Monday, June 17, 2024

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Collecting Samples in Coronavirus Battle

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Loren Pace, head nurse at the Westport Weston Health District, and Dr. Louis D’Onofrio, WWHD director, clinical care, during today’s drive-through collection of nasal swabs from about 20 persons who had direct contact with a presumptively positive coronavirus person. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Bon Voyage Party Cited for Coronavirus Shutdown

Regarding party attendees who are now experiencing flu-like symptoms, Cooper said they should “make the assumption they have COVID-19.”

“We are in the process of getting a list of all the attendees at the party,” he said.

The announcement touched off a flood of Facebook conversations with some parents saying officials should at least have named the school attended by student guests or cited the neighborhood party location.

Cooper made his announcement at a news conference on the steps of Town Hall, a symbolic gesture as the public and press were kept at arm’s length from the building.

The news conference had been called by First Selectman Jim Marpe, who together with Cooper and town officials announced that Town Hall, except for essential services, will remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus.

Marpe said Town Hall will be sanitized this week, and that all town meetings would be canceled.

“We want to make sure that Town Hall doesn’t become a center for the transmission of COVID-19,” said Marpe.

“Our utmost concern is for the safety of our residents and the safety of our employees,” he added.

Also closed as of today are the Westport Center for Senior Activities, the teen center and the Westport Library.

Bill Harmer, the library’s executive director, said the building would be closed for “deep cleaning and will open on Monday but only for essential services.”

Those services include residents who want to ask reference questions or to take out books, though Harmer suggested e-books.”

“I recognize that these are tough decisions,” Marpe said. “But we know that this is a disease passed on by close contact with other human beings.”

He discouraged public gatherings, even young people congregating or playing on the town’s athletic fields.

Marpe’s announcement came on the heels of the World Health Organization (WHO) today declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Two hours before Marpe’s announcement, Interim Schools Superintendent David Abbey emailed parents that the town’s schools would be closed until further notice.

Virus Contact Forces School Closure

Westport schools will close until further notice after today’s dismissal because of the coronavirus, Interim Superintendent David Abbey announced.

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Students leave Westport’s Bedford Middle School today unsure when they will return. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“We have just learned that a number of Westport parents and Westport Public School students, in schools throughout our district, were in contact with an individual presumed to be positive with coronavirus,” he said in an email to parents.

“Based upon discussions with and at the direction of Mr. Mark Cooper, Director of Health for the Westport Weston Health District, the Westport School District will be closed until further notice following today’s regularly scheduled dismissal.

“This includes all after-school and evening activities, including athletics. We will immediately begin deep cleaning our schools and in conjunction with the Westport Weston Health District will be consulting with state and federal officials.”

 

Lamont Declares State of Emergency

Connecticut has two residents diagnosed with the virus, plus two New Yorkers who work in hospitals in Bridgeport, Danbury and Norwalk.

Lamont said one patient who has tested positive for the coronavirus lives in Bethlehem and has children in the school system there. With that in mind, all Region 14 schools will close indefinitely, he said.

He said she is a female in her 60s who is a healthcare worker at Bridgeport Hospital who recently returned from a trip to Nevada, where it is believed she contracted COVID-19. She is being treated at Bridgeport Hospital.

The first positive Connecticut case — a Wilton resident in his 40s who is being treated at Danbury Hospital — was announced Sunday.

According to a story on the GOODMorningWilton site, the man is on a ventilator at Danbury Hospital because he contracted pneumonia. According to the story, which is based on social media posts from the man’s wife, he has an underlying medical condition — sleep apnea — which makes him susceptible to pneumonia.

The man’s wife and young twins are quarantined at home and do not have symptoms of the virus, the story said.

Connecticut currently has two COVID-19 testing kits, each of which can test between 500 and 600 people.

Lamont said the state has been testing 20-25 people a day in the state lab but hopes to increase that number to about 60. Testing has also been conducted at private labs.

The governor decided to declare the emergency after consulting with state agency heads and municipal officials about their ability to protect public health and mitigate the social and economic dislocation related to an international pandemic.

One immediate impact of the declarations is that they may allow some consumers and businesses whose travel has been impacted by the outbreak to benefit from travel insurance and other related coverage, the governor’s office said.

The Connecticut Insurance Department is in the process of notifying insurance companies that the governor has signed the declarations and will be monitoring their compliance with the terms of their policies. As coverage will depend on the terms of each policy, consumers are encouraged to read them carefully.

A second impact is that they trigger Connecticut General Statutes Section 42-230, the state law prohibiting profiteering during emergencies.

Violations are considered an unfair or deceptive practice and violators may be subject to fines or other action from the Department of Consumer Protection and the Office of the Attorney General.

The declarations also make clear that the chief executive officers of municipalities have emergency powers under Connecticut General Statutes Section 28-8a to take such actions as they deem necessary to mitigate disasters and emergencies.

While the declarations permit the governor to take certain actions related to the closure of schools and large gatherings, at this time those decisions are still being delegated to local municipal and public health officials .

Lamont said they are on the ground closest to the circumstances in each respective community and are empowered to make the best judgments regarding specific events.

—Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org contributed to this story.

Lamont: Another CT Virus Case Detected

The lab can complete between 15 and 20 tests per day, and the kit provides for 600 individuals to be tested.

The COVID-19 testing capabilities at LabCorps have become fully operational. Quest Diagnostics is in the process of getting testing online and expects it to be available soon.

All individuals being tested by these facilities must be referred by a physician in advance. Nobody should arrive at any of these facilities requesting to be tested.

Any positive test results that are conducted by each of these providers will be reported to DPH to be calculated and reported in the state’s testing data.

