Tag Archives: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe

Marpe: Stay Safe; Keep Your Distance; Leash Your Dog; Contractor And Tax News

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Yesterday’s tragic announcement that Westport had its first COVID-19 death is a reminder to us all that we must stay disciplined and continue to do all that we can to slow the spread of this virus. Your actions and diligence will encourage others to comply.

Self-isolation and virus distancing ensures your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your neighbors, your community and beyond. I am confident and proud that together, Westport will lead the way in flattening the curve.

I want to emphasize the concept that “you are not stuck in your homes; you are safe in your homes.” If you must go to a store, if at all possible, only have a single family member enter the establishment.

Under the governor’s recent executive order, store occupancy will be capped at 50% of its local fire code capacity. Staff will maintain a count of the number of customers entering and exiting the building.

Trader Joe’s enforces the social distance rules — with its own, very recognizable font.

If you go out in your neighborhood to exercise or walk, follow all the distancing precautions. And if you walk your dog, it must be on a leash. All of these efforts will help minimize exposure to the virus in public spaces.

I know that the majority of Westport residents are self-isolating and virus distancing, but it is apparent that some continue to gather unnecessarily in public parks and facilities. In order to be completely successful in flattening the curve, these non-compliance issues must be addressed. This week, people continued to use our closed public facilities, such as athletic fields and courts and other recreational areas, without the requisite social distancing, and many dogs were off- leash.

Parks and Recreation Department staff, school security staff and the Westport Police Department will now monitor these facilities to ensure compliance including the requirement that dogs must be on leash in all public areas. Parents, please impress upon your children that these precautions are absolutely necessary for their protection and the protection of those around them.

The selectman’s office and other town staff are receiving valid questions and suggestions. They are being taken seriously; we hear your concerns and are working to manage and provide timely, accurate answers through these daily press releases.

One of those concerns relates to contractor and landscape work. Because it is spring, landscapers and other contractors are working in our neighborhoods. The governor has deemed these services as essential and as a result, they are allowed to be performed.

Springtime in Westport.

Regardless, all workers should maintain the 6-foot distance. As a customer, if you are uncomfortable with the manner in which work is being done on your private property, you should request a change or that the contractor cease work.

Another question that is being raised is the potential for municipal tax relief.  Connecticut municipalities are unable to make tax policy without the approval of the State. Late this week, in part through our efforts, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7S, which includes directives that may provide relief for the municipal taxes that are due to be paid to Westport in April 2020.

The governor’s proposal includes 2 potential alternatives, but there are a number of details yet to be issued by his office. As soon as the additional details become available, we will prepare a Westport tax relief proposal. Per the governor’s executive order, such a proposal must then be voted on by the Representative Town Meeting. We will endeavor to act as quickly as possible once we receive further directions.

Finally, I appreciate how many of you have responded to our requests, remained in your homes and minimized social interaction.  I also want to express my sincere gratitude to those who have sent words of encouragement or have shown acts of kindness to Town employees and first responders, as well as healthcare and essential workers. They are working on the front lines to protect us, inform us, and keep us secure. Your efforts have brightened our days during these very stressful times.

This weekend be smart, be safe and as much as possible, please stay at home.

Westport Suffers 1st COVID-19 Death

First Selectman Jim Marpe says: 

I regret to inform you that Westport has experienced its first fatality resulting from COVID-19. Today I was informed by the Westport Weston Health District that an 80-year old man from Westport has passed away.

On behalf of the entire Westport community, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family.

Please be assured that Westport worked, and continues to work, diligently and tirelessly to stop the spread of COVID-19, contain the contamination, and avoid infection by staying home and abiding by CDC guidelines. Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts at prevention, our community was not spared.

I want to take a moment to reflect on all of our neighbors who have and who continue to suffer from COVID-19. I know we are wrapping up another week that has been challenging and limiting. I am very appreciative how many of you have responded to our requests, remained in your homes and minimized social interaction.

As of yesterday, the state informs us that there have been 122 positive tests for COVID-19 in Westport. Each day this number continues to increase. Please continue practicing virus distancing, stay at home and avoid gatherings of any type.

