1st Selectman Jim Marpe introduced this afternoon’s COVID-19 virus forum, at the Westport Library. He said:
It is important to hold this public information session in order to share the latest information that town and Health District officials have about COVID-19, and how residents can prepare and protect themselves in the event of a local outbreak.
Since Friday, Governor Lamont has announced 2 known cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut and Fairfield County. Both are physicians – one is employed by the Danbury and Norwalk hospitals and the other by Bridgeport Hospital. Both of them live in Westchester County. So, the reality of this virus is coming closer.
I want to emphasize that the town’s and Westport Public Schools’ decisions will be guided by the information and recommendations of the Westport Weston Health District under the leadership of director Mark Cooper. who conduct this forum.
The Health District is in constant contact with the State’s department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. These are the reliable sources of quality information that will guide our decision processes. Director Cooper and I, along with our Emergency Management team, have worked together on past disease control challenges such as Ebola and the Zika virus, so I’m confident that Town and the Public Schools will make decisions based on medical science and sound disease control experience.
I can also assure you that for several weeks, our town administrators, Human Services and public safety officials have been planning and preparing for a town-wide response to this virus related to Westport’s facilities and community activities. There are dozens of “what if’s” to be considered regarding how we deliver essential town services while protecting our residents and employees for a health crisis of unknown magnitude and duration.
Some services can be performed remotely or via the internet, but many of our activities require face-to-face or public actions, from a stepped-up protocol for cleaning and sanitizing town buildings and facilities to prevent the spread of the virus; to serving the various needs of our residents, especially our seniors who are said to be the most vulnerable to this virus; to considering how we conduct the public meetings that are required by statute and charter to legally perform essential public activities in a time of possible quarantine.
I have met with all of the senior staff in Town Hall, the Police and Fire chiefs as well as the key staff from the Westport Public Schools and the library. We continue the internal exercise of planning and strategizing in case there is a need to limit access to public meeting spaces.
We have considered what functions are essential and how those could be preformed remotely with limited public interactions. Under the leadership of our emergency management director, Fire Chief Rob Yost, we are adapting existing and well tested emergency management protocols. This prospective situation has the potential to be broader and longer than emergency situations of the recent past, such as winter storms and fires.
Our Police, Emergency Medical Service and Fire Departments are equipped with the right gear, apparatuses and devices to respond to emergencies regardless of the status of COVID-19, but like every community we may be vulnerable to limited supplies of those items over an extended period of time. I speak with the superintendent of schools at least daily to be sure we are coordinating our responses to this threat.
Perhaps the most important message I can deliver today is also the most obvious. Please stay aware and informed since each day, and almost each hour, the situation is rapidly evolving. As importantly, as individuals and as a community, we must stay calm and not succumb to fear and panic. You know the drill:
- Cover your mouth and nose if you cough and sneeze
- Wash your hands – I mean really wash your hands – frequently
- Greet others with an elbow bump or a foot tap
Our advice is to stay connected to the CDC and state Department of Health updates. The town has created its own link on our town website. Go to westportct.gov and search on COVID-19. That is where you will find any changes that we may need to make to the Town’s procedures and policies.
Also, follow the town as well as our Fire and Police Departments on Facebook and Instagram for updates. And very importantly, if you have not already, please sign up for emergency notifications from the Town of Westport Police and Fire Departments by texting “06880” to the number 888777.
As I have noted already, we are receiving excellent support, research and advice on COVID-19 from the Westport Weston Health District. The remainder of the formal presentation today will be under the leadership Health District director Mark Cooper, who has been a great resource for the community for many years.
Marpe also provided this information for “06880” readers:
In an effort to increase our standard cleaning procedures for all of our Town buildings, the Public Works Department is taking extra steps to enhance cleaning and prevent the potential spread of disease.
- Handwashing signs have been posted in all bathrooms, hallway and stairwells.
- Wipe-down of all high touchpoint surfaces has been increased to 5 times per week, especially in areas such as railings, doorknobs, and bathroom fixtures.
- The daytime custodial shift will check and replenish all bathrooms with soap and paper twice daily, as well as wipe and clean high traffic touchpoint areas with disinfectant wipes.
- The evening custodial shift will replenish supplies in all bathrooms as well wiping down all high traffic touchpoint areas with disinfectant. This will include all stair railings, doorknobs and bathroom fixtures.
- A bottle of hand sanitizer and tissues will be provided to each conference room.
To assist us in our efforts, it is strongly recommended that all employees also help out by
- Cleaning personal desktops at least 3 times per week. (Clear clutter for thorough cleaning).
- Wiping down high-touch office equipment (desktop phone, computer)
- Wiping down common equipment such as copiers, fax machines, etc. 2-3 times per day
- Wiping down public greeting desks at least 2-3 times per day.
- Using common sense in all contact with others; avoid if unnecessary.
- Keeping a supply of tissues available for public and staff use.
Thank you and stay safe!