DPH today issued a directive with new restrictions on visitation at all nursing and convalescent homes in Connecticut. Effective immediately, the restrictions permit visitors to enter these facilities only if the person who is residing at one of these facilities is in hospice or end-of-life care and the visitors are wearing proper personal protective equipment.

The directive was issued by DPH after consultation with the Connecticut State Long Term Care Ombudsman, recognizing the elevated risk for COVID-19 to spread in enclosed healthcare facilities with highly vulnerable nursing home residents, some with serious underlying health conditions.

Today, the Connecticut Department of Banking issued a memo advising the mortgage industry and other financial services sectors licensed by the agency that it will take a no action position with regard to employees working from home who otherwise would be required to work from a licensed branch location. This allows employees to work from home if they meet certain requirements:

Officials Strive to Curb Worry About Coronavirus

Further, he said, “The current mortality rate only reflects those who have had severe illness … As more people are tested the mortality rate is bound to go down.”

That said, elderly people and those with challenged immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions need to take caution.

Whether schools will be closed for a period, or what other quarantine measures might go into place, were among unanswered questions from among some 75 people who attended the forum, which was also simulcast on the Internet.

“I want to emphasize that the town’s and the Westport Public Schools’ (WPS) decisions will be guided by the information and recommendations of the Westport Weston Health District,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said.

“I’m confident that the town and public schools will make decisions based on medical science and sound disease-control experience,” he said.

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Louis Donofrio, director of clinical care with the Westport Weston Health District, shares information on preventing the illness for individuals. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Officials all stressed that they are sharing information several times a day, further cautioning the public to gather their own only from reliable sources.

“We’re all going to be sharing the same information,” said Cooper, noting the health district’s site—www.WWHD.org—is linked to both the town and WPS websites.

“I’m not panicking,” said Sue Pfister, executive director of the Center for Senior Activities, which is remaining open at this time.

Like officials at the schools, Town Hall, and even the library itself, she said extra care is being taken with cleaning and sanitizing.

“I have no restrictions on people coming in,” she said, at the same time noting that her constituents there have been proactive in no visiting the center if they have felt any sort of illness coming on.

“I would hate to have to close down for two weeks,” Pfister said, noting that plans are also being looked at for those who are serviced with delivered meals.

Likewise, Suzanne Levasseur, health services supervisor for the WPS, said it would be a shame to close the schools but they would do so if it got to the point where it could be pivotal in helping control the spread of the virus.

“The decision is ultimately the superintendent’s,” she said, but noted he has been in regular discussion with town officials.

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Audience members listen to today’s forum. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Facebook photo

“We do follow well-established guidelines that are evidence-based,” she said, commending the experience and judgment of the nursing staff.

“Can we really trust what the CDC is telling you?” one resident asked, citing national politics.

Cooper said Yes, noting they were considered one of the best sources of information.

Another resident asked about train travel, and while Cooper said there was no particular need to be worried about it—especially as transit officials are also engaged in much more extensive cleaning procedures—he cautioned that those who are at high risk of contracting the illness “might want to consider alternate means of travel” for the immediate future.

“We want to reduce exposure,” said Louis Donofrio, director of clinical care at the health district.

“If you think you have the flu, don’t go out shopping and sneezing on everyone,” he said.

About halfway through the forum, an attendee noted that word was just received of the first case to appear over the border in Wilton.

“There you go!” Cooper said.

“The good news is,” said State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, “is that the people we entrust with looking out for our interest have been talking.”

“Almost every day something new is being learned and is being incorporate,” Cooper said of reaction to the virus.

He and others likened it to other viruses that have sparked health crises, and again reminded everyone to not panic but exercise precaution.

“Warm soap and water,” Cooper said. “That’s really our recommendation.”

Second Hospital Employee Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Hospital staff were notified and the “very small number of patients” who came into contact with the doctor were isolated, she said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since told them that isolation is not necessary.

“The CDC has advised us that our staff will not require isolation or furlough given the nature of the encounter, but we are asking that all staff self monitor for symptoms in the future,” Diamond said.

State officials did not release any details about the doctor, such as where he works or what type of medicine he practices. He made rounds at Bridgeport Hospital over the last weekend.

“This most recent case of another New York resident who works in Connecticut testing positive for COVID-19 shows us what we already know – coronavirus is here and viruses don’t stop at state borders,” Lamont said. The risk to staff and patients is low, he said.

Friday night, Lamont and other state officials announced that an employee who works at both Danbury and Norwalk hospitals and is a resident of Westchester County, N.Y. had tested positive for coronavirus.

The woman is quarantined at her home in New York. Health officials said she was in contact with “a limited number” of people and worked in “an isolated geographic area” in the two hospitals.

They did not provide details about her job or the number of patients she cared for, but a source with knowledge of the situation said the woman is a nurse who had been in contact with as many as 20 patients, as well as numerous colleagues across the two hospitals.

The colleagues she came into contact with have been placed on furlough, and hospital patients who begin exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus will receive priority for testing, the source said.

The woman was exposed to the virus in her home by another person who had tested positive for it. She then worked shifts at both hospitals.

“This is not unexpected,” Lamont said during a news conference at Danbury City Hall Friday night. “We’ve been prepared for this, well prepared for this. We’ve been planning for this for some time.”

“The hospital has been very aggressive – they’ve gone and they’ve figured out everybody that she’s had any contact with over the last several days and those folks have been put on furlough,” he said. “We’re monitoring them very carefully. Anybody, over the course of the 14 days, who shows any symptoms at all will be immediately tested.”

Renee Coleman-Mitchell, the state’s health commissioner, said Friday that Connecticut’s public health lab has tested 42 specimens for COVID-19, and all have been negative. Another 11 are in the process of being tested. The state has received one kit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that allows health workers to test about 600 people. Lamont has requested additional kits.

Danbury and Norwalk hospitals are under “strict” surveillance, the governor said.