On behalf of this resident, please think about your neighbors, your elderly community members and other vulnerable individuals when you practice isolation. Together as a community, we will weather the storm of this terrible crisis.

COVID-19 Roundup: Property Tax Info; Ringing Bells; Harrowing Survival Story; Online Fitness And Yoga; Free Resumes; More

Several readers have wondered about Westport real estate and personal property tax abatement or deferral (they’re due today — April 1. No fooling). I asked 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He says:

For several weeks, our town (and others) have been exploring deferment alternatives for property owners who can demonstrate genuine hardship. This is still a work in process.

Among other things, the governor must take executive order steps to allow a local community the option to modify property tax payment penalties and deadlines. I have been in direct touch with Governor Lamont on this issue. In the meantime the April 1 quarterly tax payment date still remains, but as always, allows 30 days (until May 1) to pay without penalty.

I have not heard if utility companies plan to offer any special dispensation for hardship cases. Our Human Services Department regularly works with residents on utility payment plans if true need can be demonstrated.

In related news, Governor Lamont announced yesterday a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments, and a 60-day delay on foreclosures. Homeowners should contact their banks and/or mortgage companies for details.

Across the country, communities are coming together to ring bells in support of medical personnel and other frontline workers.

From 5:00 to 5:02 p.m. tonight, Westport families are asked to “joyously sound a bell, chime, bang pans, etc. as a reminder that while we may be physically separated, we remain united. Let’s make this a gesture of gratitude to all the people helping us overcome this present situation: the police department, fire department, first responders, town officials, teachers and healthcare workers, including the many Westport parents who leave their families to care for those in need at hospitals and medical offices.”

Greens Farms and Assumption Churches — and perhaps others — will join in. Ring them bells! (Hat tips: Jaclyn Lindsey-Noble and Staples High School PTA)

In addition, reader Mary Beth Stirling urges Westporters to fly the American flag. That — and donations to any organization that helps those in need — are both a show of support, and a way to teach children that whatever they can do (including staying home to protect lives) is a patriotic act.

Green’s Farms Congregational Church has a great bell to ring.

“06880” readers know Heather Bauer for her tips on eating healthy in restaurants.

Now the rest of America knows her as a COVID-19 survivor. The 42-year-old nutritionist/mother of 3/ runner of 15 marathons was in great health — until she attended a party, and got infected.

Two days ago — just a week after leaving Yale New Haven Hospital, where she spent 9 harrowing days — Heather told her story on CNN.

It’s a scary tale of fever, migraine headaches, a full body rash, even possible meningitis. It’s also a tale of great care, by a wonderful medical staff. Click below to watch. (Hat tip: Ben Sturner)

Patty Kondub’s great water aerobics classes have been beached by the coronavirus. So have dozens of other Westport Weston Family YMCA offerings, in strength training, yoga — you name it.

But members can still get exercise — on land, at home. There are offerings for all ages, in every imaginable category. Click here for info.

PS: Yesterday, I (coincidentally) got a call from the Y. They were just checking in on all members — seeing how we are, and what we need.

I really need to swim. But failing that, I’d like to say this: THANKS, Y! What a nice, friendly, community touch!

A motivational message from Patty Kondub.

Speaking of exercise, Kaia Yoga’s classes are now all online. Many are inexpensive. There are also free kids’ classes and meditations — great for parents looking for productive activities.

Kaia Yoga — which has long provided classes for Bridgeport school children –has been hit hard by the coronavirus. They employ over 70 teachers.

Click here for a list of classes.

Speaking (again) of exercise, does anyone have an unused stationary bike they’re willing to sell? Asking for (ahem) a friend.

Every Westporter has a talent. Many are figuring out how to use their expertise to help others.

As a career coach, Jaki Suter helps clients write or refresh resumes. With so many people suddenly facing job losses, she’s doing her part: offering a “free resume refresh” to 30 Westport and Weston residents.

