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News of Otsego County

COVID-19

10 In Quarantine After COVID Exposure On Thanksgiving
22 Cases Arise Over The Weekend

10 Quarantined After COVID

Exposure On Thanksgiving

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – 10 Otsego County residents had to go into quarantine after guests at their Thanksgiving dinners tested positive for COVID-19, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director.

“Someone at those parties became sick either on Thanksgiving or a few days after,” she said.

27 COVID Cases Reported Over Thanksgiving Holiday

27 COVID Cases Reported

Over Thanksgiving Holiday

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – With 11 cases reported on Thanksgiving and 16 reported today, COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the county, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director.

The county has seen cases triple in the last week, including more than 40 cases stemming from the an outbreak at the Copper Fox tavern. The Red Jug Pub and the Beer Barrel Inn have also seen cases, and customers at both bars were asked to quarantine after the possible exposure.

COVID-19 Vaccine Due; Drugstores Prepare

COVID-19 Vaccine Due;

Drugstores Prepare

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – When the COVID-19 vaccine is available, Otsego County will be ready.

“Before the pharmacies could give the flu shot, we used to do a lot of the vaccinations,” said Heidi Bond, county public health director. “We are well aware of what needs to be done when we go into communities that may not have a lot of options for vaccinations.”

With the announcement that Pfizer, whose vaccine reportedly has a 90-percent rate of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, is applying for “Emergency Use” by the Food & Drug Administration, Bond hopes healthcare workers and first responders could start receiving it as soon as mid-December.

“Front-line workers will be prioritized,” said Bond. “That includes healthcare workers and EMTs.”

And Pfizer isn’t the only trial that’s showing success.

Moderna’s vaccine was reported to have 95-percent efficiency, according to NPR, and the AP reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine,had also shown 90-percent efficiency and, unlike the other two, only required one shot.

In addition to the county Health Department, CVS pharmacies in Cooperstown and Sidney, and Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs have stepped forward to offer their services in administering the vaccine.

“We’re excited to be part of the community effort to vaccinate against COVID,” said Autumn Koniowka,
pharmacy manager, Cooperstown CVS. “As soon as there is more information made available publically, we’ll start letting people know about the process.”

“When vaccines are authorized and made available to the general public, Kinney pharmacists will be able to administer them following federal vaccine prioritization guidelines,” said Rebecca Bubel, R.Ph. Kinney Drugs president, in a statement. “As we have since 1903, our employee-owners remain 100-percent committed to supporting our communities on the front lines. By working together, we can help bring this pandemic under control.”

Appointments would be scheduled in a similar fashion to their current program, with appointments made online or by calling the pharmacy.

In Oneonta, Walgreens, which has three locations in the city and town, has not indicated whether or not they will offer the vaccine, although they do offer flu and shingles vaccines.

Community partners are critical, said Bond, because otherwise, the Health Department staff could be
“a challenge.”

“We may find ourselves trying to prioritize between contact tracing and vaccinations,” she said.

But with the right resources, including the Health Depart-ment staff, supplemented by volunteers and nursing students, the whole county population – all 59,493 of us – could be vaccinated in three to five days.

The vaccine will be free, although providers may bill a patient’s insurance. Those without insurance will be covered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But it could still be “3-4 months,” warns Bond, before the general population can line up to get their shot, and much of that depends on how much of the vaccine is sent to the county at a time.

“The earliest I see it available to the general population is March or April,” she said.

COVID-19 Cases Triple In County

COVID-19 Cases

Triple In County

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Heidi Bond

COOPERSTOWN – Last Tuesday, Nov. 17, there were 37 new cases of COVID-19 reported.

In the seven days since, that number tripled to 126 by Nov. 24, with hospitalizations up two, from four to six, since last week, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

That makes the highest number of community cases – that’s not counting the 700-plus SUNY Oneonta outbreak – since the pandemic started in March.

“If our cases continue to increase the way they have, even taking the holiday out, we are facing unprecedented community spread,” she warned. “Now put in the holiday, and if we don’t take precautions, that number is going to continue to rise.”

Forty-one of the cases are already linked to a gathering of people eating and drinking at the Copper Fox Tavern in Oneonta, making it the largest community cluster.

“Reportedly, they were following all guidelines,” she said of the Copper Fox outbreak. “But patrons don’t have to wear a mask when they’re eating or drinking, so dining out is still a risky activity.”

