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News of Otsego County

COVID-19

Vaccine clinics at local schools

Vaccine clinics at local schools

STAFF REPORT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The Otsego County Department of Health announced Thursday, May 6, that it would be setting up vaccine clinics at several county schools.

Residents 16 and up will be eligible for vaccinations.

Participating schools include Cherry Valley-Springfield, Richfield Springs, Schenevus and Morris. The clinics will be open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Go to www.otsegocounty.com/departments/d-m/health_department/covid-19_vaccination_clinics.php for more information.

Kenneth F. Huemmer III

In Memoriam

Kenneth F. Huemmer III, 38
May 23, 1982 – April 12, 2021

Kenneth F. Huemmer III

He tested positive for Covid -19 on March 2, 2021. He entered the hospital on March 26, suffered a rapid decline, and passed away from the complications of multiple organ failure and sepsis, at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, NY on April 12.

Kenny was born in Tucson, AZ on May 23rd 1982 to parents Ardith L. and Kenneth F. Huemmer, Jr. He graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School, Oneonta Sr. H.S., and attended Herkimer County Community College. Most recently, he worked for the State of New York, managing an OTB store in Green Island. Kenny, loving the outdoors, was an avid skier, hiker and kayaker.
Standing 6’6” tall, he was known as a “gentle giant”. Ever friendly, always uplifting, he didn’t believe in speaking ill of anyone, always choosing the higher ground. Having lost his father at the tender age of nine, he thought life was too short to waste time on negativity toward others… Indeed, it was.

He was predeceased by his loving father, Kenneth F. Huemmer, Jr. in 1991; his paternal grandparents Kenneth, Sr. and Joan Huemmer; his maternal grandparents Dr. Kent and Jane Lawson.

He is survived by his loving mother and step-father Ardie and Jay Dinga, Oneonta; brother Brett Huemmer, Seattle; step-brothers Zachary Dinga, Dallas and Rocky (Stephanie) Dinga, Bethesda; loving aunts Leila (Roger) Jacobs, Nancy (Peter) Mangione and Ellen (Ken) Huemmer-Harnett, loving girlfriend Jennifer Edwards, as well as many cousins.

Rejoining The World

Rejoining The World

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

After a year of separation, Cathy Weir of Cooperstown trims her mom Elinore Sorbera’s pageboy. Now in her 90s, Mrs. Sorbera was head nurse at the county’s former Meadows Nursing Home on Route 33, predecessor to Coopers- town Center, where she resides now.

A decade ago, Kent Turner was working in the kitchen at Oneonta’s B-Side Ballroom, the popular nightspot, when he noticed a vivacious woman and her girlfriends were becoming regulars.

“We starting talking,” said Kent, and one thing led to another. “She had a heart of gold.”

Kent and Jackie fell in love.

Soon, the couple was attending Oneonta’s Community Gospel Church. For seven happy years, “she was really helpful in turning my life around,” he said.

But it wasn’t to continue.

Jackie was stricken with premature dementia in her late 50s, and she was admitted to Cooperstown Center’s Serenity Place, where her loving companion visited her regularly – until he couldn’t.

In February 2020, as COVID-19 loomed, state regulations forced Cooperstown Center to close its doors to visitors. For 13 months, not just Jackie and Kent, but the Center’s more than 150 residents were cut off from their families.

“When we had to close those doors,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing, “it breaks your heart.”

Still, Many won’t Take Vaccination

Still, Many Won’t

Take Vaccination

By MIKE FORSTER ROTHBART & JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

With 39.5 percent, or 23,588 of our Otsego County neighbors, having received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the focus is turning to people who are adamant about doing without.

About 25 percent of us, 16,242, have completed the two shot-cycle. (Tuesday, April 13, Governor Cuomo suspended use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson option.)

“Anybody who’s refusing to get a vaccine is perpetuating the pandemic,” county Public Health Director Heidi Bond said bluntly. “We know the vaccine works. It works well. It’s safe. Now’s the time to really up your personal responsibility and get vaccinated.”

As reported in this newspaper two weeks ago, Springbrook is offering a $500 bonus to overcome workers’ resistance to vaccinations. But not everybody has that option.

In an interview in recent days,Lacey Rinker, Cooperstown Center director of nursing, said 44.5 percent of the nursing home’s staff is “fully vaccinated,” but 44.5 percent “declined.”

Part of the reason, she said, is “misinformation,” but others “are concerned about the long-term effects of vaccines that were rushed to market. What will happen six years from now?” they ask.

