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Sunday, November 28, 2021

WEEKEND SPECIAL -- New Coronavirus Variant Exposed:
As Omicron spreads, African nations are being blamed and banned

Nations in southern Africa protested bitterly Saturday as more of the world’s wealthiest countries cut them off from travel, renewing a debate over border closures from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic and compounding the problems facing poorly vaccinated countries.

A new coronavirus variant called Omicron, first detected in Botswana, put governments on edge after South Africa announced a surge of cases this week, plunging countries into the most uncertain moment of the pandemic since the highly contagious Delta variant.

As in the early days of Delta, political alarm spread quickly across the world, with officials trading blame over how the failures of the global vaccination effort were allowing the virus to mutate, even as researchers warned that the true threat of the new variant was not yet clear.

Bearing a worrying number of mutations that researchers fear could make it spread easily, Omicron was spotted in two patients in Britain on Saturday and another probable case in Germany, leaving in its wake what scientists estimated to be thousands of cases in southern Africa and tens or hundreds more globally. One nation after another shut its doors to southern Africa even as they spurned public health measures that scientists said were far more urgently needed to take on the new variant.

Australia, Thailand and Sri Lanka were among the latest countries Saturday to join the United States, Britain and the European Union in banning travelers from South Africa and nearby countries. Health officials in the Netherlands announced that 61 passengers on two flights from South Africa had tested positive for the virus, the latest indication of how difficult it might be to stop the variant from crossing borders.

In poorer African nations, the cascade of travel closures triggered a wave of resentment among people who believed that the continent was yet again bearing the brunt of panicked policies from Western countries, which had failed to deliver vaccines and the resources needed to administer them.

By Benjamin Mueller and Declan Walsh, NEW YORK TIMES

Richer countries, having already hoarded vaccines for much of 2021, were now penalizing parts of the world that they had starved of shots in the first place, scientists said.

“Told you so,” said Francois Venter, a researcher at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, referring to warnings from African researchers that delaying vaccinations there risked the emergence of new variants. “It feels like these rich countries have learned absolutely nothing in terms of support.”

The sense of outrage was most visceral in South Africa, where business leaders predicted a dire economic toll, especially on tourism. In the arrivals halls of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, Ronald Masiwa, a tour operator, watched with dread as the information board flipped to red, displaying cancellation notices. Three clients had already canceled trips overnight, and he feared that many more would follow.

Some health officials said that the travel bans may buy some time to figure out how to deal with the new variant. But just as border closures a year ago did little to stop the spread of an earlier coronavirus variant from Britain, scientists said, the latest travel shutdowns had likely come too late.

Scientists worried that the restrictions would discourage other nations from reporting variant cases, lest they also get slapped with travel bans. Border closures have provoked debate during a succession of public health crises, including the Ebola outbreak in 2014, with global health officials warning that such bans can interrupt the flow of medical supplies and do economic damage that makes countries reluctant to report health threats.

“You close down the boundary with Africa, then you close the boundary with Belgium, then you close the boundary with somewhere else,” said Alessandro Vespignani, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston who has studied travel restrictions from early 2020 and advised government agencies in recent days on responses to the latest variant. “But every time you close it, it’s a little late.”

For now, it remains unclear whether the Omicron variant will transmit as easily as global health officials fear. The variant may simply have been in the right place during a surge of new infections in South Africa, making it appear more contagious than it really is.

But scientists said the border closures would wreak havoc in African countries that were counting on reopening. In South Africa, December is traditionally the high season for tourism, one of the country’s biggest industries, and operators had been banking on a surge in visitors from Britain, which had removed South Africa from its “red list” only last month.

“This is devastating,” said David Frost, CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association. “Many companies have been hanging on by their fingernails, and this is going to wipe them out. It’s going to be dire for conservation, and it’s going to be dire for people in rural areas where tourism is the only economic generator.”

South Africa’s number of daily infections – 2,828 on Friday – was a small fraction of case counts in countries with similarly sized populations, like Germany and Britain, not to mention the United States. For Frost, the hurried measures were the mark of a blatant double standard.

Just over 10% of people in Africa have received one dose of a vaccine, compared with 64% in North America and 62% in Europe.

In wealthier nations, scientists said, far more consequential than delaying the arrival of new Omicron cases was the question of what they would do with whatever time they had bought themselves to respond.

