Unadilla One Raises COVID-19 Fears
By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
UNADILLA – Things had been going so well.
Until the weekend, Otsego County had not had a positive COVID-19 case in more than three weeks.
Then on Friday, May 22, the county announced that an individual who attended a Unadilla Livestock Auction had later tested positive for the virus.
The individual, who is not a resident of this county, had been at a May 16 auction
from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. and was not wearing a mask, according the Otsego County Health Department. There were about 150 others present.
“I think this is why the governor issued the executive order,” said county Health Director Heidi Bond. “To reduce the density of people.”
The livestock auction falls under the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, the auction was not covered by Governor Cuomo’s order that gatherings be limited to less than 10 people, Bond said.
“From what I understand they didn’t have social distancing in place,” she said. “There was crowding and people were standing within 6 feet of each other without a mask.”
The county Health Department issued an alert Friday warning local residents who may have been there to monitor themselves for symptoms.
So far, only one person has reported symptoms, but the test is not back yet, Bond said.
Also, in the past five days, two additional positive cases were reported. Neither was related to the auction, Bond said. Both individuals likely contracted the disease in a healthcare setting outside the county, one as an employee and the other as a patient, she said.
The Health Department is working with the auction house to better protect those who attend.
Bond also stressed the importance of personal responsibility as county residents work to avoid the virus and prevent others from getting infected.
“We all have to take personal responsibility,” she said. “If we don’t like what is going on at a business then don’t go there.”
She also said people who feel ill should make a point of not going out in public.
The case at the auction is a scenario that could have led to a cluster of cases locally, and because people come from other areas to attend the auction it could have led to a spread. So far, however, Bond is not aware of any cases in other counties that might be related.
The two week incubation period will be up May 30, and most people start to show symptoms within seven days, so she is hopeful that the region dodged a bullet, she said.
Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said he had a complaint about the fact that the auction was still operating several weeks ago, but determined that they were deemed an essential business and pointed to state Ag & Markets.
“The governor’s made all these stipulations to put it back on local law enforcement, but no tools to deal with it,” he said.
Devlin said he had never been to the auction house and could not say whether it was large enough that 150 people could achieve proper social distancing while there.