AUCTION – Noon. – 11/28, 4 p.m. Adorn-A-Door wreath festival/silent auction goes online. Place bids for wreaths by individuals & businesses, or enter the ‘Dinner’s On Us’ raffle. All proceeds go to Cooperstown Art Association. Visit www.cooperstownart.com/adorn-a-door.html for info.
Doesn’t it remind you of what happened to Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich?
No sooner had she arrived in 2008 on Oyaron Hill, when the Great Recession hit.
Within a few months, the fledgling president, with no chance to build a reputation or support among staff and faculty, had to begin laying people off.
The faculty balked. Criticism abounded.
Drugovich did what she had to do. Things settled down. The economy eventually rebounded, and Drugovich built the sterling reputation she has today.
Fast forward to 2020 and, across the valley, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig.
It’s even moreso. Drugovich had a short honeymoon. Craig parachuted into the middle of a 700-plus COVID-19 infestation, one of the worst per-capita among U.S. campuses. His predecessor had departed precipitously. The New York Times’ front page was trumpeting our woes worldwide.
Craig immediately formed a COVID-19 Rapid Response Team. In a month – almost to the day – the team reported out a 22-page, single-space,
detailed-packed plan to take on the menace.
So far, some of the faculty balked. But otherwise, criticism hasn’t abounded.
Just the opposite. Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig likes the plan’s focus on the safety of his constituents. Student Association President Gabby Cesaria likes the focus on a Feb. 1 reopening; she surveyed students, and 50 percent want to return to classes.
In recent decades, SUNY Oneonta has been on the make.
President Alan Donovan, now retired and an Oneonta community leader, began the drive to push up the quality of students and scholarship.
During his successor Nancy Kleniewski’s tenure, Oneonta was often mentioned, along with Geneseo and New Paltz, as one of “SUNY’s Ivies,” if you will.
During that period, the SUNY System invested heavily in the hilltop. Tom Rathbun, the level-headed assistant vice president/facilities, was spending $30-40 million a year upgrading the campus, and it looks great. (His successor, Lachlan Squair, appears to be quite an innovator, making SUNY Oneonta an innovator in Upstate Medical’s novel “pool testing.”)
And alumnus Bill Pullman starred in “Independence Day.” You can’t get much better than that.
SUNY Oneonta dropped the ball when COVID-19 arrived. That was then; recent, but then.
This is now.
The SUNY Oneonta community must want to return to what it was, a campus on the make. With its particular COVID mess behind it, the SUNY Oneonta community should strive, as one, to be a Model of the Reopening.
With two anti-COVID vaccines coming online, with the wide local acceptance of masks and social distancing, with the high-level of community sensitivity to COVID, it can be done.
The online petition – only a fraction of the faculty, some 71 out of 500 professors and instructors, have signed it – takes on Craig and Provost Leamor Kahanov personally.
While no doubt well meaning, the petition drive seems to be the wrong instrument at this point.
Of the many issues raised, the one about sensitivity to relatives of faculty who may have pre-existing conditions resonates most. But it’s hard to believe the administration would not seek to ensure what protection it can to people under particular threat of COVID.
No doubt the key players in the campus hierarchy are as imperfect as the rest of us, but – at this critical point in SUNY Oneonta’s history – let’s all pull together behind the people who, more than ever, need wide support.
And that includes the campus community and the rest of us, the public at large.
COOPERSTOWN – Zero cases of COVID-19 were reported in Otsego County Monday, Nov. 2. Three cases reported Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The spikes at Hartwick College and in Cooperstown following a 75-person wedding have, for now, quieted down.
“It’s slowed down considerably,” said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director.
Tuesday, Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta both reported one case each. The other two cases were in the City of Oneonta and Unadilla.
The weekend brought 11 cases, including five Hartwick students and one SUNY student.
That’s down considerably from the 26 Hartwick cases traced to Red’s Ale House, the weekend of Oct. 16-17. Two of those infected were staff at the bar.
Hartwick moved to take-out only dining and suspending the use of gyms, but continued to offer in-person instruction, according to Karen McGrath, vice president/enrollment.
