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Crime Essex County Sheriff has coronavirus, but vows: ‘This thing is not going to take me down’

19:06  31 march  2020
19:06  31 march  2020 Source:   nj.com

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Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura has been through a lot during his 53 years in law enforcement. As a beat cop for the Newark police department, Fontoura served in the midst of the 1967 riots. Seven years later, he weathered the turmoil of the Puerto Rican riots, when his patrol car was set on fire near Branch Brook Park.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, shown during a graduation ceremony for 75 Newark Police recruits on March 5, 2020, says he has the coronavirus. © Noah K. Murray | For NJ Advance Media/Noah K. Murray | For NJ Advance/nj.com/TNS Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, shown during a graduation ceremony for 75 Newark Police recruits on March 5, 2020, says he has the coronavirus.

Now, Fontoura is confident that he’ll get past his latest crisis: The sheriff, 76, said he tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, making him one of more than 1,200 cases in the county.

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“This thing is not going to take me down," Fontoura said. “I’ve been around too long."

While determined to beat this setback, Fontoura was emotional relaying the news. The crack in his voice was not for himself. It was for the first responders who are face to face with this disease that has him holed up in one wing of his house in Fairfield.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this," he said, pausing to gather himself on the phone. “These folks are out there," he said, his voice cracking again, “are putting themselves at risk."

Fontoura said sheriff officers are doing everything they can to enforce shutdowns in the parks, particularly when they see people gathering. He has received calls from Ironbound residents complaining about folks playing soccer at Independence Park in the East Ward, he said. Rule-breakers are no better in Branch Brook, where residents continue to flock.

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“People think it’s all nice and hunky-dory, but it’s not," Fontoura said. “This is serious. You’ve got to stay away from each other."

Fontoura, who has been the sheriff for 29 years, said he is locked down, separated from his wife, Mary, who has health issues. Their daughter and grandson, he said, did a thorough cleaning, making sure he has his mask and gloves, even when he steps into the bathroom.

“I’m hanging in there," he said. “So far so good.''

Fontoura, who goes for a run just about every day at 5:30 a.m., said he didn’t think anything of a cough last week he associated with allergies. But when his temperature hit 100 on Friday, he went to have the test on Saturday. The next day, he learned he had the virus.

His thoughts, however, are with the first responders.

“They all must get tested before they bring this to their home and family," he said. “That’s my hope and prayer.”

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Barry Carter may be reached at bcarter@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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