Sales tax revenue for local governments in New York state rose by 49.2% in the second quarter (April to June 2021) compared to the same period last year, a dramatic increase from last year’s weak collections during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Sales tax collections during this period grew by just over $1.6 billion and even surpassed collections reported during the second quarter of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.
“The strength of these collections, along with federal aid, will give local governments statewide the chance to improve their fiscal stability, but it will take time to recover from the strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” DiNapoli said in a media release. “While this is good news, local leaders are advised to budget carefully. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to always plan for unpredictable circumstances.”
The size of the increase largely reflects extremely weak collections in the April to June period of 2020. However, even compared to pre-pandemic collections for the same period in 2019, statewide collections in 2021 were up 8.7% or $396 million.
YOUTH ART EXHIBIT – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. CCS students present exhibit ‘Young at Art! Inspired by Community’ sharing their experience of community during the pandemic and how art grew their relationships online and at home. On view through June 26. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.cooperstowncs.org
The worst pandemic in a century has impacted the daily lives of everybody including farmers markets, which are a staple of the community in Otsego County.
However, some farmers markets, such as the Cooperstown Farmers Market and Richfield Spring Farmers Market, have turned that misfortune into an advantage by implementing new ways of doing business, market officials said.
With increased interest in customers buying local, farmers markets and their vendors have put in place safety regulations and have adapted to the new reality of social distancing by abiding to USDA regulations during the age of COVID.
In order to limit exposure, the Cooperstown Farmers Market, which is operated by Otsego 2000, has established a curbside pickup where customers can order food on their website between 5 p.m. Mondays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and pick up the order on Saturdays.
Product offerings will be updated every Monday on the website.
A decade ago, Kent Turner was working in the kitchen at Oneonta’s B-Side Ballroom, the popular nightspot, when he noticed a vivacious woman and her girlfriends were becoming regulars.
“We starting talking,” said Kent, and one thing led to another. “She had a heart of gold.”
Kent and Jackie fell in love.
Soon, the couple was attending Oneonta’s Community Gospel Church. For seven happy years, “she was really helpful in turning my life around,” he said.
But it wasn’t to continue.
Jackie was stricken with premature dementia in her late 50s, and she was admitted to Cooperstown Center’s Serenity Place, where her loving companion visited her regularly – until he couldn’t.
In February 2020, as COVID-19 loomed, state regulations forced Cooperstown Center to close its doors to visitors. For 13 months, not just Jackie and Kent, but the Center’s more than 150 residents were cut off from their families.
“When we had to close those doors,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing, “it breaks your heart.”
VOICES OF THE GAME – 2 p.m. Celebrate Women’s History month. Join Jenny Dalton on Zoom to discuss her baseball career, and her experience in the Colorado Silver Bullets as well as her part in the 2010 USA Women’s Baseball team in Venezuela when they brought home the Bronze medal. Free, registration required. Presented by Baseball Hall of Fame. 607-547-7200 or visit baseballhall.org/events/virtual-curator-spotlight-starting-nine-al-west?date=0
With the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine just days away from a likely approval, Bassett Hospital is prepping to give the first vaccination to one of its healthcare workers as the New Year starts.
“It will be a celebration by our organization,” said Dr. Kelly Rudd, Clinical Pharmacy technician. “It’s a way to celebrate the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”
Though 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were shipped across New York State this week, Bassett has opted for the Moderna vaccine, which has similar efficiency against COVID-19, but requires less refrigeration.
“Because it doesn’t need the ultra-cold storage like the Pfizer vaccine, it’s easier to store and transport throughout our region so we can reach more patients in our service area,” said Rudd.
According to news reports, 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed by the state Department of Health, the first going to “high risk” hospitals and nursing home patients.
“We submitted our total number of employees to the state,” Rudd said. “We’re not anticipating that the whole supply will come in one shipment, so we’re working on stratification, determining who is in the closest proximity to COVID patients, age, who is at the highest risk with underlying conditions, so we can vaccinate them first.”
The Moderna vaccine, like Pfizer’s, is given in two doses, 28 days apart. “One of the things we have to look at is how to structure those vaccinations,” said Rudd. “If one of our healthcare workers begins showing symptoms, we want to be able to monitor to see if it is because they are sick or if it’s side effects, so we don’t want to vaccinate everyone at once.”
Though not made up of the live COVID virus, the vaccine can cause similar side effects, including fevers, chills and joint pain for a few days after the shot is administered.
After all “high-risk” people are vaccinated, the second tier is “essential” workers, such as county Public Health Director Heidi Bond.
However, it could be several months before the vaccine is ready for the public, Rudd said.
“People need to know that they’re not going to get it for Christmas,” said Dr. Charles Hyman, attending physician, Infectious Diseases.
But when the vaccine is available to the public – Hyman suggests end of April – plans are beginning to form about how to get it out to the public.
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.