At home, scientists said, those countries should ramp up testing and vaccinations and help infected people isolate, especially given the difficulties they were already having containing the Delta variant. Scientists pleaded with countries to match those efforts globally, including with aid to southern Africa for their health systems and vaccination and varianttracking efforts. “If all we do is a travel ban, and we don’t increase testing at airports or provide resources for people to isolate if they do test positive so they can justify missing work – all of that would have to be happening to reduce community transmission,” said Joseph Fauver, an assistant professor studying genomic surveillance at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

After decades of skepticism toward border closures among global health officials, Covid-19 forced experts to re-examine their views, said Alexandra Phelan, a professor studying global health policy at Georgetown University. “We gained a bit of nuance and realized that travel restrictions have a potential role to play in slowing the spread of a new respiratory disease, even though it doesn’t stop it,” she said.

Still, Vespignani and his colleagues have shown that even the strictest travel restrictions only modestly delay the spread of the virus without other efforts to cut transmission.

The latest variant has already shown signs of spreading locally beyond southern Africa. A patient in Belgium, for instance, had no connections with southern Africa, having traveled recently to Egypt, officials said. Several scientists said they suspected that the variant had been spreading undetected in countries with lackluster sequencing efforts before it surfaced in Botswana and South Africa, giving it more time to scatter globally. Nevertheless, European nations did not find the variant until after South Africa alerted them to it, demonstrating the gaps in their own surveillance efforts. The variant had plenty of opportunities to spread: In November, there were 334 flights scheduled out of southern Africa into Europe, with a capacity of nearly 100,000 seats. And three dozen flights were scheduled from Johannesburg into the United States this month.

Given the uneven global sequencing efforts, Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said that it was difficult to target individual countries for border closures. She warned that travel bans created a false sense of security, giving cover to elected leaders who wanted to avoid more difficult choices.

“The notion of having a global map of where the variants are and aren’t is just fantasy,” she said. “I don’t think the travel bans really have much of an impact, other than answering the political pressures that inevitably arise when a new variant emerges.”

A technician works in the laboratory at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in South Africa. One nation after another shut its doors to southern Africa over the weekend, even as they spurned public health measures that scientists said were far more urgently needed.

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W. PETE MAIRS

W. PETE MAIRS
Walter D. “Pete” Mairs, 81, died peacefully on July 23, 2021. Born in Avon, N.Y., on Sept. 3, 1939, Pete was a longtime resident of Geneva, N.Y., and these past many years in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as his beloved Silver Lake. Pete is survived by his wife, Linda Bergstrom Mairs, a loving and true companion; children, Mimi C. Mairs, Jonathan B. Mairs; sisters, June Huff, Helen Dole; brother, Thomas Mairs; stepchildren, Daniel Brinkworth, Jennie Ramsey; sister-in-law, Anne Bergstrom, eight beautiful grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. A service and celebration of life is planned for the fall when all can share the joy of Pete’s life together. Arrangements by Stephenson – Dougherty Funeral Home, Avon, N.Y.

Editor's Note: It was a privilege knowing and working with Pete Mairs during his presidency of the Silver Lake Institute. He was a kind and gentle man, but also firm in his leadership. I served as Treasurer and Chaplain of SLI during those years and I could always depend on Pete's presence in the worship service. He was a man of faith and a gem of a human being. May he rest in God's care.

GERALD C. SAHRLE

GERALD C. SAHRLE
Gerald C. Sahrle, 80, of Perry, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. He was born on Oct. 10, 1941, in Wayland, N.Y., to the late Charles A. and Helen I. (Blowers) Sahrle. Gerry was a line foreman for 32 1/2 years for NYSE&G, working out of the Perry and Hamburg locations, and was a Town of Perry Councilman. He was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Constellation Lodge -404 in Perry. He was an avid fisherman, hunter and woodworker. He is survived by his wife, Valary A. (Conley) Sahrle; 1 son, Gerald (Pamela) Sahrle II of Silver Springs; 2 sisters, Millie Edmond of Greece, Bonnie Fink of Winston-Salem, N.C., 3 brothers, Ronald (Linda) Sahrle of Dansville, Robert (Susan) Sahrle of Springwater, Kenneth Sahrle of Dansville; 5 grandchildren, Bradley Musscarella, Stone and Winston Sahrle, Conley and Cooper Gayton; along with many nieces, nephews and friends. Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a brother, Thomas Sahrle, who passed away in 2012. Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Gerry will be laid to rest in West Perry Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Perry Center Fire Department, P.O. Box 204, Perry, NY 14530. For more information, please call (585) 237-2626 or to leave a message of condolence, visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 North Main Street, Perry, NY 14530.

