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News of Otsego County

precautions

Out of My Shell

Column by Dr. Richard Sternberg

Out of My Shell

Last week, I took a major step for myself and poked my head out of my shell. I decided that the situation with COVID is really not going to get much better. It is going to be endemic like the flu or the common cold and we’re going to have to deal with it. It’s time to get life back to as normal as possible.

I decided to take a trip to New York City, specifically Manhattan. There were several things that I wanted to do, and I haven’t been able to do for over two years. My personal schedule gave me a small window of opportunity to make the trip. I was also interested to see the response in the city to the continued presence of COVID and increase in lab-positive cases.

I went to a museum and I went to a Broadway show off Times Square. I also had a report from a friend of the crowd reaction at New York Rangers hockey game.

One day I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically to see a special event, a major retrospective of the works of Winslow Homer. By the way, if you have any interest in American art, you must get down to see this exhibit. It is worth the trip. These major retrospectives of Homer occur only approximately once every 25 years. This one is every bit as spectacular as the last one was in the mid-90s.

STERNBERG: Doctor In The House (Isolated)
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

STERNBERG: Doctor

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.

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