Reopenings in Newtown, Danbury latest steps on the road to normal
NEWTOWN — The reopening of the Danbury courthouse on Monday and the resumption of in-person visits at Newtown municipal offices on Wednesday are incremental, but important, steps on the road back to normal after the coronavirus crisis.
“The public pays us to provide a service, so we need find ways to serve the public better,” said Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, whose plan to reopen public visits to municipal buildings on Wednesday makes Newtown the sixth greater Danbury town to reinstitute face-to-face services since the coronavirus surge shut down most town buildings in March.
Similar to Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford and Washington, which have opened town halls to the public with restrictions to maintain social distancing and control infection, Newtown has adopted a protocol for visits to town offices that includes asking residents to “self-check for fever and symptoms before coming into the building.”
“Anyone with a temperature 100.4+ degrees and/or symptoms may not enter,” Newtown’s protocol states.
“I am proud of the way our community has responded to the health department recommendations, and our numbers in Connecticut are bearing out the fact that people have embraced personal responsibility,” Rosenthal said. “We are pleased with the position Connecticut is in, and we want to keep it that way.”
The resumption of criminal cases and other public business at the Danbury courthouse ran smoothly on Monday under the new restrictions, a Judicial District spokesperson said. Restrictions include facemasks, social distancing, and limited numbers of people allowed in the courtroom.
The Danbury courthouse will be open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. this week, before resuming a full 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday schedule starting July 6. The Danbury courthouse abruptly closed on March 25 when an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Reopening in the Danbury area has been gaining momentum since the middle of the month, when the state allowed gyms, theaters, indoor dining and tattoo shops to get back in business, with restrictions.
The state felt confident reopening businesses because coronavirus hospitalizations had dropped precipitously over the previous weeks.
In a similar way, Newtown feels confident about opening town offices because of the good habits people developed during the three months of quarantining.
“I see a lot more people out who are being smart about taking the necessary precautions,” said Jeffrey Capeci, a member of Newtown’s Board of Selectmen. “While this is unchartered territory, hopefully in Newtown we are striking a balance between safety for our residents and town employees and the need to get things done.”
A new test on a larger scale is expected for Danbury municipal offices after the July 4 holiday weekend.
The city plans to bring its workforce back to city offices on a staggered scheduled, in which groups of employees would work a four-day week and then work from home for the next 10 days.
“This model can potentially keep infectious employees out of the workplace while reducing occupancy by 50 percent as indicated in the state guidelines,” Mayor Mark Boughton wrote to City Council members last week.