News of Otsego County


STERNBERG: Here we go again with the coronavirus pandemic

Life in the Time of Covid-19

Here we go again with
the coronavirus pandemic

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.

Several months ago, I stopped writing my weekly column on life in the time of Covid-19. The rollout of the vaccinations was going well locally, the numbers of people hospitalized locally were low, and organizations were opening up. The Rotary Club that I belong to in Cooperstown was making plans to go back to meetings in person.

I was also recovering from major surgery and it was difficult physically to put together the columns.

I thought for the most part my job was done. Now, here we go again.

In many places in the United States the numbers of the sick and dying from Covid-19 are rapidly increasing in areas where there is a low percentage of vaccinated individuals. It also correlates with places that opened in an unrestricted fashion. Many first-line healthcare workers are completely burned out and can’t begin to understand how people who could have avoided this very deadly and debilitating disease refused to do so and even refused to acknowledge that in many cases it was real. What is particularly disturbing is seeing patients begging to be vaccinated as they are being rolled into intensive care units.

Yes, there is a risk of complications from vaccination. There is a risk of complications from everything we do or food we eat or medicine we take. Riding in a car is a risk.

STERNBERG: The Doctor Will View You Now


The Doctor Will View You Now

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.

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


A&D, OPT, Other

Transportation Services Step Up

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.

STERNBERG: If Offered J&J Vaccine, Take It, Stop 3rd Wave

If Offered J&J Vaccine,
Take It, Stop 3rd Wave

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.

This past Sunday the Director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approved the use of the COVID-vaccine produced by Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. The day before the FDA determined that the vaccine was safe and effective for the prevention of COVID-19 and gave it an EUA (emergency use authorization).

On Monday, the state Task Force unanimously recommended its use.

The entire current inventory of 3.9 million doses is scheduled to ship this week. J&J says it plans to manufacture enough additional doses to ship 16 million by the end of March. New York State is supposed to receive somewhere between 93,000 doses and 160,000 this week depending on whether you believe the Feds or the state. In any event, this is very good news.

There have been some concerns from some people; two called me today. They are concerned that this vaccine is not as effective as those already approved. They want to know if they should get the J&J vaccine now if available, or wait to get either the Moderna or Pfizer one.

The answer to that is a bit nuanced.

STERNBERG: Stay Vigilant! But There’s Actually Some Good News

Stay Vigilant! But There’s

Actually Some Good News

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.

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.

STERNBERG: Vaccine? Terrific. But What About Treatment

Vaccine? Terrific. But

What About Treatment

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 was asked to give a talk at the Center for Continuing Adult Learning recently in Oneonta. It was supposed to be on vaccine development and distribution, but two days before I was to give it, I was asked by a participant to address treatment of active COVID-19.

Up to this point I have avoided discussing this because each physician chooses treatment for each patient based on many factors, including recommended protocols, approved medications, and most important, consideration of each patient as an individual.

Nonetheless there is some general advice from the NIH (National Institute of Health).

The NIH divides severity levels for COVID-19 into five parts with their recommendations.

►ONE: Not hospitalized, mild to moderate COVID-19.

There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against any specific antiviral or antibody therapy.

SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies are available for outpatients who are at high risk of disease progression.

Antibodies bind to the virus, block its ability to get into a cell, and trigger a response from white blood cells to come and attack the virus.

Antibodies could be natural or manufactured. Dexamethasone is a steroid anti-inflammatory which is approved in more severe stages and should not be used here.

►TWO: Hospitalized but does not require supplemental oxygen.

Dexamethasone should not be used. There are insufficient data to recommend for or against the routine use of Remdesivir. (Remdesivir is a drug specifically to treat viral diseases). For patients at high risk for disease progression, the use of Remdesivir may be appropriate. (Yes, I too find this statement very confusing.)

►THREE: Hospitalized and requires supplemental oxygen, but does not require high-flow oxygenation, mechanical ventilation, or an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenator – sort of like a heart/lung machine used in open heart surgery).

Use one of the following three options: Remdesivir for patients who require minimal oxygenation, Dexamethasone and Remdesivir for patients who require increasing amounts of supplemental oxygenation, or Dexamethasone alone when combination therapy cannot be used or if remdesivir is not available.

