As of today, there been more than 5,200 cases of monkeypox confirmed in the United States. Over 1,300 of those cases have been in New York State, the majority of these in the New York City area. The monkeypox outbreak worldwide continues to increase, and last week the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency of international concern. There needs to be an internationaly coordinated response to try to control this viral disease.
In order to prevent the disease from spreading further, there needs to be more testing, access to vaccines, and treatments along with other public health efforts. Unfortunately, much of this is not in place, and messaging to the public is not always been clear. The coordination, for what it’s worth, seen in the fight against monkeypox, is nowhere near that as seen in the global fight against COVID. Information about who was at risk and access to care is not always been clear. It is difficult to find testing. Vaccine distribution is irregular. Other treatment options are unclear.
There are 3006 counties, 14 boroughs, 11 census areas, 64 parishes, and multiple independent cities in the United States. The good news is that The Center for Disease Control reports that only 79 of these have a high incidence of COVID transmission.
The bad news is that of the 79, 36 or almost half are in or surround Central New York. Risk in Otsego County is only moderate, but it is contiguous to high-risk areas.
On Friday of last week, Otsego County reported 47 new COVID cases. This represents approximately a four-to-five-fold increase from one month ago. Testing positivity is up to 8.8%. What are we doing wrong?
On the relatively good side, there have been only 16 deaths year-to-date in Otsego County attributed to COVID. Case rate is increasing, but it does not appear that the death rate is increasing, at least not significantly.
In the past week alone, the person whom I went to visit on Saturday wouldn’t let me in his house because his wife tested positive that morning. The visit devolved into a shouting conversation from about 60 feet apart.
Why not add a full-line, local-focus gift shop to an already bustling restaurant and boutique in the midst of a pandemic when even the most seasoned merchants can’t be sure of the next set of rules that might change the whole way they have to do business?
That’s indeed what Cory Moffat did in May of this year, when she opened the doors of The Mingo Market, on the grounds of Sam Smith’s Boatyard on Route 80, just outside of Cooperstown’s village limits. It’s the same Otsego Lake location that features the Blue Mingo Grill.
“This building has been a few things,” Mrs. Moffat said as she toured the shop, a structure that once housed the boat shop for her father, Sam Smith. “Cooperstown Christmas, then an antique shop, and a junk shop. When we decided to clear it out for The Mingo Market, we had three dumpsters full of things to throw out.”
Since our article on Saturday Nov. 27 here is some of the further news about COVID-Omicron. The virus is now identified in over a half dozen European countries (and is likely in most of Europe), Australia, Israel, and Hong Kong. Fourteen people on a plane that landed in the Netherlands coming from South Africa were positive for the Omicron variant. All arriving passengers are now being tested and held until results are available. Japan which has not yet identified Omicron in country, and Israel, have banned all foreigners from entering the country. Many countries, including the U.S. have less restrictive policies. Physicians world-wide including Dr. Francis Collins, Head of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have said it will take two weeks to know much more. They are also reminding people that we don’t know how it will affect vaccinated and boosted people and whether it will induce more severe symptoms and of the need to use mitigation methods including vaccines, masking, and social distancing.
The Glimmerglass Festival is releasing ‘The Knock’, a 50 minute opera as a film for free on its website on Veteran’s Day, Thursday, November 11.
‘The Knock’, composed by Aleksandra Vrebalov, was originally slated for a 2020 stage production, but after the pandemic hit, they decided to create the work as a film. The one-act opera is about the wives of military men waiting for news of their husbands.
The libretto, created by Deborah Brevoort, is based on interviews of soldiers’ spouses.
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.