She’ll work with you to highlight skills and accomplishments; include new positions and details, and eliminate irrelevant details.

All you need is an existing resume no more than 5 years old. You’ll work by phone. Jaki will produce an updated resume, including a round of revisions and a final document.

To be one of the first 30 local residents, email jaki@sutergroup.com (subject line: “Free Resume Refresh”).

Jennifer Hrbek reports that she and Westport psychiatrist Dr. Mohamed Elsamra are helping raise $50,000 to buy 4 ventilators, to be donated to local hospitals. Click here to contribute.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich notes that transfer station personnel cannot assist with bulky waste. Do not bring those items to the station.

In addition, with the increase in cardboard due to online ordering, all boxes should be flattened, stacked and tied.

Tissues and gloves are being placed in recycling bins. They are not recyclable, and must be placed in the regular trash bin.

Due to the increased amount of glass containers, recycling bins are too heavy for workers to lift. For the time being, residents should separate glass into a smaller container, or put all recycling in smaller containers so workers can lift them.

Transfer station

Greens Farms Academy head of school Bob Whelan has gained fame — and respect — for his great snow day videos.

It’s a little tougher to pull off a clever coronavirus video. But the popular, people-first educator did.

This morning he channeled Fred Rogers, for the school’s youngest learners. Bob —  whose career before education was fronting the band Angry Salad — sang for his students.

He reminded them he (and the school) were still there for them. Then, in true Mr. Rogers fashion he asked them to keep him apprised of big events, like birthdays and lost teeth.

You don’t have to be a kid — or go to GFA — to love this one.

Miriam Young writes, “As one of many COVID positive people in Westport, I hope you can tell other positive readers about efforts to collect plasma from recovered patients.”

She sent a link to a story on how plasma might help people still fighting off infection (or, preemptively, those at high risk of infection).

When Westporter John Rizzi read that a TV remote can be 20 times dirtier than your toilet, he got worried. You can’t clean it well, without taking it all apart.

But he devised a solution: cover it in plastic wrap. It takes 2 seconds; it protects the device — and you can replace the wrap over and over again.

And finally, you don’t have to be a Kopite to love this song (and video!):

Marpe’s Message: Westport Cases; Testing; Business Closings; More

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

  • The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) released its update on laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 22, 2020. The total of laboratory-confirmed cases in Fairfield County is 208, 20 of which are hospitalizations. Westport has a total of 62 laboratory-confirmed cases. The diagram on page 1 of the DPH report indicates that of the 327 cases in CT, the majority impacted are between the ages of 40-60. Those in the age range of 20-40 are just as likely to be infected as those in the 60-80 age range.  Click here for the report.

NOTE:  The State data is constantly changing. The town of Westport has endeavored to share the most current information available to us, but understand that the state is updating data daily regarding the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as changes to executive orders. We will try to share that information with the public as quickly as it officially becomes available to us.

  • The Westport Weston Health District reminds the public that it has arranged local COVID-19 testing in town with the Murphy Medical group for Weston and Westport residents only starting tomorrow. Pre-registration and pre-screening is required. Visit coronatestct.com to learn more. Testing is by appointment only.  Note: Murphy Medical will not require payment to register, but it will take insurance information. Insurers will be billed and will pay for the COVID-19 testing. The state of Connecticut pays for those on Husky and Medicaid.

  • The Governor’s Executive Order 7H will take effect as of 8:00 PM this evening, March 23. This order requires that businesses suspend in-person operations for all non-essential functions. To see the Governor’s announcement, please follow this link:

According to First Selectman Jim Marpe, “The reality is that a great many Westport businesses and services can remain open under the governor’s new orders. I encourage you to make use of them reasonably, bearing in mind the greater need to self-isolate.If you are considering going out to a business, check online or by phone to make sure it is still open. Also keep in mind that many businesses have voluntarily closed despite the Governor’s order not applying to them.”

Trader Joe’s enforces the social distance rules — in its own, very recognizable font. 