►FOUR: Hospitalized and requires oxygen through a high-flow device or non-invasive ventilation. Use one of the following options; dexamethasone or dexamethasone and remdesivir.

►FIVE: Hospitalized and require mechanical ventilation or ECMO. Use dexamethasone.

There are other drugs that have been considered for use in COVID-19.

One is Invermectin. Others are monoclonal (all one type) antibodies as described above. Another drug fluvoxamine (Fluvox) is a drug used for obsessive-convulsive disorder and was hypothesized to block excessive inflammatory reactions.

Bottom line if sick is, find a physician who you trust. A good physician will listen to a patient’s concerns and questions and then when you are comfortable with them, your best shot is to follow their instructions.

STERNBERG: J&J Comes To The Rescue! And What About That NFL

J&J Comes To The Rescue!

And What About That NFL

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 Friday, Jan. 29, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson announced its vaccine had proven effective in Phase 3 studies. This brings a third vaccine on line in the fight against COVID-19 and potentially increases the pace of vaccinations by 50 percent.

Additionally, the J&J protocol is for a single dose and the storage requirements are much less stringent than those of the two vaccines already available in the United States, Moderna and Pfizer.

On the other hand, the statistics on efficacy for the J&J vaccine are not as high as those reported for the other two. It is reported as 85 percent effective globally against severe disease and 70
percent effective against moderate to severe disease.

Many scientists consider this on balance very good news.

If we remember back to last year the goal for efficacy was 70 percent which would have made that equivalent to the flu vaccine. Only because of higher numbers with Moderna and Pfizer do 85 percent and 70 percent seem low.

Furthermore, the J&J vaccine is a one-dose regimen and requires only basic refrigeration to last for weeks, making it much easier to distribute and complete a course of vaccine (i.e., only one shot).

This should especially help in people hesitant to get a shot at all.

STERNBERG: From Russia, With Love

From Russia, With Love

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.

Unintentionally but inevitably, and catastrophically, the Russian National Figure Skating Team has carried out an experiment that lets the rest of the world see what happens when you expose super-elite athletes indiscriminately to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

While not immediately fatal, it is not pretty and suggests what the long-term consequences of contracting the disease may be for other young people.

According to the Dec. 17 edition of The Wall Street Journal, the Russian Women’s National Ice Skating team is regarded as the very best in the world and has such deep reserves of young talent that it was expected to remain the best indefinitely.

They are a very close group, literally and physically. The members of this group have pretty much disdained rules and recommendations regarding avoiding disease spread up to now.

There are social media posts of them partying without spacing or masks, posts of competition venues where very many coaches, athletes, spectators and officials are wearing their masks below their mouth or not at all, while athletes are withdrawing from the national championships because of positive tests or complications from recent positive infection.

2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva is hospitalized with serious lung damage after testing positive in November.

European Champion Alena Kostornaia missed a competition earlier in December because of a positive test has not recovered sufficiently to compete according to officials.

The National Championship was won by Anna Shcerbakova a teenager. Scherbakova herself withdrew from a late November event citing “pneumonia.” She has now won the event three times but was noted to be having trouble breathing after her programs.

Other skaters performed well below expectation. Former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva who was expected to finish better came in seventh. She had announced that she had tested positive. She was reported as looking sluggish and exhausted at the Nationals.

Many who did compete had been reported as having had the virus earlier in the season. Coaches, some of who are at high risk because of age alone, have reported positive and ill.

Up until now the Russian National Federation has progressed their season as if the virus didn’t exist. Any attempts at safety protocols seem to have been ignored.

So, what do we learn from this experiment? Young people do get the disease and, when they do, they may not die from it at the same rate as the elderly but they do have medical consequences, sometimes permanently.

Why do these symptoms seem so frequent in these Russian athletes while they have not been reported with the same frequency in our general public?

Part of the answer is that these people are under a publicity magnifying glass – when they can’t perform, it is noticed. The same is evident in our professional athletes.

These are also people who have trained to perform at the extreme limits of physiologic capability, who have increased their capacities beyond normal people and therefore any slight damage to their organs whether lungs, heart, muscle, etc., are readily noticed.

The same damage is most probably occurring in the average person, but the average person does not frequently try to perform at their extreme.

