This marks the 50th column I’ve written in this series.
It’s hard to believe on many levels: How long we have been restricted or locked down, that I am still doing this weekly when we figured we would need to do this for at best a few months, that there remain new things to write about (in fact, every week brings new information), that my publisher makes me pay for my own subscription.
I am very grateful to my readers who have given me useful feedback, my publisher for giving me a forum to spread this information, and to my daughter who is a real scientific editor and has helped me with advice and, at times, review of my work.
In celebration, I’ve decided to write a column with good news for a change. (This is NOT to mean that we don’t still have to be vigilant, maintain masks and social distancing, avoid crowds, etc.)
Just that there’s finally some good news to write about.
►In a study of 600,000 people in Israel, which has vaccinated a higher proportion of its population than any other country, there has been a 94-percent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections. The vaccinated group was also 92-percent less likely to develop the severe form of the illness if present.
As Otsego County’s COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond has a dire warning – NO gathering is safe.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to convince people to change their behavior,” she said. “If we don’t, we’re going to see these numbers continue to climb.”
Though hospitalizations were down to four on Monday, Nov. 30 – down two from last week – by Tuesday, Dec. 1, they had doubled to eight, the highest number since the pandemic started in March.
“Some of those hospitalized exposed people on Thanksgiving,” she said. “And none of these gatherings were over 10 people.”
With 92 new cases reported over the last seven days, compared to 126 last week, the positive testing rate is now at 4.4 percent, a record for the area. “Last week, we were at 1.9 percent positivity,” she said. “We had 130 cases in October, and 289 cases in November.”Since March, there have been 1,325 COVID cases in the county. That means, minus 765 at SUNY Oneonta and 71 at Hartwick, there have been 522 cases outside the county’s campuses.
I don’t think they’re going to decrease,” she said. “They’ll either stay the same or increase.”
Oneonta remains a hot spot, Bond said, and contact tracers are still seeing spread from Market Street’s Copper Fox cluster, which infected five staff members and 26 patrons, and caused 27 “secondary infections” from coming in contact with infected patrons or employees.
The Red Jug Pub and the Beer Barrel Inn also spawned new cases, with three at the Main Street bar and “approximately five” from the Fonda Avenue tavern.
“It’s so easily transmitted,” she said. “What we’re seeing is that if one person in the house gets it, the whole family gets sick, or if someone at work went to the bar and then comes into work, they spread it to their co-workers.”
Though she said she frequently sees people wearing masks and social distancing when she is in public, people are letting their guard down with friends and family members who don’t live in their home.
“If I’m shopping and I see a clerk for five minutes, we’re both wearing masks and they’re behind plexiglass, so it’s low risk,” she said. “But it’s going out shopping with your friends, taking your mask off in the car. You feel safe with them, but that’s when it’s risky.”
To stop the spread, she advised, people have to do more.
“We have to go back to our behavior in March and April. That means no bars and no restaurants,” she said.