During the time of the coronavirus pandemic, even mourning the loss of a loved one has changed.
Pam Swart on Sunday said there will be no funeral for her husband, Dave Swart, who died Friday at the age of 69 from complications brought on by the disease COVID-19. Dave Swart is the first Montgomery County resident to die after testing positive for the disease.
“We are not able to have a funeral,” Swart said. “He will be cremated Monday, and his ashes will be commingled with his dog Dixie, who he loved deeply and who passed last year. When this monster of a virus leaves us, we will have a Celebration of Life. That will really be one hell of a party, which is what he would want.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.11 establishes temporary new rules for funeral services during the coronavirus. The order does not completely prohibit funerals or interments, but requires attendance be limited to only immediate family and that social distancing between people be maintained. Bodies don’t have to be cremated and interments can be delayed, but the New York State Department of Health recommends burials take place now.
Pam Swart said her husband had said he wanted to be cremated long before contracting the virus.
Dave Swart was a retired Lieutenant and 30-year veteran of the Amsterdam Fire Department and former president of the Amsterdam Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2825. He was well-known throughout Amsterdam as the owner of Dave’s Dawgs.
He was a 1969 graduate of Wilber H. Lynch High School and he and Pam were married for 50 years.
Amsterdam Fire Department Chief Tony Agresta said it has not yet been determined how his department may honor Dave Swart.
AFD officials had used a ladder truck to place a Maltese Cross with signatures from friends in Dave Swart’s window in the St. Mary’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit while he was battling the virus.
The Maltese Cross is a symbol that means protection and is often used by fire departments.
“In the past for retirees it has been up to the family. Some have had an honor guard at the funeral, others choose to drive by the station with the procession and we would do a bell ceremony signifying a final alarm,” Agresta said. “I’m waiting to speak to Pam to see if we can do anything for them in the short term while the Celebration for Life is on hold. A few different ideas have been suggested, but I’m waiting to see what she is comfortable with.”
Pam Swart has said her decision to go public with her husband’s infection with COVID-19 is meant to provide a human face to the tragic implications of the illness, stating she did not want him to become “a statistic.”
First Fulton County fatal COVID-19 case
On Sunday the New York State Department of Health reported the first resident from Fulton County to die of COVID-19, although the death did not occur in Fulton County. The fatal case is listed among the deaths broken down by county residence.
Nothing else has been publicly revealed about the Fulton County resident’s case. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, usually known by the acronym HIPAA, protects the identities of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, although healthcare officials are allowed to reveal the identity to law enforcement and first responders with the disclosure is needed to provide safety.
NYSDOH’s COVID-19 tracker shows Fulton County now has 9 residents who have tested positive for the virus, out of 185 people tested, with 12 new tests performed Sunday. Fulton County’s positive test rate is 4.9 percent, significantly lower than neighboring counties Montgomery County (7.9 percent positive rate), Saratoga County (7.4 percent positive), Herkimer County (12 percent positive) and Hamilton County (11.8 percent positive).
According to the tracker — which can be found at covid19tracker.health.ny.gov — Montgomery County has 15 positive cases, out of 190 people tested, with 14 new tests on Sunday.
Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko issues a daily news release with information about COVID-19 cases involving county residents.
On Friday Boerenko said Montgomery County has purchased 150 new COVID-19 test kits for exclusive use by Montgomery County residents. She said New York state also unexpectedly sent 50 new “vials for the test”, enabling potentially 200 new tests to be administered. She said two people had been tested with the new kits as of 1 p.m. Friday.
“We are asking people who have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient, and you know for certain the person is positive, to please call our office at 518-853-3531,” she said.
Boerenko Sunday said 45 people are currently being monitored on quarantine by her health department, a number which fluctuates daily as individuals go on and off the 14-day at-home period recommended for possible exposure to the coronavirus.
She said of the 15 lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 cases:
- 4 have made a full-recovery
- 6 are on home-based quarantine
- 4 are now receiving medical care
- 1 has resulted in death
Pam Swart shared a small portion of that pain of that death on social media Sunday, advising people of the potential consequences of not following the social distancing guidelines
“It’s Sunday morning, I’m drinking coffee in bed waiting for the ‘Today’ show to come on. Waiting for Dave to stand in the doorway and ask, ‘what do you want for dinner today?’,” she said in her post. “He made Sunday dinner for the crew. This morning he didn’t do that. Reality is setting in. This really happened. COVID-19 took this away. It takes so much. Stay home, follow the rules, appreciate simple questions because you’ll miss them so much someday. COVID-19 doesn’t move, people move it.”