While some of the Russians (and others) will never perform at elite levels again, some will have long-term damage that will affect activities of daily living. Any damage in anyone will have long-term consequences that will have heretofore unknown effects on life expectancy and long-term impairment or disability.

To those who continue to underestimate this disease, stop it. Dying is not the only bad outcome of contracting COVID-19.

I said this in April and I say it again now. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Socially distant. Stay within your pod (and if any one member doesn’t, then you all aren’t). We are getting close to getting vaccinated. Don’t screw up now.

In the NFL the lowest of the low, the New York Jets, beat the previously postseason-bound Cleveland Browns. This gave the Jets a second win and seems to knock them out of the competition for worst record and therefore first pick in the draft, according to another article on the same Journal sports page.

How could this happen?

Well, the Browns lost all their first- and most of their second-string receivers due to contact-tracing protocols for COVID-19.

The fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, formerly the next-to-worst team in the standings, were noted to be celebrating. Now they get to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

STERNBERG: Vaccines, Part I: Pfizer Into The Fray

Vaccines, Part I:

Pfizer Into The Fray

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.

Many people have asked me to explain vaccines to them, and specifically the ones for COVID-19. They are most concerned with how they work, when they will be available, and if they will be safe.

Hopefully, this column will help.

The terms vaccine and vaccination derive from the Latin name Variola vaccinae, which means small pox of the cow. Vacca is Latin for cow.

The term vaccine was first devised by Sir Edward Jenner in 1778 based on the fact that he used an inoculation with cowpox to elicit a protective reaction to smallpox.

In 1881, Louis Pasteur proposed that the term vaccine be used to cover all new protective inoculations that were developed in order to honor Jenner.

There are multiple types of vaccines and at least one of each type has been tried or is being developed for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

The following are the different types of vaccines that are administered to a subject to induce a protective immune response along with examples of each.
►INACTIVATED: a dead copy of the infectant, e.g., polio

►ATTENUATED: A weakened version of the infectant, e.g., yellow fever, measles, mumps

►TOXOID: an inactivated form of the poison made by the infected cell, e.g. tetanus and diphtheria

►SUBUNIT: a portion of the protein of the infectant that cannot cause the disease by itself, e.g., hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus, causes genital warts and cervical cancer).

►CONJUGATE: Weak version of the infectant, coupled with a strong antigen for something benign to increase the immune response to the weakened version, e.g., Hemophylus influenza.

►RECOMBINANT DNA, where a stand of genetic material for part of the infectant is inoculated into the host’s cells and teaches the cells to make an antigen for part of the infectant.

►RNA: This is the approach that right now is the most promising in treating SARS-CoV-2. A portion of messenger RNA is inoculated into the host cells and tells the host to make a portion of the infecting virus. This technique has not been used for human diseases clinically before.

Typically, it takes 15-20 years to bring a new vaccine to market, and less than 5 percent of candidates will succeed. The speed in which the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has come to be distributed really is warp speed.

The first regular immunizations begin a week ago Monday in Great Britain. This is less than a year from recognition that there was a new disease and 10 months from identifying the genetic code of the virus causing it.

Currently there is only one vaccine approved for use, the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech. This is awaiting approval along with that of Moderna in the United States. Pfizer’s was approved, distributed Sunday, and injection began Monday. Approval for Moderna may come later this week.

Both of these are of the RNA type.

There are several reasons that things have moved with lightning speed.

One, the unprecedented cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and academic and government research labs.

Two, the approval of governments to allow fast-tracking such that steps of the development are done in parallel. In my mind, there is no doubt the government’s Warp Speed initiative helped move the process along.

Three, scientists have been working for 10 years on what they call pandemic preparedness. In this case they had developed a template that would allow the development of vaccines for newly emerging diseases quickly. Essentially as one scientist called it, plug and play.

In my next column I will discuss plans for the roll out and how it has gone up to that point.

Normally, the time from submission of data to approval by a government agency takes two years. In the case of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines it is one week.
After approval, time to distribution takes more than a year while the pharmaceutical companies develop and implement manufacturing plans.

Amazing what we can do when everyone is desperately pulling in the same direction.

STERNBERG: Doctor In The House (Isolated)


In The House (Isolated)

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.

Like many of us this Thanksgiving, my family had a very truncated get together and dinner.