Two more Oneonta bars have also reported cases, with one employee testing positive at the Beer Barrel Inn in the Sixth Ward. At the Red Jug Pub on Main Street, patrons who were at the popular college bar on Friday, Nov. 20 are being asked to quarantine and monitor their symptoms after an employee who worked that night tested positive.

First responders, including several in the Oneonta Police Department, and both residents and employees of both residential and nursing homes, have also tested positive in the last week.

SUNY Oneonta had a spike in cases, with 12 students and three employees testing positive before students returned home for the rest of the semester, while Hartwick College saw four cases.

By the end of the semester, SUNY’s numbers totaled 764, Hartwick’s, 71.

In all, Oneonta has 66 of the cases, the highest concentra-tion in the county. By contrast, Cooperstown, had numbers “too small to say,” according to Bond; “America’s Most Perfect Village” was singled out by Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing Monday, Nov. 23, for having the lowest numbers in the state.

However, to keep those numbers low, the Cooperstown Village Board this week voted 6-0 to return to meeting over Zoom, beginning at its Dec. 28 meeting.

“I know members who feel that, with the increase in cases, would like to return to virtual meetings for now,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.

Bassett Healthcare restricted visitors at their hospitals to “only individuals considered essential to the medical care of a patient” – parents, birth partners and those with family members receiving end-of-life care, effective Monday, Nov. 23. Visitation is also suspended at the Fox Nursing Home.

And with the holidays looming, Cuomo issued an executive order banning gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to combat the spread. Sheriff Richard J. Devlin said he has insufficient resources and no plans to enforce the order.

“We’re having trouble handling police calls as it is,” he said. “We don’t need to be checking on people’s Thanksgiving dinners, and we won’t.”

He did say, however, if his deputies respond to a domestic or a fight, for instance, and guidelines are being flouted, they might issue tickets.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the state Sheriff’s Association, who issued a statement on Monday, Nov. 24 saying that they lacked the resources to enforce the order. (See text, page A5).

“We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority,” said the statement, which was unsigned.

“We have trust that our citizens will be responsible,” said Devlin. “And the governor’s executive order doesn’t have the teeth for us to even enforce or make arrests.”

But even if enforcement isn’t possible, Bond said that’s no excuse to pack a house full of out-of-town guests.

“My recommendation is not to have Thanksgiving with anyone you don’t associate with on a day-to-day basis,” said Bond. “There is so much community illness, and people are unintentionally spreading it, because they don’t know they have it.”

As COVID Cases Rise, Oneonta Schools Go Virtual Until January

As COVID Cases Rise,

Oneonta Schools Go

Virtual Until January

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – With COVID cases topping 126 county-wide this past week, including five Oneonta Elementary School staff members and one high school student, Superintendent Thomas Brindley announced that all schools will go fully remote until Tuesday, Jan. 19.

“Concerns associated with our community’s rising COVID-19 cases, recent cases that have affected our schools, uncertainty of what the holiday impact may have on COVID cases, need to establish a bit of educational stability and consistency during this time,” he wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website. The DoH has referred to Oneonta as the ‘epicenter’ of this outbreak, and our community is witnessing its highest COVID-19 positive numbers outside of what we experienced with the college spike.”

Cuomo Praises Cooperstown As Lowest In COVID Infections

Cuomo Praises Cooperstown

As Lowest In COVID Infections

With an infection rate of .24 percent, Cooperstown was praised by Governor Andrew Cuomo during his press briefing yesterday as being the lowest in the state. Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who snapped this screenshot, echoed the praise in a press release sent this morning.  “We are pleased that Cooperstown was singled out in Gov. Cuomo’s Nov. 23 briefing for its low COVID-19 infection rate,” she said. “As Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays approach, the Village Board of Trustees supports NYS and CDC recommendations for continued safe practices during the pandemic to keep our rate low. ” During last night’s Village Board Meeting, the board voted 6-0, with one absence, to return to virtual meetings for December.

 

With 30 Infected, County COVID Totals Hit New High

COUNTY HITS

NEW RECORD:

30 INFECTIONS

Daily Tally Sets New Mark;

5 Patients Now Hospitalized

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – Thirty people tested positive for COVID-19 today, setting a new record for the number of cases reported in one day, according to Heidi Bond, county public health director.

Additionally, a fifth person has been hospitalized with the virus, bringing the county’s total to five, up one from last week.

