News of Otsego County


No Helicopter, But Army Reservists Back in County For Training

No Helicopter, But Reservists

Back in County For Training

As mayor of a fictitious village, CGP Professor Cindy Falk leads reservists in a training exercise outside Coopers- town. (Jim Kevlin/

For the sixth time in seven years, the Cooperstown Graduate Program has coordinated with the Army Reserves to do field training in the Cooperstown area.

According to CGP Professor Cindy Falk, about 30 soldiers from Fort Drum, six cadets from Syracuse University and six CGP students from her Culture and Collections class worked together on training exercises over a three-day weekend, from Thursday, March 25, to Saturday, March 27.

“We did what we have been doing since 2015,” Falk said. “We just had to do it differently this year.”

To accommodate coronavirus restrictions, the group had a hard cap of 50, Falk said, and the soldiers, cadets and students were kept apart as much as possible to avoid any health issues.

Beginning Thursday, March 25, the soldiers – reservists from the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion’s Alpha Company in Syracuse – did classroom training, with a remote seminar from Bassett Healthcare Network officials and in person lectures from the CGP and Fort Drum officials.

On Friday, the soldiers and cadets worked on a mass casualty and evacuation drill.

At Woodside Hall, Not One COVID Case In Year

At Woodside Hall, Not One COVID Case In Year

The Rules Are Clear, Says Proprietor,
But They Must Be Enforced Every Day

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Woodside Hall proprietor Stephen Cadwalader, left, and Administrator Joel Plue discuss anti-COVID strategies in the bright drawing room. (Jim Kevlin/

‘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.”

HYMAN: It Looks Like It’s Only Going To Get Better

It Looks Like It’s Only Going To Get Better

Charles Hyman, M.D., who served for a decade as Bassett Hospital’s chief of medicine, is an expert in infectious diseases serving on the team that prepared for coronavirus’ arrival.

It’s time for hope.

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.

Vaccines Are Here. Keep Trying. You’ll Get Your Shots

Vaccines Are Here.
Keep Trying. You’ll Get Your Shots

Elsewhere on this page, Dr. Charles Hyman, Bassett Hospital’s infectious disease specialist, says, “It’s time for hope.”

Yes, indeed, all the signs are good.

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.

County Still Awaits Vaccine
Herzig, Bliss Frustrated

County Still Awaits Vaccine


For now, Otsego County is not getting the COVID-19 vaccines it should, according to Mayor Gary Herzig and county board Chairman David Bliss.

Both men represent the county on the Mohawk Valley Regional Control Room, which briefs local officials weekly on the state’s COVID-19 response.

The county’s not getting “proportionate distribution,” the amount based on its relative population to the rest of the state, Herzig said in an interview.

“It’s frustrating and worse than we thought,” Bliss said. “Things are really starting to unravel.”

The local situation reflects what’s happening in the Mohawk Valley Region, which – one of 13 districts in the states – is only getting 2 percent of three million vaccines available statewide, Herzig said.

According to Dr. Diane Georgeson, the City of Oneonta’s public health officer, that’s because, for now, “distribution is not based on regional population, but rather by the regional eligible population at this time.”

Not only is it getting less vaccine, the region has only administered 76 percent of the vaccine allocated, the lowest of the 13 regions, she continued.

“Appointments are filling up within Otsego County as soon as they’re available,” Georgeson said, so there is demand.

THIS WEEK — February 11, 2021


The Freeman’s Journal • Hometown Oneonta

Feb. 11, 2021


Pastor Paul Messner, Oneonta, who ministers to all four of the county’s Lutheran parishes, has attended the last 13 presidential inaugurations, from Richard Nixon’s (1973), upper left, to Joe Biden’s (2021), lower right. The first one was happenstance, but then the grip of one of the nation’s foremost ceremonies took hold. (Jim Kevlin/



Tops, Price Chopper Set For Merger

Trump 2020 Billboard Going In April

Amy Schumer Flies With Local Wings


Local Governments Should Tend Our Roads, Not Our Minds

County Board Split On How To React To Capitol Attack



MOYNIHAN: To Explain COVID-19, It’s Back To The Future

DUNCAN: Let’s Try A Little Tenderness

BERKSON: The Jumping Chicken Of Otsego County

History Columns

Bound Volumes: February 11, 2021

Hometown History: February 11, 2021

From Nixon To Biden, Pastor Hasn’t Missed One

Can You Help?


Clara F. Waring

Shirley U. Banner



97 Ill, 12 Dead At Nursing Home


Arie Hillis-Brunson, Hobart, a driver for Circle of Life Ambulette Service, returns an empty wheelchair to his van. (Michael Forster Rothbart/

A coronavirus outbreak swept through Fox Nursing Home mid-January, sickening 97 staff and residents, and ultimately killing 12 of the residents.

