well,” she said. “And the three who had been quarantined last week did not come down with symptoms.”
A two-week quarantine is recommended for someone who has traveled to a Level 2 or 3 county – China, Japan, South Korea and Italy – in the last two weeks.
“That means you are home for 14 days from when you believed you were exposed,” she said. “That means you should not leave except to go to medical appointments, no public transport, no large gatherings, have people bring you food and household items.”
People in quarantine can go outside on their own property, but are advised against being in contact with their neighbors – and there can be trouble if you don’t follow the rules. “If someone tests positive, it becomes a mandatory quarantine,” she said. “If the person doesn’t abide, there can be legal ramifications.”
There are two types of exposure, she said – approximate exposure, such as being in the same classroom or event as someone who may not be symptomatic, and prolonged exposure, from being within six feet of someone who may be symptomatic.
If during the quarantine, a patient begins to show symptoms and does not test positive for other respiratory illnesses, including a cold or the flu, Bassett, working with the county and state health departments, can order a test.
“It gets complicated,” said LeCates. “A person might have a cough or a fever, then we have to review their risks and see if the state determines that we should take a sample.”
Though Bassett doctors will collect the sample, the testing is done by the state labs.
And although no cases have been confirmed yet, LeCates believes it’s likely a matter of time before the first case is diagnosed.
“It’s progressing at a rapid pace,” he said. “And Bassett is preparing for a time when we do get positive cases. We’re looking at the challenges hospitals are facing around the county and the world, and trying to plan for that.”
Planning includes making sure they have a number of quarantined beds available for patients who test positive for COVID-19, and creating an area for large-scale testing. “We are trying to identify spaces where we could contain it to prevent the spread if it does become common,” he said.
Hospital staff are also being trained on what protective gear to wear if they are to be in contact with someone who tested positively for COVID-19.
Bassett plans to set up a hotline by the end of the week for anyone with questions about coronavirus. “
In the meantime, LeCates encourages people to monitor any symptoms and contact their doctors if they are unwell.
“It’s about good community practice,” he said. “That includes washing your hands, staying home if you are sick, and avoiding large gatherings to avoid spreading any illness, not just COVID-19.”
ONEONTA – With Coronavirus cases increasing daily, SUNY Oneonta students who hoped to study abroad will have to wait until the fall semester.
“We have cancelled all study abroad programs for the rest of the semester,” said Kim MacLeod, SUNY Oneonta associate director of communications. “And we called back 33 students and faculty members who were already abroad, including four students in Italy and two in Japan.”
None of the students or faculty are in quarantine, but the recall is part of an increasing response to the rise of Coronavirus cases and precautionary measures aimed at reducing the rate of infection in the states.
Hartwick College, Bassett Healthcare, Cooperstown Center and Springbrook are also among the institutions that have issued travel bans, cancelled events and limited visitations to their campuses.
SUNY-wide, Chancellor Kristina Johnson has also issued a prohibition on any travel to countries that the CDC has issued a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice on – China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.
“We may not use state money to pay for professional travel to these countries,” she said in a statement. “Nor may we use Faculty Development Grant money or department OTPS funding to pay for travel to them or reimbursements for travel to them.”
Hartwick College put similar travel bans in place for students, faculty and staff, banning any “non-essential” group or individual travel, and that all college-sponsored personal travel must be approved in advance by the vice president of the relevant school.
On-campus events will still be held; however, the college is not participating in men’s and women’s lacrosse games last week and the next week.
Bassett Hospital has also issued travel prohibitions for their employees, banning business travel to the Level 2 and 3 countries, as well as to any conference where there will be more than 100 participants, throughout the month of March.
They also encouraged that anyone traveling for personal reasons to refer to the CDC recommendations and to let team leaders know about travel so a potential quarantine may be put in place.
With the elderly as the most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, Cooperstown Center (the former Focus) at Index has also cancelled travel. “We had to cancel our trips to Walmart,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing. “The residents are not happy, but it’s too much of a risk.”
All visitors, staff or vendors are screened at the reception area to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to enter the building. “We’ve increased our number of hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the building, and enforce ‘gel in, gel out,” she said. “You use hand sanitizer when you come in the building and when you leave.”