BARCLAY: Celebrate Pot Legalization Now, Rue It Later
LETTER from DOUGH BARCLAY

Celebrate Pot Legalization

Now, Rue It Later

Though the Governor has already signed this legislation into law, I wanted to share my statement from earlier this week on the decision to legalize recreational marijuana:

Many are going to celebrate the passage of the ‘Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.’

But we didn’t solve any problems today, we only created new ones.

Democrats will claim victory, but they ignore the inherent dangers associated with their decision. Legalizing marijuana guarantees young people will have greater access to a drug they shouldn’t be anywhere near. The minute this becomes readily available, the safety risks in our communities and on our roadways will increase exponentially.

Forced COVID lockdowns drove New York to the edge of an economic cliff, and advocates for legalization seized the opportunity to push marijuana as a financial windfall. While this may eventually improve the state’s bottom line, it will come at the expense of public health and safety.

Doug Barclay,
R-Syracuse, is Assembly minority leader.

STERNBERG: The Doctor Will View You Now

LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

The Doctor Will View You Now

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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.

On a recent morning, I had a first visit/consultation with a physician from Columbia-Presbyterian in New York City. In going to the city and back to Cooperstown, Columbia presents a special challenge to me.

It is a difficult facility to maneuver through under fully normal conditions and these times aren’t normal. It would have required driving about four hours each way and maybe even an overnight stay. Both the physician and I chose to do a telemedicine visit.

Most of you already know about telemedicine.

It was starting to be used by patients who had to travel long distances to see a doctor, especially if there was a satellite clinic where the transmission could be accommodated. Now, with the advent of multiple video options, the patient can be anywhere, from home to half the world away.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many large practices, including hospital-based ones, decided video and telephone appointments were better than nothing. What they found out was that many times they were equal, if not better, than an in-person visit.

Probably the one thing holding back telemedicine use was the refusal of insurers, especially Medicare and Medicaid, to pay for such visits. These visits take the same, if not occasionally more, of the physician’s or mid-level provider’s time. Reimbursement, when given, was less than the equivalent amount of time for an office visit.

With the onset of COVID, insurers were forced to accept the value of telemedicine, given the lack of options if as many people were to be seen as before the pandemic. As an emergency measure, tele-visits were being approved. They still are, even when an in-person option exists.

SUNY Helps Public Get Vaccinated
SUNY Helps Public

2,000 Flyers Distributed By Students

SUNY Oneonta students Barbara Lewis and Eddie Lopez designed the 2,000 leaflets being distributed to the public. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Over 50 SUNY Oneonta students have joined forces in an effort to spread the word about the availability of COVID vaccinations to communities across Otsego County.

“We organized this within days” said Linda Drake, director of the college’s Center for Social Responsibility & Community, which organized the effort. “Students made schedules in 24 hours and we have every mobile home park and low income housing development from New Berlin to Sidney. It’s been great service to our community.”

STERNBERG: A&D, OPT, Other Transportation Services Step Up

LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

A&D, OPT, Other

Transportation Services Step Up

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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 and multitudes of people, from the President of the United States on down, have tried to convince people to get vaccinated when they are eligible, and to maintain basic public health precautions; wearing masks properly, washing hands and surfaces frequently, and maintaining social distance. Only about 60 percent of the adult population has followed these recommendations and a similar percent say they will get vaccinated.

If this continues, we may never get to go back to things the way they were, because enough of the population will remain vulnerable and the virus will still circulate and mutate. Once it mutates enough, it will defeat the immunity provided by most of the vaccines.

So, to the people who refuse to follow the best practices to eliminate COVID as a continued threat to normal, social, life, if you are not going to get the shot for some reason you picked up through rumor, learned on the internet or because of political position, maybe you will try to protect yourself, friends and family. If not, it is hurting you where it really matters, in the wallet.

HOWARTH: Accelerating Brain Drain Cuomo’s Greatest Failing

LETTER from JIM HOWARTH

Accelerating Brain Drain

Cuomo’s Greatest Failing

To the Editor:

Speculation and opinions on Andrew Cuomo’s need to resign have been frequent topics in this newspaper.

While the allegations of the Governor’s sexual abuses, as well as his COVID-19 policies, have been horrible, they are just that – allegations. Guilt and culpability need substantive proof. I believe the facts will come to light in the Attorney General’s investigation and provide direction for the Governor’s future.

One facet of the Governor’s tenure is not in doubt and does not need investigation.

His economic policies have been calamitous for the state.

Since he took office, about 1.4 million people have left the state – “voting with their feet”. The pace quickened last year.

According to estimates from the Census Bureau, 126,355 residents left New York between July 2019 and July 2020.

