By CHRYSTAL SAVAGE & LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The good news: Residents and staff at Cooperstown Center are receiving the Pfizer vaccine, as have 900 Bassett Healthcare Network employees, who have so far received the Moderna vaccine.
The bad news: Five more people have died from COVID-19 this week, a weekly record, bringing the year-end toll to 17 deaths in the largest spike this month.
“They have all been sick for a while and were all hospitalized,” said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director.
Three were men, two women, all over age 55, and all had been hospitalized. One of them, said Bond, got sick after being exposed to someone who caught the virus at the Copper Fox in Oneonta.
“This person didn’t go to the bar, but they contracted the disease through secondary spread from someone who did,” she said.
Additionally, cases reached staff members at both Mel’s at 22 and The Otesaga’s Hawkeye Grill, leading to both shutting their doors until after the New Year.
“Until recently, we have been very fortunate that our Mel’s at 22 community has not been affected by COVID-19,” wrote Mel’s owner Brian Wrubleski in a Facebook posting on Christmas Eve.
“Last week one of our servers tested positive,” he continued. “In accordance with the best practices from the Department of Health, we have decided to remain closed until the New Year.
“This will give us time to make sure that all of our team members are safe and healthy before returning to serving you.”
Said Bond, “We don’t require businesses to close if a staff member tests positive for COVID. But we do recommend they close for at least 24 hours for cleaning.”
She was “unaware” of similar restaurant closures elsewhere in the county, although previously, Applebee’s, the Latte Lounge, Red’s Ale House, the Red Jug Pub and the Copper Fox, all in Oneonta, closed temporarily after COVID cases were reported among patrons and staff members.
At Centers, residents and staff began receiving the vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
“Seventy-six percent of residents received their first vaccine today,” said spokesman Jeffrey Jacomowitz. “We are anticipating all residents that have consented to the vaccine to have both doses by February.”
Walgreen’s is assisting with the vaccine distribution. “Thus far, neither residents nor staff has had any adverse reactions following administration of their vaccine,” he said.
At Bassett, Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Public and Media Relations Director, said that the network is awaiting a “formal invitation” from the state Department of Health to begin using the state’s prioritization schedule for vaccine distribution going forward.
But despite the rapid increase in vaccinations, Bond doesn’t expect cases themselves to decline any time soon.
“Any time now, cases from Christmas gatherings are going to start coming in,” she said. “We’ve already had some people who reported symptoms before the holidays, but gathered anyways.”
Those who have been identified as being in contact with a positive COVID case during the holidays are instructed to quarantine inside their home for 14 days, as they may only be eligible for a test if they begin showing symptoms.
“That means that you do not gather for New Year’s Eve, you do not leave the house for anything,” she said.