“After more than 10 months with no resident cases, the outbreak occurred suddenly with half of the total cases occurring within a week of onset,” Fox Hospital spokesperson Gabrielle Argo confirmed.

The first COVID cases among residents were confirmed on Jan. 14, and the first death occurred two days later.

Among the victims were Patricia O’Brien of Oneonta, who died Jan. 24 in the nursing home’s Unit One, after living there seven years.

Another was Bernice Marlette, Mount Vision, three days later on her 99th birthday.

Charles Rizzo, a World War II Navy veteran and later a nurse in Oneonta, died Jan. 30 at age 97.

Frances Sokol, a Quaker activist from Unadilla who once met Eleanor Roosevelt, turned 100 in December. Before she died with COVID on Feb. 4, she complained to her daughter how the oxygen made her throat feel so dry.

The most recent death was this Monday, Feb. 8.

MOYNIHAN: To Explain COVID-19, It’s Back To The Future

To Explain COVID-19,

It’s Back To The Future

To the Editor

There should be no more name-calling or evasions from one who lost the popular vote in 2016 by three million votes and in 2020 by seven million. His policy: “The Covid will just go away” – complete with a presidential hand signifying bird flight.

Instead, national policy is now to be founded on observation and science instead of theories from pre-germ mythologies. Intelligent action instead of ignorant reaction—or policy paralysis—arrives.

Just in time.

It’s worthy of observation that a clueless Specimen 45 imitated French professors who met in 1345. These Paris experts “observed” that a conjunction of planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, caused a Black Death—also called the Bubonic Plague.

While no count of fatalities is final or completely accurate, about 25 million died, and from a much smaller world population, many times less than the present crowd approaching 8 billion. Centuries later, patiently working scientists’ discovered that infected fleas thriving on rats spread the disease.

However, National Leader 45 reverted to earlier theories of infection. Diseases strike mankind? Can’t see ‘em? Where are they?


Masks are not necessary to prevent exhaling or inhaling disease—it simply continues to move “in mysterious ways.” Nor was distribution of vaccines in a rational and competent manner necessary.

Instead, we should imitate Parisian scholars of 1345.

Past policy: just look at the planets.


Working The System, Getting The Shot

Working The System, Getting The Shot

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.

I had my first COVID-19 vaccination Sunday, Jan. 26. To get an appointment, I went through all the protocols and algorithms that I discussed previously in this column.

I was able to find an appointment Sunday in Plattsburgh. A day later I found an appointment for Utica on Feb. 3 and canceled the Plattsburgh appointment and then I kept looking for something closer and sooner.

Lucky for me, some close friends were also going through the various procedures and last Friday, Jan. 24, they found Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs was scheduling appointments for the next two days; this past weekend.

They had just scheduled theirs and immediately called me and told me about it.

I went online, followed the protocols, and filled out forms. I put in a request for an appointment for Saturday, and up popped my appointment, assigned to Sunday.

I have no complaints. In fact, that system worked better than the state system inasmuch as it asked you when you wanted an appointment but, regardless, apparently gave you the next available.

If the appointment you asked for was already taken by the time your request went in, you’d still get one without having to reenter all that information.

Unfortunately, the state Department of Health’s online registration requires you to put in a great deal of information, then you pick the time from what you saw earlier in the process, and if the appointment that was in that spot had already been taken by somebody else while you were doing the application, you have to go all the way back into the beginning to try and find next available appointment.

Somebody needs to fix their software.

MORKAL-WILLIAMS: College Campuses Opening Again. Are We Sure It’s A Good Idea?

College Campuses Opening Again.

Are We Sure It’s A Good Idea?

To the Editor:

This week, Hartwick College began moving students onto campus. SUNY Oneonta will begin the same process on the 22nd.

I am sure that many area residents are wondering the same thing that I am: Why are we opening campuses at all?

Last semester at SUNY Oneonta can be called nothing but a failure, (although the “Retrospective on Fall 2020” on, through a showcase of passive voice and pivoting, says not
everything went poorly!)

Hartwick fared much better, but is easier to manage due to a smaller student population that is almost entirely residential. The two schools were just one patch in a diverse quilt of successes and failures in campus management across the country.

Nobody was sure whether to open campuses in the fall as the country braced for an imminent winter of suffering through increased cases and deaths.

Obstacles Aplenty On C-19 Shots

Obstacles Aplenty On C-19 Shots

Bliss Ticks Off Shortcomings


The struggle to lockdown concrete information and a larger anti-COVID vaccine allotment continues in Otsego County and beyond.

“There is not an adequate supply of the vaccine,” David Bliss, county Board of Representatives chair, said Tuesday, Jan. 19. “This is a statewide problem.”

