Bob Cairns: Why are COVID cancellations still happening?

·4 min read

Sep. 17—Here we go again.

Events are being canceled because of COVID-19. Just in recent days, the Unadilla Rotary Club canceled its Autumn Fest, Delaware County's Town & Country Quilters canceled their planned Quilts along the Delaware Show, and The Catskill Choral Society canceled rehearsals and the planned Christmas with Brass Concert.

There are more, I'm sure.

That should not be happening. We were supposed to be over this by now. We have the vaccines that put a wall between us and the virus. There's no reason for people to still be dying of COVID-19. But they are. All of our counties have reported deaths in the past few weeks.

I know it's disappointing to have a favorite event canceled. But the organizers making these hard decisions are taking on a responsibility that too many people refuse to.

Zoe Vandermeulen, Rotary District 7170 governor and Unadilla Rotary member, told us the reasons behind the club's decision, not that they weren't easy enough to see.

"We're concerned about the increased high transmission rate (of COVID-19) in our counties and the increasing rate of cases and hospitalizations in our area," she said. "We've been watching and hoping it was going to go in a different direction, and it hasn't; it's actually been increasing and, at a certain point a couple of weeks ago, we started to say to each other, as Rotarians, 'How can we make the festival safe for everyone?' Looking at things, we came to the conclusion this last Wednesday that we could not."

I'll note the Johnson family, owners of Covered Bridge Farm Market, where the festival has recently been held, have renamed and assumed sponsorship of the event. It's easy to understand the business motives behind such a decision. I hope they will, at the very least, insist on COVID protocols such as masks and stepped-up sanitation.

The Catskill Choral Society also noted rising COVID cases in the media release announcing the cancellation of the Christmas event.

"For the fourth concert cycle in a row, we have made the decision to not rehearse due to the risks posed by the new delta variant, even to vaccinated people, as breakthrough infections become more common," society President Chris Shields said.

COVID-19 cases should not be rising. They should be extremely rare by now. They're rising because too many among us just don't care.

Delaware County's public health director, Amanda Walsh, was on television this week — the Binghamton TV stations occasionally remember we still exist — sharing the twin bits of news that COVID cases had increased by more than 100 in the previous three days and that fewer than half of Delaware County's citizens are vaccinated.

Those two facts are not unrelated.

The same people who refuse vaccinations are the first to cry that their freedoms are being violated when they are asked to wear a mask to stop spreading their disease, and the first to complain when events such as those mentioned above are canceled.

I was glad to see President Joe Biden stand up to the pandering purveyors of pandemic politics, doing what he can to require that people stop spreading infection. In announcing sweeping vaccine requirements, he said:

"Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.

"So, please, do the right thing. But don't just take it from me. Listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breath, saying, 'If only I had gotten vaccinated.' If only. It's a tragedy. Please don't let it become yours."

I know some will automatically tune that message out because they're still unhappy that Biden whipped their preferred candidate in the last election. But the words are true no matter who utters them.

We should be canceling COVID, not beloved events. Take some responsibility and make that happen.

Robert Cairns is the managing editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at rcairns@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7217.

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