No faculty member tested positive, and though the numbers crept up, they never reached the state’s 5 percent threshold – 58 cases – which would have required the campus to close and pivot to remote instruction.
Students and staff are tested biweekly, and McGrath said that the majority of cases were asymoptomatic.
If a student was showing symptoms, however, he or she was tested off-campus, she added.
Bond also said that the county Health Department deployed rapid-testing machines to the college to assist with testing.
If students test positive, they are placed in isolation, either on campus, separate from the rest of the students, or at home.
The cases in Oneonta and Unadilla were not connected to any other outbreak, and no one has been hospitalized.
As of presstime Tuesday evening, there were 39 active cases countywide, the majority of them among students.
Last week, the county topped 1,000 cases, with 1,025 total cases since the first cases were reported in March.
With three weeks left until students return home for Thanksgiving break, Bond is hoping they’ll consider their nightlife.
“Bars are not a good idea,” she said. “They might not be as constructed as restaurants, where you sit at a table and eat. You move around, and there’s a much higher risk.”
But students may be going home for Thanksgiving, Bond suggests that residents postpone any travel or gatherings. “I had to tell my family that there was no big dinner or visits from out-of-town, even in New York” she said.
And with the cold weather settling in, Bond recommends that everyone wear masks in any indoor setting that isn’t at home, such as work or school, where closed windows mean less ventilation.
“We’re going to be inside more,” she said. “Everyone needs to be wearing a mask, even if you are sitting six feet apart. It reduces the risk of transmission considerably.”
“It’s not easy for anybody,” she continued. “But until there’s a vaccine, we’re going to continue to see levels of infection.”
COOPERSTOWN – With 12 Hartwick College students testing positive for COVID-19 today, the county has reported 1,011 cases of the virus since the pandemic started this spring, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director.
“We are busier now than we were in April,” she said. “We have more cases now. People are getting lax with social distancing, they’re gathering with friends and family and not wearing masks.”
ONEONTA – With 12 new cases reported this morning, Hartwick College now has 27 students who have tested positive for COVID-19 following an outbreak that was traced to Red’s Ale House.
This puts the college halfway to mandatory closure, per the state’s guidelines. According to Paula Lee Hobson, VP, College Advancement, 58 students – five percent of the on-campus population – would need to test positive in order to prompt a shutdown.
ONEONTA – With 12 cases at Hartwick College since Friday, Oct. 23, President Margaret L. Drugovich is asking students to stay in Oneonta for the next 27 days.
“And if you choose to travel to a red or orange zone, you will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the fall semester,” she said in a video posted on the college website, www.hartwick.edu.
The State of New York began identifying in-state “hot spots” as red, orange and yellow zones.
Though Otsego County is not considered a “hot spot,” Chemung, Orange and Rockland counties are “red zones,” as is Brooklyn.
After weeks of almost no on-campus infections, many of the new cases traced to a gathering at Red’s Ale House, a popular college bar on Main Street.
Others infections resulted from socializing in dorms and having “personal contact” while not wearing masks.
As such, the college has also “rolled back” policies on socializing, banning students from having anyone other than roommates in their dorm rooms.
“We know these cases are the result of individual choices,” she said. “At this time, there is no evidence of classroom transmission.”
Also, students must now fill out a “travel declaration form” before leaving the city.
It’s the second such cluster in the last week: According to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, 19 people have tested positive for the virus following a wedding at a private residence in the Town of Otsego.
“Our challenge with this wedding is that they have not been the best at cooperating,” said Bond. “We have not yet received the guest list, so we have not been able to notify everyone that they need to quarantine so we can stop the spread.”
Last week, a staff member at Cooperstown Elementary School tested positive, prompting the classes to go remote until Monday, Oct. 26. That case was linked to the wedding, as were the three positive tests in people who live in a group home.
According to Bond, the wedding hosts were issued a ticket for violating the public health law prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people.
There are currently 40 active cases in the county, and that, despite the college outbreaks, the spread to the Oneonta community remained minimal. “There are very few cases outside of the college in the city,” she said.