My daughter visited from Annapolis, Md. She had been self-isolating, had rarely gone out, always took precautions, and was tested the week before she decided to come visit.

We decided that the risk of being infected by her was very, very minimal after all of these precautions, and invited her.

I myself have been following precautions and avoiding contact except when absolutely necessary. My housemate works at Bassett Hospital. She takes all precautions and has refrained from unnecessary contact.

Once my daughter arrived Monday before Thanksgiving, our pod had no contact with any other individuals throughout her visit.

Nevertheless, we were instructed to self-isolate this past weekend.

My housemate, who has had a mild chronic cough for seven months, decided to go to the Bassett after-hours care center. She was evaluated, prescribed steroid medication and an antihistamine, and was told it was probably chronic bronchitis and she was discharged.

A COVID-19 test was taken and she was told that she needed to isolate and everyone else in her pod needed to isolate until the test came back and it could be determined whether it was positive or negative.

We were told this would take two to three days.

Personally, I felt that the probability that my housemate had active COVID-19 based on her history of present illness was no greater than that of the general population in this area.

The process she had was chronic, there were no acute changes, she showed no common symptoms of COVID-19, and she was afebrile.

Even if this had been triggered by infection with the virus, which itself was very unlikely, the active stage was long passed by many months ago.

Given the situation I was tempted and briefly considered whether the instructions were valid.

Nevertheless, we followed them to the letter and only today when the lab report came back “no detectable virus” did we stop our immediate self-quarantine.

My daughter, who had driven home is going through a two-week quarantine just for visiting, even though Cooperstown has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country right now

It’s tempting to say that we know better, we understand the odds better, or we don’t feel bad and ignore medical advice.

Nevertheless, it is critical to follow these instructions. It’s better to err on the side of caution then to assume that there aren’t any problems and proceed from that point.

The rate of infection has been going up constantly to new daily highs. The number of confirmed infections daily in the United States has been going up dramatically. The number of daily deaths is going up.

It’s still not clear how many people have actually been infected. A study last week from the CDC suggested that the actual infection rate may be up to eight times greater than the documented infection rate.

This, of course, would decrease the rate of death from the infection, since the number of deaths divided by the new number of total cases would be decreased. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t decrease the daily number of deaths due to the infection.

I was annoyed, in denial, argumentative, and generally all around ticked off to be told what to do when I didn’t think it was necessary. But that’s why we have medical professionals and of course a doctor who chooses to treat himself, has a fool for a patient.

Thankfully we got the all-clear today and we can go back to our lives albeit in the new normal. Before we did get permission to end quarantine a day of work was lost, several appointments had to be canceled or rescheduled and a pending important clinic visit for myself was in the process of being rescheduled. But it was necessary and correct in the fight against the virus.

STERNBERG: One Word Capture Mood: Sad

One Word Capture Mood: Sad

The following were some of the definitions of the word “sad” from

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.

“Affected by unhappiness or grief; sorrowful or mournful, expressive of or characterized by sorrow, causing sorrow; somber, dark, or dull; drab; deplorably bad, sorry.” lists 46 synonyms for sad.

And I add an additional from other sources, pathetic. The following story is sad by almost all of these. This was originally reported by CNN.
Jodi Doering, an Emergency Room nurse in Dearing, S.D., out of severe frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed, tweeted Saturday that her patients were dying of COVID-19 but remained in denial of the pandemic’s existence.

She called it a horror movie that never ends. Besides treating patients who were dying and the stress that it caused her and her colleagues, they also faced the additional emotional toll of treating patients who despite being severely ill, who while dying, still refused to acknowledge that they had been infected with a virus that they said didn’t exist.

Patients on 100-percent oxygen would swear that it was not real and many would lash out at the nurses and doctors trying to help them for trying to convince them they were dying of COVID.
There were incidents of patients screaming that it was all a fraud and that the medical staff were only wearing PPE to confuse them, that there was no need for it, and demanding that they take it off.

Rather than communicating with their loved ones before they died, they would rant against anyone or anything that tried to convince them that they were critically ill with COVID.

Cases are skyrocketing in North and South Dakota currently at a rate that is the fastest in the nation.

In North Dakota, the Republican Gov. Doug Burgum pleaded with residents, “You don’t have to believe in COVID, you don’t have to believe in a certain political party or not, you don’t have to believe whether masks work or not. Just do it because you know one thing is very real. And that 100 percent of our (hospital) capacity is being used.”