Editor's Note: Gerald and Valarie could always be seen in the family pew with Pamela, Stone and Winston at Perry First United Methodist Church and continue to be loved. Gerry will be sorely missed. Both were supporters of the Arts at the Silver Lake Institute and Valarie was active in painting and participating in the Annual Show in August. Valarie's presence was always valued and appreciated.

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")
"Kathy P." passed November 8, 2021, of Hamburg and Boston, NY. Beloved daughter of Joseph and Barbara Michalak; loving sister of Daniel Michalak; devoted wife of the late Jeffrey Praczkajlo; cherished mother of Jennifer (Shawn) Jump; loving babcia of Lily Jump; also survived by many beloved family members and friends who became her family. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Editor's Note: "Kathy P." as she was better known to us at Silver Lake was an annual summer visitor for most of the last number of years at the invitation of Silver Laker Julia Hoffner. She stayed at the Hoffner Cottage, and became known as both the fun visitor with the vivacious smile to the neighbors at the intersection of Haven Ave. and the Ames Walkway. Kathy P. and Julie could be seen walking and talking between the cottage and the Hoffner boathouse where they could be close to the water. She was also occasionally seen at the Saturday morning breakfasts at Stoody Hall. Her stay was anywhere between 4 days and a week where she had the opportunity to develop a love for Silver Lake. She was not yet eligible for retirement when late last week she developed "a cold" and had to remain home from her job. She did not update her condition over the weekend so the local police made a wellness visit and found her deceased on Monday. She was one of those many people who found Silver Lake and friendship for brief respites where she also found new strength and energy to return to work. She is being particularly mourned by those in the Haven/Ames neighborhood. She will be memorialized next summer at the annual Celebration of Life Memorial Service at Epworth Hall.

BRENDA J. PADDOCK

BRENDA J. PADDOCK
Brenda Joan Paddock, 82, of Perry, born April 15, 1939, now resides in heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brenda met Jesus as her Savior in 1965. She met him in person on Nov. 14, 2021. She had a beautiful homecoming with music, singing and praying, leading her into Glory. Her last words were “I am well, I am well.”

Brenda’s greatest loves were her family and friends. Brenda had five children with her husband Roger: Don and Daelene Paddock of Florida, Jody and Tim Von Sanden of Pavilion, Bradley and Jeanie Paddock of Warsaw, Jennifer and Paul Guy of Massachusetts, and Nathan and Jill Paddock of Perry.

Brenda dearly loved her grandchildren: Jessica Morillo, Nikki and Clint O’Brien, Luke Paddock, Paul Paddock, Ian and Brooklyn Paddock, Joe and Louana Paddock, Burke and Megan Paddock, Aaron Paddock, Ellen Paddock, Andrew Paddock, Rachael Paddock, Abigail Paddock, Erik and Cassandra Von Sanden, Jacquelyn and Michael Jones, Tim Von Sanden, Brandon and Brandee Paddock, Jamey and Laura Paddock, Peter and Kara Guy, Candy and Jay Waitkevich, Marlo and Ryan Bolger and Jenna and Rory Peterson.

Brenda was blessed and loved her great grandchildren: Chloe, Olivia and Nicholas Von Sanden, Joshua and Jaxon Morillo, Jameson and Cassandra O’Brien, Atlas Paddock, Noah and Ezra Jones, Colton, Brantley and Charlotte Guy, Cameron Waitkevich, Amelia Bolger and Brennen Leonard.

Brenda is also survived by her brother and sister in laws; Frank and Emma Paddock, Viva and Jim Phillips-Richardson and Kurt and Lynn Paddock.

Brenda first started working as a secretary at Perry Central School. She then assisted her husband building Paddock’s Breeding Service. Roger and Brenda together built and ran the Sandsabarn teenage nightclub. Brenda was owner and operator of Serendipity Travel. Brenda’s pleasures included playing organ and piano. She played at a number of area churches along with performing for her loved ones. UPDATED -- Brenda also played with conviction at both indoor and outdoor services at the Silver Lake Institute where her grandson, Luke, sang at Epworth Hall on several occasions and was appreciated by all who heard his inspiring voice.

Brenda was preceded in death by her parents Noble and Freda Buckland, her husband Roger and son Bradley.

A Committal service at West Perry Cemetery will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 17 at 11 a.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at LaGrange Baptist Church at 4 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made in Brenda’s honor to the LaGrange Baptist Church 7092 LaGrange Rd. Perry, NY 14530 or to the First Congregational Church P.O. Box 156 Perry, NY 14530. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 N. Main St., Perry, N.Y. 14530. For more information or to sign the online guest registry please visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com.

AUGUST 4-7, 2022

AUGUST 4-7, 2022
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