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East Rockaway and Lynbrook officials, police officers alter tactics amid coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll, village first responders are taking extra precautions to ensure they stay safe on calls. 

“During this crisis, our first responders must be extremely careful,” East Rockaway Mayor Bruno Romano said. “They must ensure that they’re fully protected when responding to calls with Covid-19 cases.” 

Working amid a pandemic is new to the first responders. “Any call that we go on, we’re treating people as if they’re infected,” Brian Paladino, chief of the Lynbrook Police Department, explained. “It’s a silent virus. No one knows who’s sick, so we’ve scaled back.”

After a few officers manifested Covid-19 symptoms, Paladino said, he knew the department had to enact changes to ensure that officers were protected from the virus. The LPD now prohibits them from entering the scene of a medical emergency until told to do so by an emergency medical technician, who evaluates the situation first. Officers must wear masks, gloves and goggles provided by the village’s Emergency Management Office.  

“It’s awkward for us because we pride ourselves on always being there,” Paladino said. “There were so many infected people calling us, and if we responded, many of us would be infected.” 

LPD clerks, office workers and dispatchers have been told to stay home on paid leave. Only the police force continues to work.

“I don’t want any of my employees to get sick and end up on a ventilator,” Paladino said. “I want them to be safe and healthy, which is why we have limited our contact with each other.”

Each day, when police officers arrive at headquarters, only two are allowed in the locker room to change into their uniforms at a time. Paladino has also adjusted their work schedules to ensure that fewer people are at headquarters.

Paladino said that a number of officers are worried about becoming ill, and are practicing social distancing. Many socialized with one another before the pandemic, but no more, he said.

“We miss socialization, because a lot of how we do our job is talking, and we no longer have an open-door policy among one another,” he said. “Now, when we go into work, we don’t talk, and people don’t come in unless they really need to.”

Still, Paladino said, LPD officers are doing their jobs. “Our police services have not diminished, and even though a majority of calls that come in now are people sickened by the virus, our work days have been less stressful,” he said. “Hopefully going forward, things will go back to normal. You become more resourceful when you work through a tragedy, and you become more able to deliver better service.”

Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach said that one of the measures implemented for first responders include prior notification when a call is dispatched that the case may have covid-19 symptoms, which enables them to implement necessary protocols for the safety of the patient and themselves.

"Overall I am pleased that the village is very cooperative in abiding by the various executive orders issued by the governor during this national emergency," he said.