On the other hand, Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, has continued to oppose mask mandates or closures and has joined in antagonism to mainstream medicine.
She hosted soon-to-be ex-President Donald Trump at a tightly packed Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore. Even after the president acknowledged that he had COVID-19 last month, many of his supporters continue to refuse to acknowledge it is real.

Johns Hopkins University says that the Dakotas are currently the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, according to their and the states own data.

Experts feel that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which attracted over 500,000 to South Dakota, and was encouraged by Governor Noem, was a major superspreader event.

Most of the half million did not wear masks and did not socially distance especially in bars and restaurants.

How do we stop this when so many won’t even believe it is real, or dangerous, and won’t begin to cooperate in the protection of themselves and their families?

Last night I was talking to a close friend, a college classmate who is a family physician in rural Wisconsin. He is over 65 and male like myself but otherwise has no risk factors.

He and his entire family sustained COVID-19 in October.
They are not sure what the sequence of spread was; he, his wife, and his step-daughter are all in healthcare. He said it was the sickest he ever felt.

I admit I, who has a total of seven risk factors, am scared that I may become infected. If so, I have a very significant fatality risk. Hopefully I can stay safe until there is a vaccine available to me.

I suppose I can take solace in the fact that between those that don’t believe the disease is real or that it can make them sick, and those who will refuse the vaccine, I stand a reasonable chance of getting it within six months.


A New Hope On COVID-19

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.

First the good news.

Joe Biden has announced his plan for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. It will include a coordinated national plan of attack and he will be ready on Day 1, Jan. 20, 2021 to implement it. He has already announced his pandemic transition team.

Now the bad news.

One, Mitch McConnell has said the same thing about Biden that he said about President Obama in 2008, that he will oppose him in every way possible to ensure that he is only a one-term president and therefore don’t expect any cooperation from him in fighting the pandemic.

Two, Biden doesn’t take over for almost 70 days and the Trump Administration shows no signs of making any changes that could affect the acceleration of the disease.

Today (Sunday, Nov. 8) there were over 120,000 new cases nationally with over 1,000 new deaths. The estimate is that if nothing is done to change the trajectory of the disease in the U.S. then by the end of January, we could easily double the number of deaths seen so far.

In his acceptance speech Saturday night, Nov. 7., President-elect Biden said that he would name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to convert his plan into an action-plan blueprint that would start on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

His task force is to be led by former Surgeon General Dr. Vitek Murthy (who was fired by President Trump with two years left on his term) and former FDA administrator Dr. David Kessler.

Biden swore to empower scientists at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to help set national guidelines, to invest in vaccine research, and to function as one nation, meaning having a national rather than 50 individual state plans.

Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D. and adviser to Biden, said, “You’re going to have rigorous evaluation and constant refinement” of policies and strategies. There will be strict guidelines for slowing community spread.

The new administration said they would work with each governor to make mask wearing in public mandatory in their states. Current research says mask wearing alone could have saved over 100,000 Americans so far.

They plan to seriously ramp up testing. They plan to hire thousands of public health workers. They will help people to get health insurance.

They would strengthen the Affordable Care Act and immediately reopen the Market Place, something Trump has refused to do. They would create a caregiving workforce and develop resources to help health care workers with their own needs.

Most important: They would choose science over fiction.

So, Joe Biden has a very commonsensical plan for dealing with the crisis but he can’t do anything about it until Jan. 20. And then he will need the cooperation of McConnell and the governors to carry it out.

The fact that if an aggressive program is carried out then the economy can more thoroughly reopen quicker does not seem to register with a lot of politicians. And, if it does, it takes a back seat to winning future elections.

Divided government works great for the stock market and investors, at least that’s what I’ve been told and I have read. But a government that doesn’t function without a unified intent and purpose has a grave disadvantage in going to war, whether against another nation or a submicroscopic virus.

STERNBERG: The President & All His Men

Life In The Time Of COVID-19

The President & All His Men

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown. Dr. Sternberg will continue to report on medical aspects of the situation throughout week.

The good news is that the president seems to be doing OK medically.

