Tag Archives: Westport Weston Health District

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.

COVID Testing At Bedford: Health District Provides Details

Drive-through COVID-19 testing took place yesterday outside Bedford Middle School. The line of cars sparked rumors throughout town.

This morning, I spoke with Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper. He explained what happened.

Initial testing was done last week, the day after the WWHD learned of a party the prior weekend. The protocol followed any infectious disease outbreak — virus, food-borne illness, sexually transmitted disease — the WWHD becomes aware of. It includes both testing (to confirm a disease) and contact tracing (to notify anyone who might have been exposed).

“Over the next few days, we found that substantially more people had been at that party,” Cooper says. “And they went to other functions afterward.” The initial 40 people “quickly blossomed. Those numbers overwhelmed our ability to do contact tracing.”

Meanwhile, anxious Westporters kept calling the WWHD office on Bayberry Lane.

Yesterday’s tests at Bedford represented “the final efforts of the first part of our investigation.” The WWHD tested 72 people, though more had been notified of the testing.

Cooper surmises that some did not show up for testing because they had been tested elsewhere, while others may not have felt sick.

The tests were overnighted to a lab. Results will be available in 3 to 5 days.

In any infectious disease outbreak, the health district not only traces the illness; it monitors those who are infected. That includes daily calls by nurses to check on patients’ temperature.

The WWHD has brought in extra nurses to do that monitoring. There is, Cooper notes, a nurse shortage throughout the area.

“I know the community needs and wants more testing,” Cooper says. “We are talking with a private company about testing for symptomatic people, over the next 3 Tuesdays.”

When plans are finalized, he will announce the times, locations and more details.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right), with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Unsung Heroes #138

This one’s a no-brainer.

If you are anyone who, over the past couple of weeks, has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are an Unsung Hero.

Perhaps you:

  • Man and woman the Westport Health District — performing coronavirus tests, administering aid, answering questions, soothing nerves
  • Serve in emergency operations with the police, fire, EMS departments — or anyone else in government called on to plan, execute, render assistance or in any other way help the town
  • Work in a medical practice, helping some patients who may have been infected and many more with their usual ailments, knowing all the while you had more contact with, and less protection from, sick people than anyone else

  • Are teaching students online, while at the same time soothing nerves, offering non-school advice, and ensuring continuity of education despite having never done so before
  • Are a school custodian or maintenance worker elsewhere who put on a mask and gloves, and spent days deep cleaning every square inch you could find, and did it well, despite your very real fears and anxieties
  • Own a business, and decided (or had to) to shut down, for the good of the community, and despite all your fears, still worry more about your employees and customers
  • Work in a store or market overrun by panicked customers; despite your low pay and own fears you stocked shelves, worked registers, answered questions, and did it all with grace and courtesy
  • Ditto all those restaurant workers who are adapting to a rapidly changing environment, preparing and serving food while observing new rules and regulations, and doing it with enormous care and concern
  • Reach out through your religious institution or civic organizaiton– even though its doors are closed and meetings canceled — to someone in need

Temple Israel is one of the many religious institutions now conducting services, classes and programs virtually.

  • Are suddenly thrust into the role of teacher, in addition to the disruption of having to work your own job remotely, or worry about what was going on at the office because you had to be home
  • Calm a child’s nerves, bring food to an elderly neighbor, or help a stranger figure out what to do now that the library, Senior Center, YMCA, Town Hall — and every other gathering place — is closed
  • Or are doing anything else to help someone else during these unprecedented days.

Thank you for helping make this town a “community.”

We’ll need you — and everyone else — to keep doing it for a while.

No one knows what’s ahead. But with all these Heroes in our midst, we’ll get through all this.

There’s no other choice.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net to let us know!)


COVID-19 Roundup: Call 211 For Test Questions; Small Business Loans Available; Takeout Restaurants Listed; New Transfer Station Rules; Fitness, Merchant News And More

COVID-19 testing is now available at several locations around Connecticut, and can be accessed through its 2-1-1 hotline — with certain caveats (see below).

The Westport Weston Health District’s initial contact trace testing is completed. They have one final round to test for those who were part of the initial investigation. It is only open to those already contacted directly by the WWHD.

Residents who feel symptoma of COVID-19 should stay home, and call or email their primary care provider with questions. Residents can call the state 2-1-1 line if instructed by their primary care provider to arrange testing, or if they have questions about being tested. A series of questions will be asked by a 2-1-1 representative to determine if testing is appropriate.

WWHD director Mark Cooper says, “It is no longer about parties, schools, religious institutions, employment, etc. Residents should assume that COVID-19 is everywhere and that anyone could have it. It has been shown that some people can have the virus with no symptoms at all. The number of COVID-19 cases in Westport and the state are going up, and they will continue to increase.”

Locally, the WWHD has contacted all those it became aware of who had contact with a COVID-19 positive person involved in the initial outbreak, and who it had tested.

Those who tested positive for COVID-19 are being advised to practice strict voluntary isolation. They are instructed not to go out, but to stay home. If they require something and must go out, they should do so during times there are fewer people out. Masks and gloves should be worn so as not to spread the virus.

Yesterday’s announcement about closing restaurants, bars, and theaters is a step towards implementing social distancing. Day care facilities continue to remain open. Day care facilities provide essential services, and the WWHD is working closely with them to reinforce the message that it is incumbent upon them to keep their staff and children safe. They have been requested to use thermometers and practice hygienic measures. If a staff member or child becomes infected by COVID-19, the WWHD will close that facility.  It is in the facilities’ and the parents’ best interest to keep sick children at home.

