An alert — and concerned — “06880” reader emailed: “With kids home, parents have no idea whether or not they (or adults for that matter) should be getting together, going to other people’s homes, etc. Do you know the answer?”
I called Mark Cooper, director of health for the Westport Weston Health District. In between meetings and calls, he took time to reply.
Cooper said, “We need society to keep going. We can’t prohibit everything.
“Use common sense. If you or your child is sick or has symptoms, you need serious self-isolation. But if someone is healthy, there should be no problem associating with a few others who are healthy.
“COVID-19 is in our community. It can be anywhere. The reality is, most people will be exposed to it. Eat healthy, get enough sleep — and if you feel bad, isolate yourself or your children.”
Cooper also asked me to tell “06880” readers: “If you have symptoms, don’t just visit your doctor. Call ahead first. Make sure they have equipment, like test kits and protective and equipment. The waiting room may be crowded. You need to call first, rather than just show up.”
In addition, Cooper passed along this message. It’s also posted on the WWHD website.
Things change quickly. Just a few days ago the community was discussing containment. Today we need to discuss what to do now that it is here.
What began as a private celebratory party of about 40 family and friends became the focal point in the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. As of now, it appears about 14 of the 40 attendees have developed flu-like symptoms. Such cases are to be considered COVID-19, even though there are still active cases of the seasonal flu. Confirmation testing results are needed to be 100% sure.
The private party was held on Thursday evening. The index case developed mild symptoms on Sunday evening, and the first report came to the Health District mid-morning on Wednesday.
This could happen to anyone and anywhere people congregate and interact. This virus will spread unless everyone diligently practices the simple and effective control measures of washing your hands, covering your cough, keeping sick children home from daycare and school, not touching your face — and doing this every day and everywhere, until the virus runs its course.
The virus has already spread from the initial introduction point in Westport to 14 new points, who then again potentially passed it on to about 14 new points, each. It is beyond trying to track who has been exposed and monitoring them for 2 weeks, to see if they develop symptoms to make sure they don’t pass it on. It would be like trying to determine who knows who and who may have seen whom when. That is no longer an efficient use of resources. Contact tracing usually involves 2 or 3 people with a limited number of cases. This has grown exponentially.
Although the official recommendation is that all gatherings and/or public events where more than 100 participants are expected be delayed, it is now clear that much smaller private events can be a significant contributor to community spread.
Getting together is in our human nature and can still be done, but everyone needs to go above and beyond the normal effort to keep everyone safe, at least until this virus runs its course.
No one is better able to safeguard yourself, loved ones, and friends than you. And each and every one of us. Otherwise, the only other option for anyone who wants to reduce the risk of community exposure, is to just stay home.
Chronic and convalescent nursing homes and rest homes with nursing supervision have been directed to impose restrictions on all visitors except when a current health state (e.g., end-of-life care) is in question.
Daycare centers should also immediately begin to restrict visitors, and strictly enforce employee and child sick policies — with no exceptions. Child daycare services are an essential service for people who have young children and need to go to work, so each daycare needs to carefully consider whether they need to close preemptively. An outbreak of the virus in such a setting will likely result in mandatory closure.
The Westport Weston Health District continues to work to obtain test kits and begin testing those who have COVID-19 symptoms. If you have symptoms and would like to be placed on a list to be screened for testing, call 203-227-9571, ext. 237. Leave you name and telephone number. A nurse will return your call as soon as possible.
Testing needs to be prioritized. The results will not influence recommendations for you to follow, so please be patient. We will get to everyone as efficiently as possible.
If someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is a confirmed case, the recommendation is to stay home, wear protective face covering if contact with other people is at all probable, and get plenty of rest to help the recovery process. If you feel the need to go to the hospital, please contact your healthcare provider or 911.
Patients who are ill, but not critically so, should stay home. If they are at high risk for having contracted coronavirus, they should reach out to their physicians by phone or email. They can then contact the state Department of Public Health, and get advice as to whether they should be tested or just isolate themselves at home.
Anyone experiencing severe symptoms or other respiratory distress should seek medical help. Do not go to your primary health care provider. Call first, or go to the hospital.
Self-isolation is indicated for any person who has had direct contact with any person known to have COVID-19 and/or experiences any flu-like symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms.
This is a very fluid and fast-moving situation. The Health District will continue to work with the town, state Health Department and CDC to reduce the impact to the community.
The Westport Weston Health District continues to have a limited supply of the seasonal flu vaccine for anyone wanting to be vaccinated. Call the Health District office at 203-227-9571, to schedule an appointment.
For COVID-19 questions, the state has partnered with United Way for a hotline. Call 211, or text “CTCOVID” to 898211.