The bad news is that people around him are being put at risk because of his refusal not only not to restrict himself in any manner but, in fact, his flaunting his ability to do anything he wants, whenever he wants.

So many of his senior staff, their staff, Secret Service, White House workers and people who were at his recent campaign events are turning up positive or exposed and they have to restrict themselves.

Also, the FDA and CDC which are both supposed to function based on science, are making decisions based on politics.

If you have friends and family members who have died, or have been very sick, you look at this very differently than if you are young and healthy. Though how anyone could consider greater than 210,000 excess deaths in the United States from COVID-19 reasonable is beyond me.

Tell me that the mortality rate is acceptable when it’s your close relative. My cousin’s father and aunt have died from it. Remember my column from last week about the 28-year old doctor who died of it.

I read the criticisms of my column posted on Monday, Oct. 5, and found myself agreeing on some points. But if the person writing remembers that over two months ago I said that, if everyone wore a mask all the time outside of the home, almost all restrictions could have been dropped by now.

I would be comfortable in that situation. Instead we are averaging over 35,000 new cases daily in the U.S. over the past two weeks.

The president is probably getting care available to no one else on Earth but himself. He is on at least two and possibly three experimental medicines. They haven’t been released for general care and no one has any idea if they have unforeseen complications when taken together.

He is still highly contagious. He has multiple risk factors. If I was his doctor, I would have put myself on the line in order to keep him in the hospital. I would have refused to do something I knew defied standards of care. Nevertheless, he is the president.

The White House medical unit can create an environment equivalent to an ICU if need be if it doesn’t already have an ICU bed standing by at all times. The care he will get there is world class.

Basically, it is equivalent to Walter Reed but without the immediate access to special testing capabilities or surgery.

If he needed something it would probably take 30 minutes. But with a medical versus a surgical diagnosis this is not much of a risk.

The biggest problem with turning the White House into a Walter Reed annex is the cost. The hospital is already set up for this but hey, it’s only money.

Try as might I can’t bring this down to just medical issues. We know some, but only a little about the president’s physical exam, disease course, and labs. He certainly looks better than someone who is very sick and I’m hopeful that there is no relapse.

It’s hard to tell if he is manifesting side effects from the steroids which is very common. Dexamethasone is associated with psychological changes including mood changes such as increased aggressiveness.

There is also dizziness and headache among other side-effects.

Bottom line; I still have no idea which direction the president’s illness is going. He is getting great care, better than you or I ever could. If there are no negative changes by Monday, he should be out of the woods. If things change, I will update.

STERNBERG: Tragedy Proves COVID No Hoax


Tragedy Proves


Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

I graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine in 1978.

Adeline Fagan graduated from the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine in 2019. She started a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology in Houston. She died from COVID-19 Saturday, Sept. 19, age 28.

She most likely became infected working a shift in her hospital’s
emergency room in the late spring.

From what I’ve read, Adeline was lovely young woman. Since childhood she knew she wanted to be a doctor. The second of four sisters she had matched to a training program in Houston in 2019. She was a delightful caring person.

According to her sister whom she lived with, she always went to work with a smile on her face even if she had a 12- to 16-hour work shift ahead of her. She volunteered and served on three medical missions to Haiti before completing medical school. She played lacrosse. She was a good sister, daughter, and friend.

She was one of over 1,100 healthcare workers who died from COVID-19 in the United States.

Adeline became symptomatic in the first week of July. She was hospitalized on July 14. In early August she was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine. This is similar to a heart-lung machine which pumps blood out of the body where it is then oxygenated allowing the heart and lungs to rest. In her case her lungs were not adequately functioning to get oxygen to her body.

She fought courageously for two months. Much longer than most people last but eventually effects of COVID-19 and complications of the ECMO overtook her and she died. She was unable to say goodbye.

I repeat, she was 28 years old. I repeat, over 1,100 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Actually, I haven’t really taken it well so far.

People who claim COVID-19 is a fraud, a conspiracy, not really dangerous, and refuse to protect themselves or their families, other people, and me: Please have the integrity to be consistent and not ask for care when you and yours get sick.

Get to the back of the line when vaccines are being given out, (but ultimately get the vaccine to protect
the rest of us).

Taking care of you puts all healthcare workers and first responders at risk.