Enough faculty members have volunteered to teach 20 percent of the in-person, “dual modality” classes called for in SUNY Oneonta’s plan to reopen on Feb. 1, 2021, according to David Lincoln, president of the local chapter of the United University Professions (UUP).
“That’s correct,” said SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig when asked about Lincoln’s statement.
For Oneonta’s Bonnie Johnson, this year’s Black Friday gave her the opportunity to try something she hadn’t in years past.
“It was nice to sleep in!” she said as she browsed shoes the day after Thanksgiving at JC Penney. “Usually I have to get up early.”
Mindful of masks and social distancing, shoppers nonetheless flocked to the Southside Mall on Friday, Nov. 27, although it was a somewhat smaller flock.
“Shoppers are apprehensive about travel, so they’re staying local,” said Luisa Montanti, mall manager. “Store managers all told me they had good customer traffic and good sales results.”
Christy Lopreste said she was shopping on Black Friday for the first time. “My daughter really wanted to come, but it’s always too busy. Now with COVID, I didn’t think there’d be as many people.”
And although it wasn’t as crowded as in years before, that doesn’t mean that the stores were empty.
“It’s busier than we expected,” said Pam Morrissey, JC Penney manager. “But it’s a great year for gifts, and a lot of people are buying home appliances!”
Most years, the store is open on Thanksgiving – with Morrissey bringing in a full spread to feed her employees – but this year, the doors were closed until 5 a.m. the next day.
“We put a lot of COVID precautions in place,” she said. “Everyone is wearing masks, and people are buying them to give as gifts.”
TJ Maxx, the mall’s other anchor, had employee Roxanne Campo out front with a counter to make sure the big box wasn’t over capacity. “We’re allowing 170 people at any one time,” she said. “We didn’t know if it was going to get busy or stay quiet.”
Although there will be no in-person visits with Santa, letters may still be sent through the mall’s custom North Pole mailbox.
Additionally, on Saturdays through the 19th, the mall will again host artisans and craftspeople, who can sell their wares in the center corridor, Montanti said.
In addition to sanitation stations and one-way traffic patterns throughout the mall itself, stores each found their own ways to draw in customers who might otherwise be skittish about spending a day shopping.
“We have some of the only open dressing rooms in the region,” said Kacey Haggerty, store leader, Maurice’s. “It’s a big attraction!”
“I came in to try things on and make sure I know all my sizes, then order online,” said Kali Jones, who came in from Otego to pick up an online order at the woman’s clothing shop. “It reduces the risk.”
“As a bookstore, we’re the safest place to be,” joked Mike Konze, Black Tree Books manager. “We opened at 6 a.m. and only did $2 in business in three hours.”
All kidding aside, he said, many of their sales come from their new online store, which offers both shipping and curbside pickup.
“People are starting to realize that a used bookstore isn’t like a Barnes and Noble, rely on just what the district manager sends us,” he said. “We’re a resource. A lot of folks are searching for a special first edition or a rare book as a gift.”
For Now, Wear Masks, Social Distance, Avoid Crowds
You hear talk about a “second wave” of COVID-19, and it’s here. But take heart. In context, we’re not seeing the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end.
USA Today’s lead headline Monday was “Moderna seeks emergency FDA approval for COVID-19 vaccine,” and it was echoed in all the national newspapers – the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post – and many local ones that still publish on Mondays.
That was foretold last week on the front page of this paper: “VACCINE DUE: Local Drugstores Prepare To Give Protective Shots.”
Moderna was the third out of the gate, after Pfizer and AstraZeneca sought FDA approval in the past week.
Our county public health director, Heidi Bond, echoes the national predictions: We can expect to begin administering a vaccine to health workers by mid-December (still-President Trump says next week), and to the general public by April.
OK. But it’s hard to imagine the public will have to wait until spring. The supply will be taking off and demand will be rising.
In an interview in early April, when this all began, Bond told that, since 9/11, this county – among many others in New York State – conducted exercises to see how quickly the local population could be vaccinated if biological warfare struck.
The answer: Staff and volunteer nurses could vaccinate everyone in the county in four days. Four days.
The good news has been sensibly muted by the remaining threat. Public officials – our mayors, in particular, who are on the front lines – don’t want to say we’re out of the woods. And we aren’t.
Still, it was particularly heartening when Governor Cuomo, in his daily briefing Nov. 23, identified Cooperstown as the community with the lowest infection rate in the state, 0.24 percent – about one person in 400. That’s one quarter of one percent, compared to Lancaster, the Buffalo suburb, at a high of 9.68 – about one person in 10.
Cooperstown’s low rate didn’t just happen. Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have been constant and unanimous in messaging: wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.
That the village could be singled out after hosting people from around the country over the summer – fewer certainly – affirms the local leadership.
Still, countywide we’re in the midst of that predicted second wave, with daily infections hitting a one-day record of 30 last week. This past Monday, there were 19 in-county cases reported.