According to a list he provided, the problems include:

• Demand is higher than the
current supply.
• Only a 100-dose weekly allotment to the county Health Department and selected pharmacies.
• Undependable allotment to Bassett Hospital.
• Local appointments aren’t held for local people.
• The State of New York controls distribution of a limited supply.
• The state is falling down on communication.
• Due to high traffic, the state
COVID-19 website keeps crashing.
• Pharmacy reservation systems have no bearing on how much vaccine may be available.
• The state is receiving 250,000 doses a week, but has 7 million residents eligible for the vaccines.
• Eligibility still limited to Phases 1A and 1B.

When Will Shots Arrive

When Will Shots Arrive?

Meanwhile, Otsego County People 65 And Older Registering


Beginning this week, some members of the general public are now eligible to schedule an anti-COVID vaccine appointment.

As of Monday, Jan. 11, the state gave the go-ahead to expand vaccine appointments to Phase 1b populations – seniors, first responders, corrections officers, teachers and other school staff; in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.

Also Monday, people 65 and older were folded into Phase 1b; previously, it has been 75 and older.

Phase 1a was focused on healthcare workers. The 1b situation is “fluid,” Kelly Rudd, Bassett Healthcare Network director of pharmaceutical services, said of the many moving parts of the operation.

The implementation of phases ultimately boils down to the prioritization of limited supplies; plus, state and federal guidelines continue to evolve.

“This is an extremely complex national endeavor we are navigating,” said Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim.

Organizations that will administer the inoculation – some drug stores, for instance – can submit requests for supplies; however, across the country, demands continue to trend higher than the stockpile – lending to the delay in vaccinating at a faster pace on a larger scale particularly in rural communities.

That said, the county Department of Health and other local providers have worked to set up clinics, expanding their vaccinations to include eligible phase 1b individuals.

According to the state website, “People age 65 and over (along with other Phase 1b individuals) will primarily be vaccinated at pharmacies and other sites that are part of the ‘retail network,’” by “appointment only.”

“The COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m., 7 days a week, for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX 833-697-4829,” according to the website.

Community members are asked to check concerning their eligibility to receive the vaccine in addition to a list of various local clinics and pharmacies to inquire about making an appointment.

Bassett patients are encouraged to setup/use their MyBassett for updates on eligibility and other information as it becomes available to the public in real time.

STERNBERG: COVID Transforming Calls For Better Understanding

COVID Transforming Calls

For Better Understanding

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 is a large amount of concern about this new strain of COVID that just Monday was confirmed to have reached New York State.

At this time, I keep hearing that it is more contagious than the strain we are familiar with but not more lethal.

What we don’t know, and what we will have to find out, is whether it is as sensitive to the approved vaccines as the strain we are most familiar with.

I am personally concerned that we are losing our focus on standard epidemiologic ways of preventing spread: This is not the time to give up on distancing, masks, and avoiding groups let alone crowds.

In preparing these columns, as I have stated in the past, there is a plethora of new information available every day.

There are at least 50 articles I can choose from, not including original scientific journal articles, that number several hundred each week on all platforms. None of these individual articles can give an overall picture of what is happening and the basic science in an organized fashion.

Interestingly, a close friend, an electrical engineer, turned me onto an online course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this past semester for undergraduates and graduate students. There were 13 lectures, about 45 minutes long, on many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis by experts who are leaders in their fields. The course is available to anyone online at no charge.

While some of the lectures, and lecturers, are a bit esoteric, some were quite easy to follow. Many explain things so simply and well that the average interested person can come away with a fairly complete understanding of the important points of this pandemic and how the biology behind treating it works and is implemented.

I suggest at least taking a look at it and going over some of the lecturers. I admit several of the lecturers, while leaders in their fields, had problems speaking to a non-technical audience but most of them did a good job of educating overall.

To access the course, Google “MIT course 7.00”, then hit the first listing. Individual lectures can also be found through YouTube.

I am over 40 years from studying this material as coursework and much of what we know about viruses and immunology has changed since then but as I said above, some of the lecturers were able to distill out the essence of what they were saying so that anyone with only a high school biology background could follow it.

I particularly found interesting the first lecture, “COVID-19 and the Pandemic,” the second lecture “Corona Virus Pathology” and the fourth lecture, “Insights from the Corona Virus Pandemic” (which is given by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a wonderful teacher)

Number 10, “Vaccines”, is also among the easiest to understand for non-technical audiences.

It is very important that all of us try to obtain as much factual knowledge as possible.

Only in this way can we make informed decisions for ourselves and our families. Taking a course like this one I describe is as equally important as to gathering information by reading individual articles.






In All, 460 Test Positive Since March

CDC image of the coronavirus

COOPERSTOWN – In all, 107 new coronavirus cases were reported in Otsego County today, and all were SUNY Oneonta students, according to county Public Health Director Heidi Bond.

That brings the total to 460 total confirmed cases since the pandemic threat arrived in March, Bond reported, four times as many as had been reported in the county when the SUNY Oneonta outbreak began Aug. 24, a week ago Monday.

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