The spike comes less than a week after the county Public Health Department reported a record-setting 18 cases in one day , prompting the Oneonta School District to go remote after students tested positive.

28 COVID Cases Reported Saturday, Sunday

28 COVID-19 Cases

Surface On Weekend

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the county, with 28 cases reported over the weekend, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

11 cases were reported Saturday, Nov. 21 and 17 were reported today, Bond noted in her daily press release. According to the NY Forward Dashboard, Otsego County currently has a 1.1 percent average positivity rate, with 600 people tested yesterday.

4 Hospitalized As COVID Rampages Through County
22 Cases Tied To Copper Fox, First Responders Sick Too

4 Hospitalized As COVID

Rampages Through County

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – Four people have been hospitalized as COVID-19 numbers rise throughout the county, bringing the total number of infections to 90.

One of those hospitalized, Bond said, is a resident of a group home, where outbreaks began two weeks ago, although the others are not related to any particular cluster.

In the last two days, 29 cases have been reported, with 20 of those stemming from an outbreak at the Copper Fox. A similar exposure has been reported at the  Beer Barrel, 19 ½ Fonda Ave in Oneonta, with Bond warning patrons that if you were at the Beer Barrel Nov 15-16, they need to quarantine and monitor symtoms fror 14 days..

CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs
Otsego COVID Cases Double, 5 Delaware Ones Sent Here

CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor Gary Herzig takes a COVID test when the SUNY epidemic h

ONEONTA – In the past week, Otsego County doubled its November COVID-19, leaving Oneonta’s mayor and his wife among the newly quarantined.

With 37 new cases of the virus identified from Tuesday the 10th to Tuesday the 17th, the number of cases for the month rose from 46 to 83 in just seven days. Two from Otsego County were hospitalized, including a resident from a group home where 16 were infected after a staff member tested positive.

“The numbers are going in the wrong direction,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “And unfortunately, it’s a bit random, so that’s worrisome.”

Herzig himself is in “voluntary quarantine” after his wife Connie was exposed at Cooperstown Elementary School. She was deemed to be in “close contact” with a Cooperstown Elementary School teacher who tested positive for COVID on Monday, Nov. 16.

Herzig, who was substitute teaching at the school she retired from in 2018, is under required quarantine for two weeks.

“It’s something we’re all going through,” said the mayor, who was nonetheless able to attend this week’s Common Council meeting, held via Zoom.

Neither Herzig has shown symptoms or tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, Nov. 17.

But more worrisome, said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director, is that her team so far hasn’t been able to link — or contact trace – some of these new cases spreading across the county.

“People can’t figure out where they picked it up,” she said. “These are people who have no known exposure to someone who they knew had tested positive.”

Last week, an employee at Applebee’s in the Southside Mall tested positive, but Bond said that no patrons have come forward with positive tests, only a few “close contacts” of the patient.

And before that, staff and residents of two residential living facilities, one in Oneonta and one in Cooperstown, tested positive for the virus, marking small “clusters” of cases that could be traced.

“That’s what we do when we interview people,” she said. “We try to determine where they’ve been for the last two weeks.”

The good news, she said, is that the SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College outbreaks have quieted, with one case at Hartwick and three at SUNY in recent days.

It’s too early, she said, to determine how many cases will spread from the positives at Cooperstown and Greater Plains Elementary Schools, both which went to remote learning this week after positive tests.

In all, 218 people are in quarantine, with one hospitalized at Albany Medical Center.
Local hospitals, meanwhile, are housing patients from Delaware County.

“Delaware County doesn’t have any ICU beds,” Bond told the SUNY Oneonta COVID-19 Task Force during its meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. “Two of those patients are at Fox Hospital, and three of them
at Bassett.”

According to Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Bassett Health Network spokesman, no hospitals in Delaware County are critical-access hospitals and they don’t have any ICU beds.

“They routinely transfer critical-care patients elsewhere,” she said.

While Fox does not have a dedicated ICU, Huxtable-Hooker said they have sectioned off spaces to provide COVID-specific care.

“Not all patients who are hospitalized for the coronavirus need ICU care,” said Huxtable-Hooker. “Some respond to treatment quickly and fully recover.”

Numbers are rising statewide and nationally, especially as students prepare to head home for the holidays, a move that could cause cases to spike.

“Families bringing their kids back to the area need them to quarantine for 14 days,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s the holidays, and no one wants to quarantine away from their family.”