Similarly, Springbrook has limited visits to emergency and essential visits only, switching instead to phone and video calls or teleconferencing, as well as suspending community visits and postponing our Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, which had been scheduled for Saturday, March 21.
Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president, has reached out to her members with links to the Center for Disease Control, the county Health Department and Bassett. “I think everyone is taking this very seriously,” she said.
She is looking at putting together a program for employers who may be dealing with impacts from Coronavirus on their businesses. “We’re waiting to hear some more direction, but we’re seeing what we can do over email, rather than gathering.”
But with the Chamber’s annual Spring Gala planned for Thursday, May 7, Heegan is hoping that the risk will be significantly reduced enough to host the event.
“I don’t know how realistic that is,” she admitted. “It changes every day.”
At SUNY, the administration is using spring break to begin putting a contingency plan in place. “It’s great that we have a week to work on what we would do if we had an individual who exhibited symptoms,” said MacLeod.
Ahead of the break, SUNY posted a series of health tips for travelers – including hand-washing, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and carrying a first aid kit.
They also asked students to volunteer to “self-identify” where they were traveling. “Not the entire population told us, but more of them told us than I thought,” she said. “It will give us a better feel for how to handle.”
COOPERSTOWN – If you’re looking for masks and hand sanitizer to minimize the chances of contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19), you’ll have to look elsewhere – Church & Scott is out.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said David Adsit, co-owner and pharmacist. “As soon as the news broke, people started buying them up, and we can’t get any more.”
Though he had plenty of hand sanitizer in stock, by Monday afternoon, March 2, after the news broke that two people in Washington had died and the first case was reported in New York, he was sold out.
A second New York case, in Westchester County, was reported on Tuesday, March 3.
COVID-19 is a respiratory tract virus from a “well-known family” of viruses, according to Dr. Charles Hyman, senior attending physician, infectious diseases at Bassett Hospital. It is believed to have originated in bats before evolving to be contagious to humans.
Symptoms include a cough and fever, with some experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. “People over 60 or who have underlying health issues are at the biggest risk of complications,” said Hyman. “And symptoms can range from mild to severe.”
The good news is that the mortality rate is only 1.4 percent, according to a paper published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, which studied 1,000 patients with the clinical characteristics of COVID-19.
“Prevention is still evolving, but the Centers for Disease Control recommends you take the usual measures to prevent viral respiratory infections,” he said. “Wash your hands frequently, avoid being in contact with people who are sick, but we know that’s all easier said than done.”
The difficulty, he said, is that the symptoms are very similar to the flu, and testing is not yet available unless the state orders it. Testing kits should be available to hospitals within the next few weeks.
“Unless you have a high fever, an unremitting cough or shortness of breath, you should just contact your care provider by phone,” he said. “But 95 percent of the cases we are likely to see will be extremely mild.”
Bassett has mobilized a team of infection prevention specialists to be ready if a case is identified in Otsego County. “We’re using the CDC paradigm of Identify, Isolate and Test,” he said. “We’re trying to identify what a person of interest might be and where they can be isolated if they do
present with severe symptoms.”
Oneonta High School is also taking precautions; in a letter sent to parents last week, Superintendent Thomas Brindley outlined the school’s stance on the virus.
“Please know that we, in any health-related case, work closely with the Otsego County Department of Health, (which is) working closely with the state Department of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control relative to this illness,” Brindley wrote.
He recommended students who are feeling ill to stay home until they are fever-free for 24 hours, wash their hands frequently and disinfect most-used objects, including phones.
For those who are counting, that’s one “housing” for every year since I served on the Cooperstown Village Board’s Subcommittee on Economic Sustainability, where housing became a primary recommendation. Since then, the physical manifestation of village policies has been parking, parks and pavement. Hardly housing.
Why housing? Because, historically, housing nearly always accompanied economic prosperity in this village…
Most housing expansions in our one-square mile village have been out from a lakeside core. When the troops returned home from World War II, we built atop green fields to create housing in this village. Walnut Street to Susquehanna Avenue? Bulldozers
created that extension and The Freeman’s Journal at the time referred to this development as progress.