If you are visiting a supermarket, or convenience store, please maintain appropriate social distancing while you shop, and encourage the personnel in these establishments to follow CDC and WWHD recommended hygiene procedures. The WWHD will be increasing its efforts to enforce proper hygiene procedures in all food service establishments, but customer encouragement will also go a long way. If anyone notices a business not following the proper protocols, please contact the Westport Weston Health District at 203-221-7199.

  • Town Hall and town offices are closed to the public until further notice, overriding the previous notice that they will be closed until March 31.Essential staff will remain on-site utilizing alternating work schedules with some staff working remotely. We are making efforts to keep town services available to the public, but delays may occur. If you need to reach a staff member, please call, leave a voicemail or send an email. (Department and staff directories are available on the website https://www.westportct.gov/about/staff-directory). If it is determined that an in-person meeting is necessary, staff will work to schedule with the recognition that appropriate measures will be taken in order to maintain adequate distancing and transfer of documents.
  • As a reminder, it is imperative that everyone stay home.  In the name of public safety, if you must go out, you must practice social distancing at all times and not gather in groups. You are placing yourselves and others at risk when you engage in behavior that is against the directives of health officials. Our public safety officials need to be focused on many more vital issues than enforcing personal responsibility and trying to deter congregating during this crisis. Do not congregate in any town parks or outdoor facilities, including but not limited to school properties.

This past weekend, we still experienced several instances of relatively large gatherings in our parks and on some of our athletic fields. We encourage all to get outside and get some exercise, but please do not gather in groups. Other communities around us are closing all of their parks, beaches and playgrounds.  We are trying to avoid this, but can only do this if all our residents practice social distancing and do not gather in groups.

Marpe: 42 Westporters Test Positive; Testing Set For Bedford On Tuesday

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

In this time of uncertainty, I want to assure Westporters that our public health and public safety officials are working diligently to provide accurate and essential information to you on a daily basis, and to keep everyone as safe as possible. We are all in this together and we must respond as a civil community.

This afternoon, Governor Lamont indicated his reluctance to authorize a complete statewide shutdown, and I agree with his assessment, keeping in mind that the situation is very fluid and may change. In the meantime, it is imperative that every individual and business owner take this crisis seriously and do everything possible to maintain social distancing and minimize social interactions. Parents should also remind their children to do the same.

Today, the Westport Weston Health District shared with my office that as of this afternoon, the number of positive tests known by the WWHD is 42. This number is sure to rise as test results are reported. COVID-19 is in the community and we can’t stress enough the importance of self-isolation, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and practicing good hygiene.

The WWHD has also arranged in-car testing with an area medical practice (Murphy Medical Associates) to take place in the parking lot at Bedford Middle School. Pre-registration will be required. Visit www.coronatestct.com or call 203-658-6051 to learn more and begin the screening process.  Testing will occur on 3 Tuesdays (March 24 and 31, and April 7) from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Residents are reminded that if you feel symptoms of COVID-19, call your physician for a test referral. Regardless if you are tested or not, it is imperative that you stay home and self-isolate.

The COVID-19 virus is everywhwere.

URGENT: As 20 Residents Test Positive, Marpe Declares Civil Preparedness Emergency; All Restaurant Closed Inside; Other Closures Announced Too

1st Selectman Jim Marpe has announced that under the powers granted by Connecticut General Statute 28-8a and Westport’s Emergency Preparedness Ordinance, Chapter 26, Article III, he has declared a Local Civil Preparedness Emergency.  

The statute and ordinance allow for this declaration in the event of a local emergency creating a risk of severe hazards to life, welfare or property of the town of Westport or its residents, and includes any public health crisis occurring in or adversely affecting the town. The 1st Selectman says:

As of 8 p.m. today (Monday, March 16) the following will remain in effect until further notice:

  • All restaurants, including bars, delicatessens and other locations where food and/or beverages are prepared for on-premises consumption, are prohibited from all in-restaurant and outside service. No customers are allowed inside a restaurant. Delivery of food and beverages and curb-side pick-up of food and beverages is permitted, subject to all existing laws. This prohibition does not apply to cafeterias where employers provide meals exclusively for employees and residents/patients.
  • All commercial gyms and fitness centers shall be closed.
  • All nail and hair salons and barber shops shall serve by appointment only.
  • There shall be no social or other gatherings of any sort at the Inn at Longshore.

