November 27, 2021

Despite coronavirus arrival, people socialize unchecked, county says

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Janet Swinnich pushes a cart Saturday outside of Aldi in Cortlandville. Swinnich and other Cortland County residents had mixed reactions to the news of Saturday’s first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county.

People need to socially isolate themselves to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Cortland County officials said following the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19.

But they’re not.

“Our initial investigations find that people are not following the quarantine and isolation guidance of their physicians, risking spread to others,” said Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Cortland County Legislature. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza spreads. It can also spread when people touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.”

Residents had different reactions on the coronavirus and if they would change their way of life knowing there were confirmed cases nearby.

“I wish it would just go away and people could go back to their normal lives,” said Prupy Phillips. Phillips and Christine Miller, both of Cortland, said their daily schedules wouldn’t change based on the new information.

Miller said that they plan on continuing to go for daily walks.

“You can’t just live in your apartment,” she said.

The two cases reported were of a 5-year-old child and an adult over 50, according to a statement from the Cortland County Department of Health.

An additional 12 county residents who are not symptomatic are in self-quarantine for 14 days, the statement said. The 14, though, have not been linked to the confirmed cases.

“We had always planned for cases in Cortland County,” Mulvihill said.

Mulvihill said the county health department will continue to monitor suspected or confirmed cases in the county and have department members contact those who may have come into contact with someone with the coronavirus.

“We want folks to take this seriously,” he said. “We want them to practice social distancing.”

County: Stay home

If you have been tested for COVID-19, you and your health care provider agree that you are highly suspicious for COVID-19. Take your quarantine or isolation seriously and stay home, the county’s public health director urged this weekend.

  • Do not take your children the baby sitter. Keep your immediate family home.
  • Do not go to the stores or anywhere else. If you need food or prescription medications, have someone else do that.
    When that person drops your supplies off, have them leave the supplies on your porch. For help, go to
  • Do not visit family or friends.
  • Do not allow visitors into your home.
  • If you develop symptoms of illness including fever, cough, or trouble breathing, call your health care provider and explain your symptoms before visiting.
  • For questions, call a state hotline at 888-364-3065, or a county hotline at 607-756-3415.

“We want to reinforce the importance of social distancing for everyone, stay home if you can,” said Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm. “If you must go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others. We need everyone’s help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Exposing others in the community is socially irresponsible.

Additionally, with the confirmed cases, Mulvihill wants residents to not only protect themselves but take extra precautions to protect those who are considered at higher risk of getting the virus, such as older residents or those who are immunocompromised.

“When an outbreak of a disease reaches the point where it is actively spreading in a community, individual community members need to take actions to protect themselves and their families,” he said. “By taking these actions, we can help reduce the chances of getting sick and reduce demands on the health care sector so the most seriously ill people get the supportive care they need.”

Like Mulvihill, Janet Swinnich of Homer said the news wasn’t surprising. But she was already taking precautions to stay home except for essential chores.

“I was expecting it because all the counties around us had it,” she said.

Swinnich, who was at Aldi’s in Cortlandville on Saturday when interviewed, said she bought a normal amount of groceries but did buy a little extra toilet paper as she couldn’t find any nearby.

Beyond working from home, the only change she said she has made was not to visit her granddaughters in New Jersey this week on what would be their spring break.

“It didn’t make sense for travel to happen in either direction because we want to slow germs traveling as much as we can,” she said.

Carl Stickels, also of Homer, said that he will be extra cautious when other people are nearby but will still maintain his lifestyle.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said “None of us wished this happened but what can you do? Just gotta roll with it and be cautious and keep your distance.”

As a sales representative for Caterpillar Inc., Stickels said his work requires him to travel in his truck but that he maintains distance between himself and other people.

“I still exercise and I think exercise helps,” he said. “People gotta get out and still do their thing, you know what I mean?”

He said he also won’t change his running habit or his way of life in general unless he develops symptoms of the coronavirus.