Housing soon followed. Lakeview Drive, north and south? Those are mid-century modern homes following the post-war boom. Fernleigh Drive from Mill Street to Estli Avenue? Only after Bassett Hospital had two major expansions and we needed more places for our newly recruited medical professionals and staff to call home, especially when on call.
That all stopped in the 1990s when people thought we had lost our historic village. What we lost was our ability to make (and re-make) history … and we lost friends and neighbors to the ex-urbs. What areas received the most building permits in the 1990s and 2000s? The towns of Middlefield and Otsego. These places are proximate to the economic hub of Cooperstown, but with huge-acre zoning intended to save open space and agrarian life.
There have been some limited examples of growth on the second way: in, or in-fill development where the density of housing increases adjacent to existing village homes. Schoolhouse court. Cooper Lane Apartments. Grove Street. Beech Street. Walnut. Delaware. These are more difficult for systemic reasons, as seen by the public deliberations over proposals between Chestnut Street and Pine Boulevard, or the demolition and sustainability-conscious rebuilding of existing homes on Walnut and Delaware. In-fill is also more difficult in our northeast community. If our homes are too close together, where do we pile all that snow and what happens during spring melts and summer rains?
Housing developments appear even more difficult. We have a ladder truck and municipal systems capable of reaching the top of multi-story structures that are regional economic engines, yet we have lacked the desire to support multi-story concepts or homes for people at heights greater than 35 feet above grade.
Our marshy soils and high water table likely lack the geologic integrity for massive residential towers, but a plethora of one-story detached structures could give rise to even more multi-story dual-resident homes – styles that already exist historically – or additions to apartment complexes already aesthetically acceptable and popular beyond their waiting lists.
When the market demands housing – and it does – and we have zoned out expansions of supply (which on, legal disputes, and subsequent creation of the Glimmerglass Historic District and HPARB), the impact on price is artificially upward. My family was lucky. Between family property, an economic anomaly, and sweat equity, my household could afford to own and maintain a home in the village. But my story is unique and, unfortunately, uncommon.
Preference for country living aside, the demographics and economics are positive for expanding housing in the Village of Cooperstown.
First, demographics: excluding tourists, the village’s daytime population change due to net commuting is nearly plus-200 percent from 1,800 residents, or an additional 3,800 people every day. University of Notre Dame students picked up on this influx, too, over a decade ago, writing in juxtaposition to tourism: “The fact is that more people come to town as patients at Bassett Hospital or as employees.”
And remember that most of the people working in Cooperstown had to come from other areas of our state, country, and world. The education required for most direct-service healthcare jobs simply is not available at scale in Otsego County. Affordable, quality housing is key to attracting and retaining these year-round, daily neighbors – people who live elsewhere right now. We are both losing people and leaking paychecks.
For those who question this potential, here is a back-of-the-napkin calculation based on publicly available data. A recent IRS filing from Bassett Medical Center lists it as having annual revenue of over $500 million, that’s a half-billion dollars. On the expense side, Bassett pays about $300 million to its employees. Most of them do not spend it living in Cooperstown.
For comparison, the village municipal budget is $5 million. The National Baseball Hall of Fame revenues are about $14 million and overnight accommodations county-wide (including Oneonta) that reported “bed tax” generated about $43 million in total sales ($1.7M in tax collected divided by 4-percent tax rate).
And yet in-village housing for some of the thousands of automobile commuters and their families – which would also impact declining enrollment at our local school district, a key component of any community (that, and healthcare) – is barely mentioned in any municipal comprehensive plan and or in any of the multitude of committee and sub-committee meetings within this village.
This village IS prosperous – and it continues to be prosperous when you consider the economic and demographic expansions already mentioned. The problem is that we are not making it easy for people to choose to invest their lives here. Not all of the commuters or transplants will – or want to – live in the village, but a ridiculously low number of them presently can.
I’ll close with a excerpts from a 2017 New York Times article covering a study of American boomtowns: “What’s drawing people there has more to do with [affordable] housing than high wages… The larger problem is that [people] are blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that’s a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more people.”
