COVID-19 cases at 10 as Cortland residents find creative ways to cope

Cortland Beer Company started making and selling hand sanitizer and last week donated a box to the Cortland Police Department. CORTLAND BEER COMPANY

With the Cortland County Health Department confirming the number coronavirus cases rose to 10, and another 54 citizens being monitored in quarantine, local government services, businesses and ordinary residents are finding creative ways to support each other.

At the Cortland Police Department, the officers are standing together by standing six feet away from each other whenever possible, even in the police station, said Lt. David Guerrera.

“It’s kinda a ghost town even in here,” Guerrera said, adding officers are doing their daily briefings by email, text and the messages through the department’s record system. Walk-in complaints are being screened through an intercom system so that officers in the station are less exposed to the COVID-19 virus, he noted.

Some officers have already been tested for the virus, but their results all came back Thursday as negative, Guerrera said.

“They have all been issued hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns, goggles and a dermal thermometer,” Guerrera said. The thermometer, which takes a temperature reading from a person’s skin, allows officers to screen people they think may have the virus, which often includes a fever, dry cough and tiredness. “And were just instructing guys to be safe,” he said.

The department is also laundering officers’ uniforms so that they do not have to take it home and potentially expose their family members, Guerrera said. Officers are also showering and changing into a fresh uniform after they are exposed to someone with flu-like symptoms while on patrol, he said.

“And obviously if they're sick, we leave them home,” Guerrera said. With schools and community events cancelled, School Resource Officer Rob Reyngoudt and Community Policing Officer Jesse Abbott are back on the road, lending a hand to the other patrol officers, he said.

One of the officers’ new duties is to make sure no contact sports are being played in the city parks and the playground equipment is not being used, Guerrera said.

While it’s sad the playground is closed, it's necessary as it’s impossible to clean all the equipment in between uses, he said. “You can’t sanitize the slide in between each slide,” Guerrera said.

The Cortland Youth Bureau announced on March 23 all playgrounds, athletic courts and sporting fields were closed, according to the department’s Facebook page.

“We ask that all park goers take extra precautions to stay healthy and safe,” The Bureau clarified the closure in a release Thursday. “While solo exercise is ok, team sports (such as basketball,  baseball, football, softball and soccer, etc.) are not permitted in our parks at this time.”

City playgrounds are closed as they cannot be sanitized to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Cortland Youth Bureau states. CORTLAND YOUTH BUREAU

But that doesn’t mean the youth bureau has become anti-fun; its Facebook page is filled with fun activities. Mrs. Molly Reagan Andrejko, an art teacher at St. Mary’s School in Cortland, hosts regular art classes for children to do at home, including today’s Gratidoodles, or doodles of all the things we are thankful for. Sesame Street’s Grover even stopped by to read There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.

And that’s not the only storytime going on: The Cortland Free Library is continuing its Baby Time and Preschool Story Time readings with Miss Tammy and Snuggles on its youth services Facebook page.

The Cortland County Mental Health Department has posted a plethora of coping strategies to help people lower their stress levels and maintain mood amid the pandemic. Today, the department’s Maranda McFadden kicked off its first quarantine challenge, asking residents to share pictures and videos of their “Quarantine Hits” — their favorite movies, books, games, video games, songs and apps for getting through the days at home. 

Area churches — from Grace Christiand Fellowship on Fisher Ave. to the United Presbyterian Church on Church Street to St. Mary’s Catholic Church on North Main Street—  are also trying to keep spirits up with online broadcasts through their websites and Facebook pages.

So are local businesses, as they post encouraging signs in their windows and counters, like Brix Pubaria’s “PMA: Positive Mental Attitude.”

“I went around the other day and took pictures of businesses that posted signs on their windows,” said Officer Jesse Abbott, of the city’s community policing office. He noted how positive the signs were, despite the loss of income for the owners and employees. “It’s nice to see the ones that are really struggling the most thinking of others ahead of themselves,” he said.

Abbott pointed to the Cortland Beer Company that started distilling hand sanitizer and donated supplies to city police.

They had a box with a bottle for each officer,”said Abbott. “So each of us have our own little bottle so we don’t have to share.”

Before the donation, officers were sharing from large jugs of sanitizer at the station’s desk, he said.

“It’s very thoughtful. It’s very much appreciated,” Abbot said. “As you know hand sanitizer is hard to cme by right now.”

On Friday, the Cortland Beer Company announced on Facebook they had about 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer ready for the public to purchase and that large businesses could order supplies over by emailing info@cortlandbeer.com.

Abbott admired how the community is coalescing to care for each other during the virus outbreak.

“If there is no sense of caring, there is no sense of community,” Abbott said. “I think the majority of the community is taking this seriously and weighing everyone else’s health ahead of their own and that's important here.”