COOPERSTOWN – Today started with bad news for Otsego County’s 14 representatives and ended with worse.
When the county board’s May meeting convened at 10 a.m. via Zoom, the county reps thought they were struggling with an $11 million deficit from coronavirus-related cuts. When it end, that had doubled to $22 million, double the county’s property tax levy.
To keep current levels of service, the property tax levy – and hence the tax rate – would have to be doubled.
The discussion was focusing on whether to freeze one promotion and two potential hires in the Department of Social Services when County Treasurer Allen Ruffles looked up from his cell phone.
“I just got the latest from NYSAC,” the state Association of Counties, he said.
It included a worst-case scenario, a 50 percent cut in sales and bed tax revenues, and reimbursements from the State of New York, amounting to $11 million. “It could be even worse,” said Ruffles, quoting the new report.
ONEONTA – The city that never sleeps has become a “ghost town.” Ask Carleigh Bettiol.
“As of 8 p.m. Sunday evening, the city was on lockdown,” she said. “People are not allowed out unless for essential trips such as grocery, pharmacy, or medical visits.”
Bettiol, daughter of Patricia Bettiol and the late Gene Bettiol Jr. turned Broadway star, is holed up in her Manhattan apartment. “On a normal day, I would most likely be taking the subway somewhere, going to an audition, going to take a fitness class or meeting a friend for dinner,” she said. “Now I spend my time cooking, cleaning, doing puzzles and home workouts.”
Jenny Joyce, daughter of Cooperstown’s May-Britt Joyce now working as a nurse in Seattle, echoed the “ghost town” sentiment about her city.
“There is no one out and about,” she said. “The restaurants and movie theaters are empty. We went to a ski area a few weekends ago, and it was only open to pass holders so there wouldn’t be as many people on the slopes. It was the only one that was even open.”
Even the famed Pike Place Market is abandoned as stores were ordered closed. “On the upside, my commute is a third of what it was,” she joked.
Joyce was on the front lines even before the first official cases of COVID-19 were declared. “We didn’t have access to testing,” she said. “We saw people who had symptoms, but no travel associated with coronavirus. We thought they were fine, but we didn’t know.”
Flu season was still in full effect, and pneumonia was a concern. “It’s frustrating, because we saw this coming, and we felt like we weren’t being heard,” she said. “Washington has been trying since January to say ‘something isn’t right.’”
Though testing is available, she said that many clinics throughout Washington State are running low on supplies. “We’re low on masks,” she said. “So my clinic is holding off on testing. We’re only doing it in designated areas now, trying to find ways to mitigate exposure to other patients.”
She echoed the advice of the CDC, including hand-washing and social distancing. “It’s nice to see people taking it seriously,” she said. “As we learn more and more, it’s going to be better to wrap our brains around it.”
And if you do get it, she advised, only go to the emergency room if you are having trouble breathing. “Testing is important, but it doesn’t change what your doctor would tell you,” she said. “Unless you are severely ill, you’re going to end up treating it at home.”
Though Bettiol is healthy, she admits that the quarantine has its own tolls. “I think the lack of fresh air is the toughest part,” she said. “I often take walks on the Upper West Side just to reset and get fresh air in my regular day-to-day, so that has been a challenge.”
But she sees that quarantine is a good time to learn something new, catch up on your reading or schedule online chats with friends. “There are a ton of online classes you can take, from cooking to dance lessons,” she said. “Or set up little happy hour dates with your friends and family via Zoom to make it seem like you’re out with them!”
And hopefully, the lockdowns will prevent the further spread of the virus.