News of Otsego County


Court grants governor full stay on masks

Court grants governor full stay on masks

New York’s Appellate court on January 31 granted a full stay to Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate for all public indoor spaces for the remainder of the appeals process currently underway.

A state Supreme Court judge first struck down the mandate as unconstitutional on January 24, a second court overturned that decision on the Governor’s appeal. The January 31 Appellate court ruling keeps the mandate alive through the next court date in the appeal – March 2, 2022.

The governor last week also extended her mandate until February 10, promising to revisit her decision biweekly. That means, technically, the mandate could come down before March 2.

She first announced the “winter surge” requirement on December 10 with an executive order mandating masks to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a proof-of-vaccination requirement for anyone 12 years of age or older.

Life during COVID: December in Otsego

Life during COVID: December in Otsego

By Richard Sternberg M.D.

Checking the Otsego County Department of Health dashboard on December 20 showed a distinct uptick in a number of cases of COVID in recent days. Most of these still are probably from Delta, but also are beginning to reflect the Omicron variant. The website did not identify the specific variant of those cases.

Dr. Fauci says the number of cases of the Omicron across the United States doubles every two to three days. That in itself is very disturbing. The good news is that those who have been fully vaccinated and, where indicated, have received booster shots, generally show mild symptoms. The number of patients in intensive care units over the total number of people who tested positive shows a decline from those of a year ago. Additionally, the Paxlovid antiviral medication, when available and when properly indicated, seems to decrease the risk of serious complications by up to 90 percent.

Bassett chief reflects on a busy first year at helm
Dr. Ibrahim

Bassett chief reflects on a busy first year at helm

[Editor’s note: We invited Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bassett Healthcare Network, to reflect on his first year at the helm of our regional healthcare facilities. He provided to The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta the following as a first-person, open letter to the communities the network serves.]

Dear Friends, Neighbors and Colleagues,

By many measures, 2021 was challenging and transformative for our community and Bassett Healthcare Network. When I began my tenure as President and CEO of Bassett, we were in the early stages of a pandemic that we hoped would last weeks or months, but became the largest global pandemic in a century. This crisis has been daunting and has tested our resolve in ways we could not have imagined. Through it all, our caregivers and practitioners did what they do best — cared selflessly for our patients and community.

Opinion by Richard Sternberg, M.D.: A return to normalcy after COVID?

Opinion by Richard Sternberg, M.D.
A return to normalcy after COVID?

It appears the summer surge of COVID-19 in the United States is abating.

Numbers are going down except in the hardest hit states. The average number of deaths last week was approximately 1,800 per day and the number of daily infections is about 100,000. These seem to be trending down but if they flare up again and represent averages over the long-term we are talking about 675,000 deaths per year. By comparison, in the United States, the flu kills somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people a year. If the flu pandemic of 1918 is any guideline, we should expect further surges with the number and severity of the surges dying out eventually.

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.: Boosters will provide additional protection

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.
Boosters will provide additional protection

Raise your hand if you are as confused as I have been digesting information about COVID-19 booster shots that has come out in the last month. Every day there seems to be something new. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, the media is so desperate for something to publish that they have been writing about the arguments that have led up to the current recommendations. The following is from a CDC release from Friday, Sept. 24.

“CDC recommends that the following groups should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completing their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series (i.e., The first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine).

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.: Maybe God wants people to be vaccinated

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.
Maybe God wants people to be vaccinated

During Hurricane Katrina more than 1,800 people died primarily from flooding caused by the hurricane and by the levees breaking in New Orleans. Many of those who died lived in the city’s ninth ward.

Initially a mandatory evacuation order was sent out but many people ignored it and stayed in their homes. A man, who we will call John and who was very religious, was at home. As the water started to rise, the police started going door-to-door telling people to evacuate. John said to the police, “I’ll be fine because the Lord will protect me.”

The waters continued to rise. They became too high for regular vehicles. The fire department came by on its trucks urging people to evacuate. They offered to take them out of the area. When they got to John though, he said “I’ll be fine because the Lord will protect me.”

Opinion by Charles Hyman, M.D.: Delta variant or not, vaccines are best option

Opinion by Charles Hyman, M.D. Delta variant or not, vaccines are best option

There is a lot in the news about the Delta variant of COVID-19 that is now spreading across the United States, threatening to move us back to a time of lockdown, universal masking and social distancing. With all this buzz, I wanted to offer my friends and neighbors some helpful background information. Namely: What is this Delta variant and how did it occur?

Bassett Healthcare has Sept. 27 deadline for employees to be vaccinated

Bassett Healthcare has Sept. 27,
deadline for employees to be vaccinated

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

COOPERSTOWN — In response to the state government mandating vaccinations for all healthcare workers, Bassett Healthcare has given its employees a deadline of Monday, Sept. 27, in order to have the first dose of the vaccine.

The mandate does not offer room for religious exemption but it does allow medical exemptions.

An internal email, penned by Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, CEO of Bassett Healthcare, said if employees are not vaccinated by Sept. 27, “you will no longer meet the regulatory requirements to be employed by Bassett Healthcare Network.”

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.: Taking chances with other people’s lives is evil

Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.
Taking chances with
other people’s lives is evil


Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Man walks into a bar talking to the other people at the bar. He has a few drinks, gets somewhat inebriated and then announces “Oh, by the way, I have COVID-19. What are you gonna do about it?”

Several days later everybody who was at the bar tests positive for coronavirus and they start to have secondary positives in their families and among their friends.