The City of Oneonta, after largely avoiding infections from 700-plus cases that erupted on SUNY Oneonta at the end of August, is now the epicenter of this second wave. With local bars as the flashpoints, 66 of last week’s 130 cases countywide were in the city and town of Oneonta.
Like Tillapaugh, Oneonta’s Gary Herzig has been an activist mayor, using his bully pulpit to promote safety measures, and forming the “Survive, Then Thrive” committee to do what might be done to help the local economy. Early on, he raised the alarm that things were awry at SUNY Oneonta, paving the way for COVID-fighter Dennis Craig’s appointment as interim president.
Craig is working his way around pockets of faculty resistance, building consensus around a reopening plan, aimed for now at Feb. 1, but – Craig is the first to say – subject to adjustment, depending where we are at the time.
All that said, the emerging national strategy for rolling out the vaccinations makes sense. Certainly, vaccinate front-line and healthcare workers first. Then, vaccinate everyone over 50.
The numbers suggest that will largely eradicate the plague.
As of Nov. 25, 240,213 Americans had died of COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 220,852 were 55 and over; 19,361 were under 55.
That means 92 percent of COVID’s victims have been 55 and older; only 8 percent, 54 and younger.
About 30 percent of all Americans are 55 and older, yet they make up 92 percent of victims. Vaccinate a third of the nation (110 million people of 320 million total), solve 92 percent of the problem.
It’s a cold calculation, but a practical one.
Meanwhile, nobody wants to be the last person to die from COVID. And, while the odds are much, much better for younger Americans, nobody’s completely safe. For the love of the people who love you, wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.
(Under Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 regulations), churches and synagogues are limited to a maximum of 25 people. These restrictions apply even to the largest cathedrals and synagogues, which ordinarily hold hundreds. And the restrictions apply no matter the precautions taken, including social distancing, wearing masks, leaving doors and windows open, forgoing singing, and disinfecting spaces between services.
At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too.
So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians.
Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?
NEIL J. GORSUCH
Supreme Court Justice
Diocese of Brooklyn
vs. Andrew M. Cuomo
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.
Editor’s Note: The New York State Sheriff’s Department issued this statement Monday, Nov. 23, saying local sheriffs lack the resources to enforce Governor Cuomo’s edict requiring that no more than 10 New Yorkers celebrate Thanksgiving together. This is an excerpt.
Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order which limits “non-essential private residential gatherings” to no more than 10 individuals.
That has caused great consternation among many of our citizens, who envision armed officers arriving at their doors to count the number of people around the Thanksgiving table.
Many Sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders have felt compelled to allay those concerns by assuring citizens that officers will not be randomly coming to their homes on Thanksgiving Day to count the number of people inside.
That would be neither practical nor Constitutional.
The Governor has responded by dismissing those serious concerns on the part of local law enforcement, saying, “Law enforcement officers don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will enforce.”
We find that comment ironic, and disingenuous, since the Governor has directed that his own State Police do not have to enforce the order. Apparently, it is another case of “do as I say, not as I do,” such as we have seen with many other political leaders.
He has also called sheriffs “dictators” for following the Constitution rather than his orders, which we also find ironic.
We do not know if the Governor’s limit on home gatherings to ten individuals is the right number or not. That is a decision for science, not us, to make.
We do know, however, that the Governor has attempted to foist upon local law enforcement an impossible task. How are officers to know, without violating citizens’ right to privacy and other Constitutional rights, how many people are in the home?
How are they to determine if the family gathering is to be deemed “essential” or “nonessential?” …All of those are serious questions which make it impossible for law enforcement to know how to legally enforce the Governor’s order. They are questions that could have been addressed if we had a functioning State Legislature, creating clear and enforceable laws after input from those who would be impacted by them.
Instead we are faced with an unenforceable dictate issued without any consultation with law enforcement or the public as to enforceability.
We believe that rather than issuing orders that cannot be practically enforced, and then blaming law enforcement when they are not enforced, the Governor would better serve the people of New York if he were to use his position to encourage citizens to use common sense and voluntarily adhere to the guidance of state and federal health officials…
We urge you to listen to our public health officials.
We urge you to limit your exposure to those outside your household as much as you reasonably can. If we all do that, we will sooner be able to get back to normal.
We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things.
It is a matter of individual respon-sibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.
SCIENCE TRIVIA – 7 – 9 p.m. Test your knowledge science with your friends or play solo with the A. J. Read Science Discovery Center. Registration required. 607-436-2011 or visit www.facebook.com/AJReadSDC/ for info.
COVID-19 TESTING – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Stop in for free Covid Test with results in 15 minutes. Help stop the spread. Testing by appointment only. 3 locations in Oneonta. Oneonta Armory, 4 Academy St.; Foothills Performing Arts Center, 24 Market St.; St. James Church, 305 Main St. Call 833-NYSTRNG for an appointment.