So, in addition to upgrading the necessary municipal services needed to maintain a prosperous community like ours – especially clean, consistent water; environmentally sound effluent treatment; human-scale transportation systems; and storm-water and snow removal – I urge the village to update its stance on year-round housing so that more colleagues, co-workers, and friends can enjoy their brief walks home rather than hour-long commutes from a shuttle to a parking lot to a car to a county road to a driveway at a far-away place.
Please change our outdated zoning law soon; and then remember to re-examine it again in time and then shortly after your next comprehensive plan.
COOPERSTOWN – After a nationwide search, Dr. Kai Mebust, who had been filling the role on an interim basis, has been permanently appointed chief of the Bassett Hospital’s Department of Medicine. He succeeds Dr. Charles Hyman, who stepped down after 10 years.
“Kai’s experience and accomplishments as a clinician and as an administrator provide Bassett with the expertise required to provide overall physician leadership to the Bassett organization,” said Dr. Steven Heneghan, chief clinical officer.
COOPERSTOWN – The two-car accident that sent six Pathfinder Village residents to Bassett Hospital this afternoon occurred after an SUV ran a stop sign at the intersection of Route 205 and 80 in the Town of Otsego, according to Trooper Aga Dembinska, Troop C public information officer.
Who would have thought that you could find this magic red button at Bassett.
The pain was excruciating. After two months I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the emergency room. We arrived at 10 p.m. By 4 they took me up to my room.
Whoops, no bed. Waited a little longer, finally some rest and pain killers.
They put an object that looked like a remote next to me, it had a big red button and was attached to a long cord. I was told just to push it if I needed something. I felt self-conscious and reticent about using it. I am stubbornly independent.
The next day I became a little bit braver. And it grew from there. In the middle of the night after fighting back and forth in my own mind about feeling cold, I finally pushed the button and said that I was cold.
The door swung open and the light spilled into the darkness. A nurse walked in and pulled back my covers. She laid two warmed blankets on me. Ahhh.
You could push the button and get a cuppa tea. You could push the button and get a meal. By the third day I was getting into this.
But I still held back some, knowing that I was not the only button pusher in this place. I need to go for a little walk, push the button. I need to go to the bathroom, push the button.
On the third day I realized I was getting all too comfortable with this. It was time to try and get out of here. I wasn’t pushy and they suggested one more day. I was not going to argue.
This is one of the problems with the healing process. People become used to being waited on. They become used to the attention, compassion and concern from the nurses and doctors.
Some patients can’t get that in their life so they turned to the medical profession and look for as many procedures as they can find in order to keep the caring people around them. To feel wanted.
It gives you insight into our society and what is lacking in America. Humanism. Compassion. There are some people who would rather be sick then to go back out into their cold world.
So on the fourth day they wheeled me out to the front door. I did drag it out till after lunch! One more push of the button! It was a bit sad, there were a few people that I really enjoyed seeing and talking to every day, as they were going about their rounds, and checking up on me from time to time, around the clock. Thanks guys.
COOPERSTOWN – The sign on Melanie Craig’s desk reads, “I AM THE PATIENT.”
Over a year, Craig, the Bassett Healthcare Network’s director of human resources and employee relations, will tell you, she and her staff – five recruiters and two employment assistants – are seeking to fill 250-300 jobs, full and part-time, not counting doctors.
Even with that hiring challenge, it’s still competitive. Last year, 10,000 people applied for non-physician jobs through Craig’s office, which recruits for Bassett Hospital, the 19 school-based health centers, and 31 regional primary health centers, from Walton to Newport.
This doesn’t include hiring doctors, handled by a Medical Staff Recruitment Team, under Debra Ferrari. The other full-service hospitals, including Fox in Oneonta, also do their non-physician hiring.
There are 2,855 employees in and around the Cooperstown hospital. In the eight counties, the total employment is 3,835.
With that many jobs, and that many vacancies, and that many applications, how do Craig and her five recruiters and two administrative assistants avoid getting buried?
Remember the sign on her desk. They stay focused.
“We value experience,” Craig said, “and what we feel is going to bring the best value to our patients.”
Craig’s team, she said, is continuously looking to fill openings in a half-dozen categories: nurses, clerical workers, food service workers, maintenance workers, and “allied health positions,” such as radiation technicians and pharmacists.
