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News of Otsego County

Heidi Bond

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.”

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.”

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.

COVID Rises;  County Asks People, Stay Home

As COVID-19 Cases Rise;

County Warns, Stay Home

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

CDC image of coronavurus1

COOPERSTOWN – With 46 cases of COVID-19 already identified in November, Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, has a warning for residents:

If you have symptoms, stay home.

“We’re getting lax in thinking that COVID is a possibility,” she said. “You get people thinking it’s the same runny nose they get every fall, and three days later, you lose your sense of taste and test positive for COVID. But you’ve been spreading it that whole time.”

The 17 cases last week were traced to three residential and nursing homes – including a cluster of 10 cases at a residential home in Oneonta.

“The employees had mild symptoms that, in other times, they wouldn’t bat an eye at,” she said. “But then they went into work and infected the staff and residents.”

Some of those infected were high-risk, but currently, Bond noted, there have been no hospitalizations.
The tough part, she said, is finding testing, with waits up to a week for results from testing at Bassett drive-thru clinics.

“It’s a challenge,” said Bond. “And it’s not just us, it’s the whole state. Health departments and health care workers are stretched, and they just don’t have the capacity to increase testing. I don’t know what the answer is.”

CVS in Cooperstown offers limited rapid-testing, as well as standard COVID testing, promising results in 2-3 days. Patients are asked to fill out an online checklist of symptoms to see if they qualify to make an appointment, with priority given to those who live or work in “high-risk” areas, including healthcare, prisons or residential homes, or who have been recommended for testing by a doctor.

WellNow, on Oneonta’s Southside, also offers COVID testing, including the rapid testing and
antibody tests, by appointment only.

“We need to remember not to go to work if you have symptoms,” she said. “Especially if you work in a sensitive setting. Go get tested.”

In the last four weeks, Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, there have been 172 cases and one death following a hospitalization, with another hospitalized patient recovered and released.

At Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, cases seem to be going back down, with only 11 reported total between the two colleges since last week. In all, the Hartwick College outbreak, traced to Red’s Ale House over the weekend of Oct. 16-17, infected 35 students over three weeks.

When students return home for Thanksgiving break, they will not return for the remainder of the semester, and finish with remote learning.

But Bond believes that even with students gone, the risks are still there. “Everyone is seeing an increase,” she said. “People are inside more. No one’s to blame, but we have to figure out that this virus is different for everybody.”

“It’s not going away,” she said.

COVID Dips; Hartwick Uptick Flattens

COVID-19 Cases Dip;

Hartwick Uptick Flattens

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www. AllOTSEGO.com

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.”

Cluster Of COVID Cases Traced To Oneonta Group Home

COVID Cluster Traced

To Oneonta Group Home

CDC image of coronavurus

ONEONTA – 10 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in a residential group home in Oneonta, according to a press release by Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director.

Six residents and four staff members tested positive today, and contact tracers are still working to determine how the cluster started.

Otsego County Tops 1K COVID Cases Since Spring

Otsego County Tops 1K

COVID Cases Since Spring

CDC image of coronavurus

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.”

Facing Cluster, Hartwick Confines Students

Facing COVID-19 Cluster,

Hartwick Confines Students

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

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.”

75-Guest Wedding Yields 19 COVID Cases

75-Guest Wedding

Yields 19 COVID Cases

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – If you were at that 75-guest wedding in the Town of Otsego, you better get tested for COVID-19.

According to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, 19 people have tested positive for the virus following a wedding at a local home.

“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 Cooperstown Elementary School employee tested positive, prompting the classes to go remote until the end of that week.

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.

It’s the second such cluster in the county in recent days: 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 resulting 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.

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.”

8th County Resident Dies Of COVID

8th County Resident

Dies After COVID Fight

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County has reported its eighth COVID-19 fatality, a man who had been hospitalized for more than two weeks with the virus, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director.

“We know people over 60 are at most risk for severe illness,” Bond said in her press release. “We need to do all we can to protect our seniors.”

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