New York State – particularly Upstate – is headed towards a demographic of a small, wealthy elite – impervious to economic woes, a shrinking middle class, and a growing disadvantaged underclass. Many jobs and opportunities in the state have moved too – to Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

There is a template for opportunity and growth. The gaps in taxation and regulation between New York and the growing states can be narrowed. A good job in a stable economic environment is not just about money. It is an important part of keeping a society viable.

I was born in New York State, went to college here, and had my first full-time job here – in Cooperstown. I love the state’s history, its land, and even its weather – most of the time. I would like to see a state that attracted and retained people who wanted to start families and businesses. I am hopeful that voters will see an opportunity to change direction in 2022, when this governor’s term is up.

Andrew’s Cuomo’s economic policies provide a clear lesson of poor leadership and an example of a course not to take.

JIM HOWARTH
Cooperstown

Springbrook Tells Staff: Get Vaccinated, Get $500 Bonus

Springbrook Tells Staff:

Get Vaccinated, Get $500 Bonus

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

With 35 percent of its employees not yet vaccinated, Springbrook is offering a $500 enticement to encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“This is important, this is safe,” said Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy. “It’s going to get us back to where we want to be, being with the people we want to be with and doing things we want to do.

That’s my message for all our employees and the community.”

There’s a distinction between new employees we put in place in January.”

As for the residents on the Milford Center campus, 95 percent have been vaccinated.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Chris Gustafson, top, counts the chimes as Rev. Mark Montfort rings the church bell at First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta this morning. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Brenda L. Utter, Morris, who was the first COVID related death in Otsego County.  In the year since Utter’s passing, 55 residents have died from COVID-19, and this morning members of the congregation took turns ringing the bell in memory of those lost. “This is a somber anniversary for the community,” said Montfort, “We didn’t ring the bell for those who believed the way we do, vote how we vote, or for any other consideration. We’re all in this together and each loss is a loss for everyone. We rang the bell for all who have gone on and for everyone who is still here.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Bells Will Be Tolled, Once For Each Local C-19 Victim

Presbyterians Plan Tribute Saturday

Bells Will Be Tolled, Once

For Each Local C-19 Victim

ONEONTA – Members of Oneonta’s First Presbyterian Church, 296 Main St., will ring the church bell at 11 a.m.  Saturday (tomorrow) to mark the anniversary of the Otsego County’s first COVID-19 death.

The bell will be rung one time for each local COVID victim; several church members, and some children, will participate in the bell-ringing, according to the Rev. Mark Montfort, pastor.

 As of this afternoon, there were 55 deaths, according to the county Health Department.  The county’s first victim was Brenda L. Utter, 63, of Morris, who passed away at Bassett Hospital on March 27, 2020.

STERNBERG: Rotary Edges Toward In Person Meetings
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

Rotary Edges Toward
In Person Meetings

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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.

All Fall To Egalitarian COVID-19
The Pandemic Year • First Death On March 23, 2020

All Fall To Egalitarian COVID-19

By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

On Monday morning, March 23, 2020, Otsego County confirmed its first case of coronavirus at a Fox clinic in Oneonta. Just three days later, the county recorded the first COVID-19 death.

Now, one year later, there have been over 3,500 positive cases here; 54 county residents have died from COVID-19 and related complications. At least eight former local residents are also known to have died from the virus. The deceased ranged in age from 55 to 103, with more women than men dying of COVID.

In tribute to the lives lost, are brief profiles of the fatalities identified in public records. Other families have chosen to keep the deaths anonymous.

A Year With COVID

A Year With COVID

In 2020-21, Traditions Fell
Away, New Ones Emerged

Network Chief of Pharmacy Kelly Rudd briefs the first six Bassett employees to get a COVID vaccine. On Dec. 23 in the Clark Auditorium are, from left, Dr. Lewis Brinton, Keith Velasco, Eddie Cook, Suzanne Evans, Liz Burns and Dr. Travis Hodgdon. In the background is Allen Light, who administered one of the first shots. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Editor’s Note: For the past year, Melissa Marietta, Fly Creek, SUNY Oneonta director of career development, has chronicled her family’s year with COVID-19. This was posted on Facebook March 15, the anniversary of Otsego County’s state of emergency.

The sun shines! The temp rises above freezing! I’m here to check in.

It’s the anniversary of The Last Friday. We knew something weird and possibly dangerous was coming. With no real understanding of the situation, we all assumed it could be days, if not weeks, before we’d return to life as usual.

If we only knew. If only we’d gone to one last movie, one last dinner out, one last coffee with friends, or one last concert. If only we’d hugged one another one last time.

Twice this week, someone told me they wished they could hug me and I couldn’t find the words to tell them I want nothing more than to hug them right back. I miss so many things we took for granted.

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