October 24, 2021

Cortland streets quiet, empty amid virus outbreak

‘It’s like a ghost town’

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

The streets of downtown Cortland were largely deserted Wednesday as the city continued to hunker down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Gary Pickett likened it to a hurricane. Pickett has lived in Cortland for almost a year, but he’s originally from Citrus County, Florida, just north of Tampa.

So he wasn’t worried that the city had seemed to come to standstill amid widespread closures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He’s been through rough times before, such as a hurricane — he can’t remember which one now — that knocked out his electricity for nearly two months.

Still, it was a bit eerie in the street in front of his house at 15 Woodruff Ave. Wednesday morning.

“It’s like a ghost town,” Pickett said. Preparing for hurricanes also taught him to be patient and calm in an emergency, especially when it comes to supplies.

“We just buy like our normal,” he said. “There’s no crunch to it.”

As Cortland settled into the new normal Wednesday, few people were out and about.

Francesca Mahar, who stopped by the post office Wednesday afternoon, said the new restrictions were necessary.

“It might be a little inconvenient, but it’s for our own good,” Mahar said.

Local restaurants and bars, hit hard by mandatory closure to patrons, were still offering food for take-out and delivery.

“We’re keeping our heads above water, but that’s about it,” said Anthony Caruso, owner of Hairy Tony’s and co-owner of A Pizza and More. “We’re missing the movement of the town. It’s just quiet. We wish it were better.”

Some local teenagers did not seem too concerned about the coronavirus or social distancing, such as Torey Coville, 15, and Courtney Pittman, 14, who were walking around the city in a close group with two of their friends Wednesday afternoon “just to get out of the house for the day,” Coville said.

Both said they weren’t worried about becoming infected or infecting others, especially older people.

“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” Coville said.

One local senior citizen, Shirley Hoffert of 54 Groton Ave., was out Wednesday afternoon for supplies. Using her walker, Hoffert shuffled from her home to Catholic Charities at 33 Central Ave., where she picked up a few bags of groceries.

Normally her daughter, who has a broken foot, takes her shopping at Save a Lot. Today Hoffert was on her own.

Yet she was not happy with the closures implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“If we’re going to get it, we’re going to get it,” she said. “Cuomo doesn’t have to keep closing things down.”

But Susan Benedict, who was walking across town to pick up her car from Tallmadge Tire Service, said she was pleased the state was taking serious measures.

“I think that whatever it takes to avoid this, I’ll do it,” Benedict said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”