The onset of the COVID-19 virus has introduced a public health crisis to Westport. Westport Weston Public Health Department director Mark Cooper says that of the 31 Westport residents recently tested for the presence of the COVID-19 virus, 20 tested positive.  This confirms that the virus has developed a significant presence in our community, and highlights the need to take a much more aggressive action to limit the spread of the virus through social contact.

First Selectman Jim Marpe (left) and Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper.

There have been repeated calls by the town and Health District for residents to socially isolate or distance themselves in order to “flatten the curve” of the virus spread. Nevertheless, many instances and opportunities to gather in groups and to further spread the virus remain.

Marpe adds, “I want to thank our residents, the public and private schools and all the local organizations, houses of worship, businesses and other groups that have worked to fulfill the previous request to not gather in groups. Unfortunately, based on the advice of Health director Mark Cooper and other public health experts, I concluded that the town must take additional steps under the LCPE to reduce any group gatherings and minimize social contact.

“We support and encourage local restaurant curb-side pick-up and direct delivery of food at this time. We recognize the financial and operational hardships that this introduces to the businesses and employees as well as the inconvenience to their customers. This decision has not been taken lightly, but is nevertheless demanded because of the risks of the current COVID-19 public health crisis. We encourage all residents to patronize any businesses that remain open under required conditions. Westport is committed to promoting the patronage of these businesses as much as possible.”

“Here are ways to follow the town news:

“We urge you to be vigilant, stay at home, and stay informed.”

COVID-19: Local, State Updates

Westport municipal offices — including Town Hall, the Senior Center and the Parks & Recreation Department office — will remain closed to the public at least through March 31. Public meetings are canceled through at least that date too.

However, staff will be available by phone or email weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. First Selectman Jim Marpe urges residents to be patient regarding response time.

He adds, “The public is also encouraged to utilize the town’s online services, such as paying taxes electronically.” The town’s website is www.westportct.gov.

Town Hall is closed. However, employees will be available by phone and email. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg reports that Governor Ned Lamont is launching a Joint Information Center to coordinate Connecticut’s response to COVID-19.

The goal is to provide residents, municipalities, school districts, hospitals, medical providers, colleges and universities, the business community, the media and others with specific information related to the state’s response to the virus outbreak..

There are many ways to stay up-to-date about COVID-19:

  • CT-N carries the Governor’s press conferences (with sign language)
  • Call  211 24/7 with questions about COVID-19
  • Text  CTCOVID to 898211 for updates
  • Smart Speaker:  Ask for the 411 Coronavirus podcast
  • For the blind without TTY capabilities, the CDC and national news updates are shared through the TuneInCOVIDUpdates podcast

Here are resources for small business owners:

Note also:

  • The state Insurance Department commissioner told all travel insurers that they should accommodate travel cancellation requests and take into account the circumstances of the state of emergency.
  • State civil statutes prohibit price gouging. The attorney general will be monitoring closely. If you suspect price gouging, file a complaint immediately with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 860-808-5318.
  • Eversource has suspended all disconnects for customers until the governor lifts the state of emergency.  This applies to electric, gas and water companies that are not municipally owned.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Town Officials Offer Latest Information On Schools, Services, Safety And More

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.

Flanked by town officials, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announces the latest COVID-19 news. From left: Fire Chief and town emergency management head Robert Yost; Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper; Police Chief Foti Koskinas; Westport Public Schools director of administration John Bayers; 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and 3rd Selectwoman Melissa Kane.

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.”

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper.

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.

Westport Public Schools director of administration John Bayers.

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.

Senior Center director Sue Pfister (far right) listens to the press conference.

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.

Print and television reporters kept their distance from each other, at the press conference on the steps of Town Hall. (Photos/Dan Woog)

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.