Right now, this is a rumor, for which I have no hard evidence. The story changes about where and how the man got infected and where he went to drink to spread it. Perhaps it’s apocryphal. I’m not sure if I heard it second-hand, third-hand or fourth-hand, and I’m not going to speculate on whether it’s true or not and what businesses may be affected.

This is what many of our nightmares have been about and why some of us wanted all the restrictions we’ve tried to have in our community. It’s bad enough when somebody who legitimately thinks they are not at risk to spread the disease spreads it, either because they’re vaccinated and don’t realize they can still get it or they’ve taken all reasonable precautions such as masking. However, when somebody arrogantly exposes other people to a disease, this is a disaster, especially since that person is probably not just exposing the three people in the store but other people in the community. Then those people are exposing others, and so on. I wouldn’t be surprised if an incident like this ended up causing at least one significant disability or death. Maybe a child will get it and end up with long-time syndrome. Maybe somebody will bring it home to an elderly relative and they will have severe respiratory problems and die. This is no longer theoretical if the information I received is true; and it is a real possibility.

Being the liberal that people purport me to be, I should be understanding and realize this is a confused person who drinks to excess and doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. Actually being somebody who is pretty much dead center politically and sometimes swayed by conservative
arguments (especially when it comes to spending issues), I find myself not really wanting to give this person any benefit of the doubt.

If this deed was done intentionally to prove a point, I feel hanging a man by his thumbs is a reasonable punishment. If anybody gets very sick, disabled or dies, he should be hanged by his cajones. I really have completely run out of patience with people who casually put other people at risk or expect healthcare professionals to bail them out if they happen to get sick.

At one hospital, the medical staff, including the nurses and the middle of all providers, basically held a mock strike. Yes, of course people were left behind to take care of the sick patients, but they made the point and it was shown on national television.

Let’s not let that happen here.

Get with the program people, get vaccinated. Wear your mask. If you don’t … stay home.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announces mask mandate for schools

Gov. Kathy Hochul announces mask mandate for schools

Staff Report • Special to

New Governor Kathy Hochul announced on her first day of office, Tuesday, Aug. 24, that she will be enforcing a mask mandate on anybody entering schools in New York.

Hochul said she does not need legislative approval as its a regulatory action.

State officials are also looking to mandate vaccines for all school employees. In addition, Hochul’s administration is looking to to use $335 million in federal funds for COVID testing in schools.



One death reported in Otsego County due to COVID

One death reported in Otsego County due to COVID

Staff Report • Special to

According to the Otsego County Department of Health, one person has passed away due to COVID on Saturday, Aug. 21.

There have been 83 active cases with 14 hospitalizations and 14 new cases as of Monday, Aug. 23.

The Otsego County Department of Health said they will be releasing a comprehensive press release sometime later this week and has in the past encouraged those who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as it is able to prevent hospitalization and death.


James Seward: My concerns grow about COVID’s return

My concerns grow about COVID’s return

I love Otsego County. My love for our area was the foundation of my 34 year service as State Senator. That certainly didn’t change with my retirement in January. If anything, living here without duties in Albany has only solidified my connection to my neighbors and friends.

As COVID-19 continues on, that love fills me with urgent concern.

As you may remember, COVID-19 is a very personal issue for me. My wife, Cindy, and I first tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in late March of 2020 We were concerned, but also relieved to be diagnosed with “mild” cases. I expected a short hospital stay followed by a quiet quarantine.

That plan was interrupted. Within a week, I was on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma in the ICU. I have no memory of that period of four days in the midst of my infection. But I have vivid memories of the weeks that followed. I struggled through a slow, painful and exhausting recovery process, while Cindy, along with our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, bore the weight of concern for my condition.

Otsego County nearly at high level of community transmission for COVID

Otsego County nearly at high level of community transmission for COVID

Staff Report • Special to

According to an Otsego County Department of Health press release, Otsego County is at a state where it could go from a substantial level of transmission to a high level of transmission as a result of the delta variant of the virus.

As such, they are continuing to recommend that everyone wear a masks indoor regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, they say there have been several cases where individuals have had repeat COVID infections, meaning that they got the virus after testing positive 90 days or more prior.

As of Thursday, Aug.12 , there are 82 cases in the county with 19 new cases reported and five hospitalizations. The Department of Health recommends that the public consider getting vaccinated if they have not already.

COVID-19 vaccines expanded to out-patient locations

COVID-19 vaccines
expanded to
out-patient locations

STAFF REPORT • Special to

Bassett Healthcare announced in a press release Thursday, July 1, that vaccines are available in out-patient locations, such as primary care and pediatric clinics.

Patients 12 and up are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine at these locations; 18 and up can receive Moderna or Johnson and Johnson as well as Pfizer.

“Obtaining vaccines in our clinics is a wonderful stride towards improving access for all our patients to this life-saving vaccine,” Gretchen Hodgdon, MD, Bassett Healthcare Network’s division chief of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, said in a press release. “This greatly broadens our connections to patients and families who may be eager to obtain the vaccines in the comfort of their own doctor’s offices. My hope is that every eligible patient will turn to their trusted providers for support, education, and reassurance. We are all in this together.”

Go to for more information on clinic locations.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: ‘Outsmarting The Pandemic’ Webinar 03-11-21

‘Outsmarting The Pandemic’ Webinar


WEBINAR SERIES – 7 p.m. Online series ‘Outsmarting the Pandemic’ continues with presentation ‘COVID-19 Vaccines: Worth A Shot’ on the how the vaccines work, how modern vaccines are developed, more. Free, registration required. Presented by A.J. Read Science Discovery Center, SUNY Oneonta. 607-436-2011 or visit

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