Retired Amsterdam Fire Department lieutenant Dave Swart was honored as one of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic Friday by the PBS Newshour.
The PBS Newshour, hosted by Judy Woodruff, has been broadcasting a weekly segment for months honoring victims of the pandemic. Swart was one of four people honored in Friday’s segment. The others were: Mario Aranda, 79, and Saludacion Solon Fontanilla, 51, both of California and Juan Carlos Rangel, 60, of Texas.
“Those who knew 69-year-old David D. Swart Sr. described him as a simple man who worked hard every day for his family and friends,” Woodruff said during the segment. “A lifelong resident of Upstate New York, he served as a lieutenant and 30-year veteran of the Amsterdam Fire Department. When he wasn’t putting out fires, he was making hot dogs at his restaurant, Dave’s Dawgs, and devoting time to his family. His son said Dave loved big and was a first responder in both work and spirit, always showing up for those in need.”
Swart was the first known fatal case of COVID-19 in Montgomery County. He died April 3 after having been admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital on March 23.
Dave Swart’s widow Pam Frollo Swart said she felt honored when the PBS Newshour contacted her son Dave Swart Jr. about featuring her husband in the weekly segment.
Pam said she chose to go public with Dave Swart’s COVID-19 illness because she didn’t want him “to be a statistic.”
Pam said most of the people who die from COVID-19 in the United States suffer and die anonymously.
She said she wanted the people of her community to understand the seriousness of the pandemic and learn from her husband’s experience.
“I was very outspoken, because I think people need to understand what happens — it’s not the flu,” she said. “The truth of the matter is, he was sick during the week, and still continued to do yard work. Saturday, he went to breakfast with his friends, like he always does, and Monday he was on a respirator.”
Pam said she also contracted COVID-19.
“I was sick before he was,” she said. “I had gone to the doctors twice, and they kept on saying ‘no, you don’t have COVID, no you don’t have COVID’ but then I had an antibody test and I did have COVID-19.”
After he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s, Pam was separated from her husband. She never saw him alive again.
Amsterdam Fire Department members as well as extended family members, friends and public officials offered prayers and showed other signs of support in the parking lot at St. Mary’s during the week that Dave Swart battled the virus.
Since Dave Swart’s death, a total of 10 Montgomery County residents have died from COVID-19, with 9 people dying within the county, according to New York State’s COVID-19 tracker.
According to the NYS COVID-19 tracker, of the 36,935 Montgomery County residents who have been tested for COVID-19, 319 have tested positive, with 12 new cases Saturday and 3 new cases Friday.
Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko publishes a different set of COVID-19 numbers in her weekly COVID-19 update. Boerenko’s Nov. 9 figures, which only use data from testing reported to her office, show 271 lab confirmed COVID-19 positive cases, 6 deaths, 2 patients currently receiving medical care, 6 cases currently under home based monitoring and 271 COVID-19 cases that have resulted in a “full recovery.”
Boerenko and Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort began a series of at least weekly COVID-19 addresses live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page around the time of Dave Swart’s death. The outreach effort has been aimed at aggressively communicating up-to-date COVID-19 information in the hope of stemming the spread of the pandemic.
On Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 181,801 new cases and 43.6 new cases per 100,000 people in the U.S., for a total of 10.7 million COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, which have resulted in 243,580 deaths.
The CDC reported 1,364 new deaths from COVID-19 Saturday, and has reported 1,000 to 2,000 new deaths for the past several days, making it the worst period since the COVID-19 spring surge, which prompted economic shutdowns in New York state and other locations.
Pam Swart said she has been pained for the last several months watching how COVID-19 preventative measures have been politicized, particularly by President Donald Trump.
“A lot of what the President says and does, really upsets me,” she said. “After going through all of that, to have the President take it so lightly, actually making jokes about it while he was doing his rallies, going around the country, was heartbreaking. It was like rubbing salt in the wound every time he opened his mouth.”
Pam Swart said if she could offer advice to residents of Montgomery County and the Capital Region, it would be to listen to scientists and doctors and not just politicians.
“Dr. Fauci warned us months ago that the winter would be worse, and come to find out, he was right,” she said. “Don’t take it lightly. Don’t worry about missing holidays with families this year, hopefully so they’re around next year. I have an empty seat this Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it will never be filled again. Have an empty seat this year, so that seat can be filled next year. Wear a mask. Do the right thing. Believe the science. Don’t believe the President.”