Plan: Catch Virus Before It Can Spread

Plan: Catch Virus

Before It Can Spread

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Dr. Dennis Craig

ONEONTA – A draft plan on reopening SUNY Oneonta on Feb. 1 was released Monday, Nov. 16, that – among many points in the single-spaced, 22-page document – addresses a particular community concern.

That is, preventing this fall’s outbreak of 700-plus on-campus cases from happening again.

In an interview, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig called it “a strong plan” that includes a five-point prevention protocol he had outlined Nov. 9 in a video message to the campus:

• One, all students will be tested on arrival.

• Two, all students coming in from “hotspots” will be quarantined.

• Three, students, faculty and staff will undergo surveillance testing every two weeks.

• Four, a “pause” if the infection rate rises.

• And, five, Craig said, “what I would call a zero-tolerance code of conduct.”

“What gives the Oneonta plan an edge is: the campus went through something very difficult and learned lessons very quickly,” said Craig. “That makes it safer going forward.”

Under the plan, which is due in SUNY’s Albany headquarters by Dec. 10, students would begin returning Jan. 1, and classes – 20 percent of which would by M2M (mask-to-mask) – will begin Feb. 1.

The plan also limits the number of students taking classes on-campus to 1,100; it is usually 5,000. And only one person will be assigned to each dorm room; no more than four students will use each dorm bathroom, which will be cleaned twice daily.

Mayor Gary Herzig previewed the plan over the weekend and said Monday, “I found it to be very encouraging.”

“There was a significant increased focus on what happened off-campus, building stronger community relations, and eliminating unsafe behaviors,” he said. “That was something we did not see in the plan for opening in the fall.”

Craig bolstered that initiative Monday, he announced the appointment of Franklin D. Chambers to a new position, vice president/external affairs. In Oneonta since 2015, Chambers, who has been VP/student development, “will build and attend to the connections that make SUNY Oneonta among our region’s most unique assets,” the president said.

“I’m also encouraged by the open communications and sense of partnerships I’ve had with President Craig over the past several weeks, which is critical to a safe opening,” the mayor said. “We all want the campus to open. I think the plan does a good job of addressing risks while allowing the college to return to some semblance of normalcy.”

The plan was developed over the past month by a COVID Response Team co-chaired by Provost Leamor Kahanov and Vice President/Finance & Administration Julie Piscitello, and may be viewed in full by Googling “SUNY Oneonta 2021 reopening.”

Kahanov agreed tighter testing is the hallmark of the document. First, requiring students to get tested before arriving on campus.

Also, that off-campus students not only have to undergo daily checks – temperatures and the like – before coming on campus, and will have to carry a card that records those checks.

As COVID Spikes, Bassett Closes To Visitors
Copper Fox Patrons Asked To Quarantine

As COVID-19 Spikes,

Bassett Closes To Visitors

COOPERSTOWN – With COVID-19 rates rising locally, Bassett Healthcare is restricting visitors at their hospitals to “only individuals considered essential to the medical care of a patient,” effective Monday, Nov. 23.

“The decision to limit the number of non-patients coming to our campuses is in the best interest of our patients, staff and the communities we serve,” explains Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO Tommy Ibrahim, MD, MHA. “We will reassess the decision in two weeks, but given the significant increase in coronavirus cases throughout the state, we felt this was a prudent measure to take and it is in keeping with actions taken by other health systems in the region.”

‘Highest Number of Cases’ Reported In One Day, Warns Bond
Oneonta School District Goes Remote Until N0v. 30

‘Highest Number of Cases’

Reported In 1 Day, Warns Bond

CDC image of coronavurus

ONEONTA – With 18 cases of COVID-19 reported today, Otsego County Public Health director Heidi Bond has warned that, with the exception of the college-based outbreaks, today’s total marks the highest number of single-day cases in the community since the pandemic began in March.

Bond said that the health department is working to determine if there is a cluster, but that the cases are spread throughout the county.

After Student Tests Positive, Greater Plains Goes Remote

After Student Tests Positive,

Greater Plains Goes Remote

ONEONTA – Students and staff members at Greater Plains Elementary School have been ordered to quarantine until Friday, Nov. 20 after a student tested positive over the weekend, according to Superintendent Thomas Brindley.

The district was notified Sunday afternoon that the student had tested positive, and students immediately went to remote learning on Monday, Nov. 16. The school is working with the county Department of Health to do contact tracing and order testing for staff and students determined to be close contacts of the student.

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