Now that you realize it is real, just crawl into bed, isolate yourself and your family, avoid direct contact with anyone not fully protected, cross your fingers, and pray.

Healthcare workers are already burned out, just like pretty much everybody else but even more so. They really don’t want to take care of people who had no respect for them.

To all the clowns at SUNY Oneonta who flagrantly defied social distancing and mask rules, you need to carefully read about the life and death of Adeline Fagan. Shame on you. Adeline was your contemporary.

For those still able to read about her, you are very lucky not to have contracted COVID-19 or if positive, get sick or die from it.

To those of you who assumed that students would behave responsibly and let that be your plan, shame on you.

To those so inclined, please join me in contributing to the GoFundMe page set up by Adeline’s sister. The money collected will help to pay their expenses that have accrued, loss of income of her family over the past three months, and funeral expenses.

Go to, hit search (the magnifying glass), and enter Adeline Fagan’s name.

STERNBERG: Navigating Without a Compass

Navigating Without a Compass

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

One thing is very clear when dealing with a pandemic, it is very important to have good statistics in order to determine a plan of attack. Without good numbers it’s hard to say what to do next. It’s also important to understand what these numbers mean.

With COVID- 19, it has proven difficult to determine its morbidity and mortality rate and its infectivity. Additionally, we’re not sure exactly what the tests that are being done mean. There’s a great deal of controversy about accuracy, especially about the antibody test which shows people who have the disease.

Some people die of the disease. Many of these people have pre-existing conditions. This is obviously common in elderly people. Some people have absolutely no pre-existing conditions and are dying of COVID-19 solely. Many people who contract the infection will survive it but may have long-term health consequences.

We have no idea what this percentage will turn out to be. Some people contract the virus that are totally asymptomatic. They have no illness at all. Unfortunately, they are probably still contagious and can infect others who become symptomatic.

When we have good numbers of the size of a population, the number of people affected, number of people who die, and the number of people who develop permanent medical problems, we can start to develop good plans.

Unfortunately, we now recognize that we don’t have a good handle on these basic statistics.
We were able to determine what percentage of those who were tested and confirmed with COVID-19 died. The problem with that is many people who died during this period went unrecognized as having
COVID-19 because the algorithm to decide who would be screened did not recognize that most infected people wouldn’t have classic symptoms. This makes the statistic of the percentage who died unreliable.

In Italy, it initially looked like 10 percent of the victims were dying. In Germany, it looks like less than 1 percent of the victims are dying. In the United States it looks like at least 5 percent die.

To figure out the real infection, fatality and morbidity rates, we are going to have to know the size of the population, what percentage of the population actually contracted the disease, and what percentage was symptom-free.

A study in New York City, which Governor Cuomo frequently refers to, shows that approximately 20 percent of the population have antibodies to COVID-19, which indicates that they were infected and implies that they have some level of immunity even if only temporary.

The official numbers of New York City are approximately 204,000 cases and 16,400 deaths. This represents a fatality rate of approximately 8 percent. But there seems to be a number of patients “missing”: 20 percent of 8 million is 2 million. Where are the missing 1.8 million cases?

If we take the number of deaths and divide that by the total number of cases, assuming those numbers are close to accurate, we get 16,400 divided by 2 million. Which is only 0.8 percent. This has to be adjusted for the deaths that haven’t been officially determined.

It appears that the disease is more prevalent and a lower mortality rate than initially thought. It also appears that as much as 90 percent of the population infected are not diagnosed.

A retrospective research paper that I read from a specialty hospital in New York City showed that otherwise healthy patients that were scheduled for surgery in April 2020 and did not warrant testing had an infection rate of approximately 12 percent, of which 58 percent remained asymptomatic even with the stress of surgery.

Whether it is determined by statistical methods or by formal scientific studies it is clear that a very significant percentage of patients with COVID-19 never show symptoms.

In summary, it’s clear that we do not have very good statistics which makes it more difficult to make informed decisions.

Hopefully, the statistics will improve. But the important point to take away from this is, regardless of the percentage who have the disease, a large number of people are dying from it.

Even if the fatality rate is only 0.5 percent, if we don’t get a vaccine, we can expect 70 to 80 percent of the population to contract the disease, which in the United States would be more than 200 million people and therefore 1 million people will die.

Let’s hope we can keep the curve flat until a vaccine is found.

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