The weather outside Town Hall was springlike and beautiful.
The faces on the officials arrayed on the front steps were grim.
First selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, Westport Public Schools director of administration John Bayers and others outlined today’s rapid developments regarding COVID-19.
Last Thursday (March 5), approximately 40 people attended a private party in Westport.
One attendee — a man from an unnamed other nation — was there. He’d been in the US, and was headed home. He did not feel ill.
When he returned to his home country, he developed flu-like symptoms. WWHD officials received verbal notification today that he tested positive for COVID-19.
Of the 40 or so attendees at the party, approximately 14 have since reported flu-like symptoms. “We’re making the assumption it’s COVID-19,” Cooper said. The Health District is compiling a list of all attendees, and assessing their conditions.
“It’s likely many people were exposed,” Cooper said. “And others will be.”
The party included school-age children. When education officials learned the news, shortly before noon, they made the decision to close all Westport public schools.
Schools will be closed — along with all related activities — for an undetermined period of time. Meanwhile, deep cleaning of all buildings will begin.
“The schools have been working closely for several weeks with the Health District,” Bayers noted. “Our plans were accelerated today.”
His office will communicate information about next steps for students tonight and tomorrow. More updates will follow, in the days ahead.
Also closed: Town Hall.
Marpe announced it will be shut tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday. Officials will spend time determining how best to offer essential services to the public, while maintenance staff performs deep cleaning.
All municipal meetings are canceled for “the foreseeable future,” Marpe said. The first casualties: Thursday’s Planning & Zoning and Board of Finance sessions.
Human Services Department head Elaine Daignault noted that — as announced earlier today — the Senior Center is closed. The Toquet Hall teen center is similarly shut.
Daignault reiterated that staff will assist anyone, such as seniors and people with financial need, despite the closures. Meals to homebound residents will continue to be delivered. For questions or more information, call 203-341-1050.
“We’ll maintain essential services,” she said, urging Westporters to be “good neighbors” to those in need.
Westport Library director Bill Harmer said that his facility will be closed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday for deep cleaning. Meanwhile, the staff will devise plans moving forward.
The library will reopen Monday for “essential services” only: book checkouts, and reference questions. Harmer encouraged residents to use the library’s extensive digital resources.
The Parks & Recreation Department is limiting the use of fields. The goal is to “avoid gatherings,” Marpe said.
Marpe called the COVID-19 crisis “a constantly evolving situation,” then asked for questions.
In response to one about the availability of test kits, Cooper said that the Health District has been told, “they’re coming.”
Marpe has spoken with Governor Ned Lamont about the issue.
“He’s as frustrated as we are that the kits are not available yet,” the first selectman said. “He’s using every technique possible to get them.”
Marpe reiterated the basic health advice — “wash your hands!” — and noted the importance of avoiding large gatherings.
Private institutions must decide for themselves which events to cancel. “We recognize these are tough decisions,” he said.
Thanks to our local leaders and institutions for galavanizing actions to slow the spread of CORVID-19 in order that our doctors, nurses, and all the others to whom we entrust our care have a chance to strengthen the resources we’ll need going forward.
I may have missed it, but one detail hasn’t had much explanation. We need our leaders to clarify how the necessary testing will be paid for. If it’s possible that the cost will be born by the tested, what would incentivize, say, a college student who is likely to experience it as no more than a cold to risk a $3000 bill for a nasal swab.
I hope this is a wake-up call to the town and everyone that the virus is HERE. It is not some nuance in a distant shore. Decisive action by local leaders today is completely necessary. Most are too complacent and slow to act! Below is a good article:
Can somebody tell me why everyone is still getting on the train and going to NYC every day? The seats put us within 3 feet of one another for over an hour. And then we walk through Grand Central which is a public gathering of way more than 100 people. All of these townwide precautions are pointless if half the town goes into NYC every day.
The head of the CDC has the power to issue a declaration that all Americans, not just the rich, have the right to a free test for the Coronavirus. But when you have gutless sycophants in charge who only care about themselves. As the philosopher Hunter Thompson said,” when the going gets weird, the weird go pro”. That’s what we need.
I would like to strongly suggest to the educational advisory team that the reopening of Coleytown school is expedited in order to lessen the extreme overcrowding at Bedford Middle school before reopening in September 2020. If Covid 19 is a concern then this is an important first step.
Don O’Day, who is overseeing the Coleytown Middle School project, gave a report to the Board of Education on Monday. Due to COVID-19 (delays in shipment of some materials, full crews not working all the time, etc.), the opening will be delayed until after school begins. They’re hoping for some time in October. It is a high priority, and work is continuing on an expedited basis — but, as with everything else in the world, there is much that is out of anyone’s control.