Bond did note, however, that no cases have arisen from the NY Harvest Fest, a weekend-long pro-marijuana gathering of more than 1,500 people in New Lisbon Oct. 9-11. The organizer, George Knarich, was ticketed for failing to adhere to the gathering guidelines, as well as trespassing.
“I’m hoping that the work we did to get it on the radar paid off,” she said. “Maybe it wasn’t as well attended as it might have been.”
HORROR AT MUSEUM – 6 p.m. Enjoy evening of spooky stories from students, faculty, & staff. Will feature readings and performances of original, classic tales of horror and the macabre. Presented by Yager Museum of Art & Culture, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/yagermuseum/ for info.
ARTIST CONVERSATION – 8 p.m. Join Artist Luke Swinson, whose work is displayed in ‘dadibaajimo: Two Mississauga Artists Share Stories’ exhibit, for discussion of his art. Presented by Yager Museum of Art & Culture, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/yagermuseum/ for info.
ONEONTA – With five days of zero COVID-19 cases, SUNY Oneonta is finally breathing a sigh of relief.
“It’s the longest since the college’s first cases were reported on Tuesday Aug. 25,” said Hal Legg, chief communication & marketing officer. “We’re very encouraged.”
With a total of 712 cases since the outbreak, including one employee, the Oneonta campus is seeing cases decline substantially. Between Thursday, Oct. 1, and Wednesday, Oct. 7, there were nine cases. From Thursday, Oct. 8, to Tuesday, Oct. 13, there were only two.
“We’re pleased the numbers have dropped off,” said Legg. “It’s a trend we hope to continue.
By press-time Tuesday evening, Oct. 13, at Hartwick College only one case has surfaced since Oct. 8, with no cases the previous week and two in late September. The student is quarantining at home, and no students are in quarantine on campus.
In all, 21 Hartwick students tested positive following the SUNY outbreak.
“We have been very vigilant in all our precautions,” said Karen McGrath, VP for enrollment & student experience. “We made it clear what our expectations were – wearing a face covering at all times, practicing social distancing – and we held students to those expectations. I think it really had a dramatic effect on our rate of transmission.”
Classes have returned to in-person after a two-week campus lockdown, and although in-person dining has reopened, McGrath said dining options have been expanded to better suit students who might not want to eat even in a socially distanced dining hall.
“We’ve got a mobile app for to-go orders, and we’ve added a food truck on the opposite end of campus from the dining hall,” she said. “We expanded these options to better meet the needs of the students who’d rather get their meals to go.”
They’ve also added a delivery app, where Aramark, the food service company, will bring basic groceries, such as milk, bread and cereal, to dorm rooms. “It’s our version of Instacart,” she said. “This way, they don’t have to leave campus to get groceries.”
“All of these dining changes were ones we were thinking about pre-COVID,” she said. “Students want more dining options, while still giving public health considerations.”
Downtown Oneonta was filled with seasonal flair this afternoon as Hartwick and SUNY students gathered with merchants to stuff and hang “branded” scarecrows from light poles as part of the Town-Gown Work Group collaboration. Above, Hartwick Student Government Association members and college seniors Jennifer Paszko, and Lydia Mateney, work at filling the body of a scarecrow with newspapers outside of GOHS. At right, members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity Dalton Wooder helps Betsy Cunningham, owner of Artware, and Susan Blass, Oneonta, decorate the Artware scarecrow outside the store. The scarecrows will remain on display throughout the month of October. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
COOPERSTOWN – Nine SUNY Oneonta students, one Hartwick College student and five county residents have tested positive for COVID in the past four days, according to a press release from Heidi Bond, public health director, Otsego County Department of Health.
Of the nine SUNY students, she said, five of those are new infections, with the other four students having already recovered, but had not been reported as being positive to the health department until now.
ONEONTA – Hartwick College announced a few minutes ago that it is returning to face-to-face classes, as well as remote instruction, this Wednesday, after “a voluntary and precautionary two-week, remote-only period.”
“Face-to-face, personal instruction is a pillar of Hartwick’s educational mission, as it has been for 223 years,” said Hartwick President Margaret L. Drugovich. “Our students have made it clear that they want to return to the classroom, and the vast majority have demonstrated they can and will honor the rules we’ve put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.”