Well. Things are a bit tense out in the Western Catskills this week. The virus numbers are ticking up again.
Otsego County, home of Cooperstown and the reopened Baseball Hall of Fame, has reported 15 new cases between July 1 and July 20. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s rivaling the rate of spread they saw in late March, when things were at their worst. The public-health officials are clearly concerned.
Four people are hospitalized, and three of those are in intensive care. Cooperstown is now talking about making a law requiring masks in town. They are trying to salvage what was supposed to be their best tourism summer in history – the year Derek Jeter got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Instead, all the big events – induction, the Dreams Park, the Glimmerglass Opera, the county fair, are cancelled. And they may have to back off from the limited openings they’ve done.
Oneonta is in Otsego County, too. It’s where everyone from my town does their grocery shopping. It’s where the closest Hannaford is.
Today, Hannaford had new systems in place that were stricter than anything they did during the height of the shutdown. There’s only one way in – the other side of the store is now only for exiting. At the entrance, there’s a table with sanitizer, free masks, and a young staffer whose thankless job, I’m guessing, is making sure no one gets in without a mask.
The one-way aisles are back, and clearly marked, though people continue to not be able to figure them out. And all the Charmin toilet paper, most of the bleach, was gone. So was the milk, but that may be a different issue.
It felt eerily familiar. Except the sanitizer shelves were stocked.
Delaware County, where I live, has two new cases, making a total of seven active ones. We had none for quite a while. Fifty six people are in quarantine. That’s a lot for this very rural area. And the public-health department, which has refused to identify towns or places where positive cases have been confirmed for fear of causing a panic, or negatively impacting a business, notified the public that a Baptist church in Walton has had a confirmed case, and said that anyone who has been there for a service or a community event recently should get a test. They’re clearly worried.
I’ve interviewed the women who run the county health department. I feel for them. They’ve been harassed, threatened, and they’ve worked themselves to exhaustion. And now it looks like we’re back on the virus treadmill.
I know people who post anti-mask tirades on their Facebook pages. I’m done. I won’t be able to convince them, and their refusal to take the most basic precaution is inexcusable. I’ve blocked them. If I see them and they ask me why, I’ll tell them. But only if they’re wearing a mask.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.