Senator James Seward: A Personal Appeal About a Public Crisis

Senator James Seward
     Senator James Seward            

When I talk about the COVID-19 vaccine, it's personal.

That feels strange to say. After serving as a New York State Senator for 34 years, I am used to thinking of issues the size of the COVID-19 pandemic in public terms — meeting with community and business leaders, directing funds to responders, and representing my constituents in Albany. 

I am not used to an issue like this being so deeply personal.

My wife, Cindy, and I first tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in late March of last year. We were, of course, concerned. But we were also relieved: both of us were diagnosed as having a "mild" case. I was admitted to the hospital, but I expected to be discharged quickly to return home for a quiet quarantine with my wife. But 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 — that alone says something about the severity of COVID-19 which nearly took my life. But I do have vivid memories of the slow, painful, and exhausting recovery process that followed. And I could see the effects my illness had on others — the worry and sorrow that weighed down on Cindy as well as the rest of my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

When I say that this is a deeply personal subject, I mean I am profoundly grateful to God and my medical team for getting me through it and that I do not wish this disease on anybody. This is why everyone in my family got a vaccine as soon as they could. If you have been putting off or avoiding a COVID-19 vaccine, I urge you to reconsider and get your vaccine as soon as possible.

Vaccination is also personal to me because of how much I care for our community, region, and state. I want to see our economy humming again. I want our kids back in school next fall to fully participate in in-person studies, activities, and sports. I want to see visitors coming to our area museums, concerts, and games. I even want to see traffic congestion during the baseball camp tournaments and the Hall of Fame induction.

Oneonta, Cooperstown, and Otsego County have so much to offer to others. The longer the pandemic drags out, the more I miss sharing the place I love with everyone.

I am also following the spread of the Delta Variant in the news. This variant should spur us on towards full vaccination for two reasons. First, it's another wave of COVID-19, this time perhaps with higher infection rates since it is more contagious than previous variants. Second, it is a warning. Variants arise through mutations as viruses spread. Letting infections continue unchecked opens the door for even more variants — perhaps variants that are more contagious, more deadly, or resistant to our first vaccines.

I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven't already. I know that there are a lot of reasons why you may not have gotten a vaccine yet. For some, it has been difficult to get to vaccination centers or distribution points. Thankfully, Bassett Healthcare Network, for whom I work as a consultant, now has vaccines available in all of their primary care offices. You can contact your provider and get a vaccine on your next visit. I urge you to make an appointment today.

Our area is strong, my friends. We can overcome this pandemic together. Vaccines are our best hope of a full return to normal.

topics in this article COVID-19 Resources