Lamont Discourages Gatherings Of More Than 100 People

First Selectman Jim Marpe has passed along word that Governor Ned Lamont and the state Department of Public Health are discouraging large public gatherings attracting more than 100 persons, in response to the COVID-19 virus.

Marpe says:

 The state has partially activated its Emergency Operations center in response to the accelerating impact of the COVID-19 virus into the region and the growing threat within the state. The center held a conference call today at 5 p.m. for all emergency operations managers, municipal chief elected officials and key staff to hear an update of the recommended protocol.

According to Lamont, large crowds or places where individuals are shoulder-to-shoulder are considered the most dangerous and should be avoided, particularly for individuals over the age of 60.

While the directive is neither a mandate nor a declaration of a state of
emergency, the governor’s message was clear that the state needs to implement policies that discourage the spread of the virus.

Governor Ned Lamont

For example, Lamont is also instituting a freeze on out-of-state business travel for all state employees, as well as the postponement of any state-organized conferences anticipated to have more than 100 people in attendance, and urging
private employers to consider similar precautions.

The chief elected officials and superintendents of schools are responsible for the decisions and details on how localities respond to this directive. Marpe is working closely with interim superintendent Dr. David Abbey on a plan to address this recommendation locally.

Marpe says, “Based on the directive from the governor’s office, the town of Westport strongly encourages residents to re-think attendance at gatherings of more than 100 individuals and large gatherings where individuals might be shoulder-to-shoulder. We recognize that this will impact a number of recurring or long-planned and important activities, but we ask organizers and attendees to give appropriate consideration to the governor’s request.”

Town administration and the Board of Education are following the guidelines
from the CT DPH, with support and guidance from the Westport Weston Health District

For the time being, town functions are operating as normal, but with extra attention given to cleanliness and disinfection of the facilities and equipment.

COVID-19 is an evolving situation and today’s announcement is an example of that. There has been ongoing planning and decision-making in response to the situation, and residents are encouraged to maintain connections with the town resources so that up-to-date information can be received effectively, efficiently, and as quickly as possible.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left), who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrate the best way to say hello, COVAD-19-style.

To keep residents, students and businesses informed, the town will utilize press releases, its website, and its social media pages for all of its COVID-19 announcements.

  • The Westport emergency notification system is a text message-based alert system run by the Fire Department. Any resident not already signed up for these notifications can text 06880 to 888777 to subscribe.
  • The Town webpage dedicated to COVID-19 can be found at Westportct.gov/COVID-19.
  • The hashtag #WestportctCOVID-19info will be used for updated information on the town’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter social media accounts. This will also be utilized by the Fire, Police and Parks Departments.
  • To follow the Town’s press release coverage, go to WestportCT.Gov/subscribe and select “town news.”

The Department of Public Works has instituted an extra rigorous cleaning regimen in all public spaces, and released information on Friday alerting staff and elected officials of its procedures and best practices.

The Board of Education sent a coronavirus update informing parents of the importance of hand washing and the district’s use of cleaning agents, as well as
contingency planning.

On Tuesday, March 10, the schools will have a 3-hour delay so that
professionals can prepare for the possibility of home-based learning.

The town management, public safety professionals, the WWHD leadership and all department heads are working together with the Westport Public Schools to design contingency plans if the situation evolves to a point where town and school functions may need to be altered.

For example, the Board of Education is examining home-based instructional continuity and other strategies in the event of a school or district closing.

Town Hall staff are preparing to offer some public services on a remote basis if necessary. The Senior Center Activities is also preparing to operate as a drop-in-center in case programs must be cancelled.

Conducting public meetings may become challenging, but much of this will have to be determined based on a case-by-case basis.

For the time being, Marpe urged residents to follow these best practices to
prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand.

  • Wash your hands frequently. While hand sanitizer may be effective, vigorous hand washing using regular soap is best.
  • Greet others with an elbow bump instead of a handshake.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.
  • If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from a high-risk area, contact your health professional.

Marpe: We’re Working Hard On Covid-19. Please Wash Your Hands!

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!