War Not Over, But Let’s Take Victory Lap


COVID-19 War Not Over,

But Let’s Take Victory Lap

Let’s take a victory lap.

As of Monday, May 4, the coronavirus threat in Otsego County had been reduced to one case. One case in the whole county.

It’s a battle won, not the war.

Testing for the coronavirus identified 62 positive infections once symptoms appeared, through the Bassett Hospital hotline (547-5555) and other means. In all likelihood, though, there is still coronavirus in our neighborhoods.

Testing for antigens, which is expected to ramp up in the days ahead – soon, in local pharmacies. It will identify people who have been exposed to COVID-19, have it in their bloodstreams, but may not have infected anyone else.

Further, no county is an island, as much as we might wish it to be. People are driving up from New York City, the national center of the epidemic – many fewer than would have been if Induction 2020, Cooperstown Dreams Park and the Glimmerglass Festival hadn’t been cancelled – but still, some.

Some people, it’s said, are renting now-vacant Dreams Park families’ accommodations, seeking to shelter their families from the disease’s Ground Zero. Who can blame them?

According to an order from county Board Chairman David Bliss, they are required to report their arrival to the county Department of Health and to go into a 14-day quarantine. But it’s unlikely everybody is doing so.

Yes, it’s not over.

Still, we – look in the mirror; look around you to see who’s within sight – all of us, have participated in this success, in reducing 62 cases (and, potentially, rising) to one.

We’ve sheltered at home. We’ve washed our hands and used hand-sanitizer.

We’re wearing masks. We’re staying 6 feet away from each other.

We’ve avoided congregating outside our families. We’ve cancelled all major local events, from the Otsego Chamber of Commerce’s spring gala, to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s annual dinner, to all sporting events and high school graduations – you name it. All churches and social clubs are in abeyance.

We’ve sacrificed, for the good of all.

County government sprang into action, beginning with Bliss’ emergency declaration, a day after
President Trump’s and Governor Cuomo’s, to enable quick implementation of state and national orders.

In addition to a COVID-19 task force, chaired by County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, sub-task forces for economic development (DMOC’s Cassandra Harrington, chair) and health (Bassett’s Diane Johnson) were spun off.

Individual initiative played a part: Oneonta City Councilman Mark Drnek comes to mind. His www.supportoneonta.com, which evolved into www.supportotsego.com, has been adopted by the City of Oneonta’s Economic Development Task Force, appointed by Mayor Gary Herzig.

Our elected officials – the county board, the Cooperstown village trustees, our school boards in Oneonta, Cooperstown and across the county – have been on it, strategizing, cutting, with more to come –
to ensure an unprecedented challenge doesn’t become an unprecedented fiasco.

In the front ranks, we should be thankful to county Public Health Department and its director, Heidi Bond, for reducing 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus to a single one. These unsung heroes have enforced the quarantines, and ensured those under quarantined are tended and kept in place.

Of course, this has been a 24-7 undertaking for Bassett Hospital and Fox Hospital, on the job unstintingly since March 13 – 54 days as of Wednesday, May 6.

This represents a lot of individual dedication and institutional muscle.

OK. Down to one. Breathe deeply. The signs are good. But challenges remain. Foremost, remember, that one neighbor of ours who is still suffering. It’s not over yet.

Given the bludgeoning New York City has taken, it’s to be expected that Governor Cuomo – he’s performed superbly in this crisis – is moving forward so cautiously.

But human beings are human beings – communal animals, energetic, crying and laughing, jostling
each other, pushing ever forward – and won’t be constrained beyond what’s reasonable.

All of this shall pass, preferably sooner, but at some point regardless.

Still, we citizens of Otsego County can be proud today.

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