The jobs require the whole range of qualifications. On the one hand, housekeeping jobs may not require a high-school diploma; on the other, some nursing positions require an R.N. with a master’s degree.
“It’s harder to recruit,” Craig said, echoing – with a 3.9 percent local unemployment rate – what all other employers interviewed for THE JOB SCENE said. “We’re not seeing the volume of candidates we want to see.”
This requires flexibility.
In one recent case, a manager had passed over a resumé. But the recruiter met the
applicant and communicated back to the manager, “I really think you want to meet with this person,” who was then hired.
“Just because they are applying for one position, that’s not the one position we are considering them for,” Craig added.
Craig’s department has also developed “stronger partnerships” with high schools, “from here to
Dolgeville, Franklin, and everywhere in between,” to make young people aware of the opportunities.
A new component in Bassett hiring strategy, not under Craig’s wing, is international recruitment, from the Middle East, the Philippines, Canada and Trinidad. “That’s huge,” she said.
Once hired, there’s also flexibility. A new hire is required to stay in that first job six months before – having gotten acclimated to the hospital and opportunities – making a request for transfer.
“We encourage that,” said Craig, who pointed out that her boss, Sara Albright, vice president/human resources, is a case in point how that can work out.
Albright joined Bassett’s billing department 28 years ago, when her husband Matt enrolled at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and moved up the ladder.
So has Craig, who went from CCS to Purdue, where she majored in business, then joined Marriott Vacation Club in Hilton Head, N.C. She and husband Tom returned to Otsego County 19 years ago,
joined Bassett HR 17 years ago. The couple has two children, Hannah, 14, and Dylan, 10.
James Connors, principal engineer at The Chazen Company, explains changes to the proposed Riverside Drive parking lot, including a three-way stop, expanded crosswalks and sidewalks, and a reduction in parking spaces from the original 170 to 143, eliminating the spots to ensure stability of the slope, during a public hearing at the Cooperstown Village Board this evening. The project, which will be gated employee parking, was met with generally favorable reviews, although some citizens expressed concern about additional traffic along Walnut Street, as well as light and noise pollution. Dr. William LeCates, Bassett Hospital president, right, expressed how vital the parking lot is to Bassett. “Many of our patients come to Cooperstown because we’re the only place that can help them,” he said. “There are few options for public transportation, so parking is a burden for people coming out here. I think this is a good solution, but we also want to be good neighbors.” The board will take a vote on whether or not to grant the requested special-use permit at their next meeting on Monday, Feb. 24. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)
COOPERSTOWN – Jessica and Jordin FitzGerald of Sidney had a special New Year’s Day – and New Decade – treat: Their baby boy, Jace FitzGerald, decided to make an entrance into this world a month ahead of his due date.
He was born at the Bassett Birthing Center in Cooperstown 3:55 p.m Jan. 1, 2020. Jace joins a 4- year-old brother Julian at home.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Betty Jo Chase, 69, a native of Florida who served for many years as a nurse’s aide at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, passed away following a brief illness Saturday afternoon, Oct. 26, 2019, at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.
Born Jan. 29, 1950, in Milton, Fla., Betty was one of nine children of Clarence and Leona (Mack) Richardson. Raised in Santa Rosa County, Fla., she graduated from Milton High School and then attended nursing school in Pensacola.
COOPERSTOWN – Donald O. Pollock, M.D., who led a lifetime of service to others, including a distinguished and wide-ranging medical career with Bassett Hospital that spanned several decades, passed away peacefully in his home Sunday evening, Sept. 29, 2019, surrounded by family and listening to the final Red Sox game of the season. He was 89.
He was born in 1930 in East Orange, N.J., the oldest son of J. Ford and Helen (Glasson) Pollock. He was raised in Brookside N.J., where he also attended grammar school before going to Morristown High School. He graduated from Morristown as the valedictorian of the Class of 1947.
QUILT SHOW – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Celebrate 25th year of the annual quilt show at Silver Jubilee. Features 300+ quilts from artists across the country with featured quilter Jim Bryden in Tudor style historic inn. Lunch available. Proceeds benefit roof project. Admission, $5/person. The Major’s Inn, 12 Marion Ave., Gilbertsville. 607-783-2780 or visit www.themajorsinn.com