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell just spoke with the director of the Connecticut Small Business Administration.

Mandell reports that loans of up to $2 million are now available. They can be used for most expenses: payroll, accounts payable, fixed costs. They do not cover business losses.

Interest is 3.25% (profit businesses) and 2.75% (non-profit businesses). Funds come directly from the US Treasury, not a bank.

All businesses with a physical presence in the state are available. Applicants must show a credit history and ability to pay back the loan.

Click here for an application, or call 800-659-2955, or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center can assist in filling out and filing applications. Click here for more information.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has also updated its list of restaurants offering curbside and takeout delivery. Click here to see.

To facilitate social distancing at the transfer station, residents may no longer bring bulky waste items that require assistance.

While the transfer station remains open, personnel will refrain from coming into contact with individuals, or refuse brought there by residents. Thus, they will not assist residents with the removal or disposal of solid waste from vehicles.

Residents bringing smaller waste items to the transfer station must deposit their solid waste directly into the hopper, and discharge recycling directly in to the single stream bins. Plastic bags are not allowed in single stream recycling.

These protocols are in effect at least through March 31. During this time, all fees and collection of refuse tickets will be waived.

Bud Valiante is always helpful. But he can no longer help residents dispose of large items at the transfer station. (Photo/Cindy Mindell)

JoyRide is one of the many fitness centers closed by the coronavirus.

To fill the void, they offer free Instagram live classes all week at 10 a.m. Follow @joyridestudio, and click on in the morning.

Thanks to Forte.Fit, people can also take live 30-minute classes, or stream from a library of on-demand JoyRide cycling classes filmed over the past 2 years.

For those without a bike, there a number of JoyX boot camp classes, plus pilates, barre and yoga from other brands.

JoyRide offers Westporters a deeply discounted Forte.Fit membership (less than $8 a month). Use the code JOYRIDE89.

In addition, JoyRide has partnered with dietician Ilanit Blumenfeld to offer a 4-week nutrition and online fitness challenge. It starts March 23. Click here for info and sign-ups.

Annette Norton of Savvy + Grace asks customers and friends to follow her store on Facebook or Instagram.

She’ll post new merchandise daily. Her website will be ready to take orders on Friday. And she offers curbside delivery as well as shipping.

The other day, “06880” posted a story on 3 Westport teenagers who offer to run errands for older folks, and anyone else homebound by the virus.

A woman who took them up on their offer writes:

“I contacted them last night and got a text back from one that he would do my shopping. What a lifesaver! He kept in constant touch with me by text, went to 3 different stores (!) and spent about 3 hours.

“He delivered it all outside my door. I left him a check in an envelope with a generous tip, and proceeded to stock my house (after wiping stuff down with alcohol). We appreciate hearing about him, and what he did, very much.”

(From left): Ty Chung, Jonathan Lorenz, Luke Lorenz. — 3 very helpful guys.

Former 2nd selectman Avi Kaner continues to be interviewed by national media about the effects of COVID-19 on retail outlets. As co-owner of New York’s Morton Williams supermarket chain, he spoke today on Fox News about “senior hours” for shoppers, and contingency plans. Click below to see:


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.”

Health District Strongly Discourages Even Small Gatherings

Here is the latest advisory from the Westport Weston Health District:

It has come to the attention of the WWHD that with school and other closings, people are planning social gatherings and other activities.

The intent of closing schools, business offices and other places people congregate is to prevent, or at least slow down, the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19.

School and other cancellations should not be viewed as a holiday and a time for partying and celebration. They are closed to facilitate voluntary social isolation, which is an important tool in lowering the chance of exposure to an infectious disease.

What we have learned so far about COVID-19 is that it is highly transmissible even in small groups. One does not have to “hug and kiss” to become infected. Just talking to someone who is infected, in close proximity — even someone without outward symptoms — can get one infected. It is already happening in our community.

Now that COVID-19 is in the community you should assume that it is just about everywhere, because it most likely is.

Social gatherings, large and small, are discouraged until the virus has run its course. Those who continue to congregate without appropriate personal protective  equipment and do not diligently practice the simple protective measures of washing hands, etc., are the ones who will be getting sick.

The COVID-19 virus is everywhwere.

Health District Tests 40 People; Waiting Now For More Kits

Yesterday, the Westport Weston Health District received 40 COVID-19 test kits.

Officials called 40 people who had been at a party last week — the first known direct exposure to the virus in town — or had symptoms tied closely to those who were there.

Those nasal swabs were sent to a Quest Diagnostics lab in California. Results are expected in 3 to 5 days.

WWHD director Mark Cooper says they’re waiting for the next shipment of kits. The WWHD requested many last week, but they seem to be shipped only 40 or so at a time.

When kits arrive, testing will be done on a priority basis. Anyone with symptoms wishing to be placed on the list for testing should call 203-227-9571, ext. 237. You’ll be asked to leave your name and phone number. A nurse will call back to assess your symptoms and exposure history.

Westporters lined up yesterday at the Westport Weston Health District, for the first testing kits. Nasal swabs were administered under the blue tent, at the far left. (Photo/Steve Mochel)

In other COVID-19 news, Westport’s first positive case was confirmed late last evening by the state Public Health Department lab. “This was expected and comes as no surprise,” the WWHD says.

Statewide, 105 people have been tested. Six were positive, 99 negative. For a county-wide breakdown and more information, click here.

Health District: Advice On Small Gatherings, Doctors’ Calls, Testing And More

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.”

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper spoke at yesterday’s press conference, in front of Town Hall.

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.

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.

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!