NYPD battles invisible enemy in COVID-19, officer now back to work shares her story

Posted at 7:17 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 19:17:22-04

ELMHURST, Queens — Elmhurst, Queens, is a melting pot community.

It’s also in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the darkest days were seen and felt there. The commanding officer of the 110 Precinct, Capt. Jonathan Cermeli, is leading officers at the precinct in the battle against COVID-19

Cermeli said it’s definitely uncharted territory.

”The precinct is situated in the middle of it all," he said.

Cermeli took over as CO just three months after the coronavirus hit the city.

Elmhurst Hospital is in his jurisdiction, as well as a tennis center-turned-temporary medical facility, and an entire community concerned about everything, from getting food to protecting themselves.

More than 45,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Queens alone, with thousands dying everyday.

“Normally we handle one or two people dying in there homes," Cermeli said. "But now we are seeing 13 to 15 people per day.”

That reality means officers are now having to face a grim task.

“We have to stay with bodies, with the families, with loved ones," Cermeli said.

And amidst all of this, Cermeli said his officers are dodging invisible bullets.

The virus forced 60 officers out sick, including Officer Laura Cantatore — one of the first to test positive for COVID-19.

“It was so scary, the hardest thing I had to go through," Cantatore said. "I had a fever, so I knew before the test.”

Even tougher for this 14-year veteran was having to quarantine, being away from her fiancée and grandmother.

Cantatore is seen as a glimmer of hope around the station house, where a flag flies at half staff for the 38 members of the department who did not make it.

Cantatore just returned to work, and told PIX11 while days may look bright and the weather is nice, but it’s still not safe.

“You have to keep social distancing and staying safe. We don’t want to go backwards.”