COVID cases in town at zero, with one death

While awaiting some test results, Ridgefield’s number of known COVID-19 cases remained at zero, town officials said late Friday afternoon, following the death Wednesday of an 88-year-old who lived in an assisted living complex in town and had been under treatment for the disease at Danbury Hospital.

“We’re still at zero at this point,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said in a 4 p.m. streamcast to the town. “We did lose one individual who unfortunately passed away. Beyond that we have no positive tests identified in Ridgefield.

A spokesperson for Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings, the assisted living where the individual who died from COVID-19 lived before going into the hospital, said Friday evening that facility has not seen a need to test additional residents, beyond those who were given tests on the basis of known exposure to the man who died.

“There are no new residents or associates with confirmed symptoms or who have been tested,” the spokesperson said.

“One resident who had high exposure to the individual who passed away has been being monitored at a local hospital.

“Apart from the resident who passed away, neither of the two other individuals who have been tested, including the individual being monitored, have yet tested positive.”

The state was reporting 194 Connecticut residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, as of 3:30 Friday afternoon, with 122 of them in Fairfield County.

Statewide news outlets were reporting there had been four deaths in Connecticut from COVID-19, as of early Friday evening. The first one was the Ridgefield man who died Wednesday.

And some Ridgefielders are awaiting test results.

“There are tests going on as we speak, and we're awaiting results,” Marconi said.

Health Director Ed Briggs said: “We’re just waiting for the lab tests to come in.”

Marconi asked how people in Ridgefield had been tested and were awaiting results.

“In Ridgefield, I have no idea,” said Briggs. “Probably several hundred a day in this greater Housatonic area.”

To be tested, people with symptoms go their doctors and then the hospital.

In the 4 p.m. streamcast First Selectman Marocni and Health Director Briggs were joined by Fire Chief Jerry Myers, Police Chief Jeff Kreitz and Director of Emergency Management Dick Aarons.

“We’ve transported a few patients that have had fever like symptoms, as in COVID-19,” said Chief Myers. The fire department also runs the town’s ambulance service.

Myers said the department was trying to conduct non-emergency business over the telephone, to reduce risk to staff..

No firefighters had reported symptoms, according to Myers.

“We’re fully operational,” he said.

Marconi went through the symptoms of COVID-19 for listeners.

“Tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, followed by a cough, a dry cough, a fever — not necessarily in that order,” he said.

Anyone with such symptoms should self-quarantine, and call their doctor, he said. Marconi also gave the number of Danbury Hospital: 888-667-9262.

Non-essential? Stay home

They discussed Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order — “Stay Safe, Stay Home” — requiring “non-essential workers” to stay home to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus. This order is effective at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 23 and runs through to Wednesday, April 22.

Who’s essential and non-essential?

Briggs said “essential” personnel included “police, fire, health, and the office people who support those people.”

Marconi said non-essential people would include “offices accountants” and retailers selling things like clothing, books, toys, gifts.

Food stores would be exempt, they said, and gas stations might be, as well.

Briggs said the governor had specified that daycare centers weren’t being closed.

“He wanted daycare left open,” Briggs said. “He got a substantial grant from an individual to set up temporary daycare centers near hospitals so doctors, nurses, ER techs, and things like that would have a place to drop their kids so they can get to work.”

Police Chief Kreitz said the police are ready, though have less activity to monitor.

“Our call volume is down,” Kreitz said. “We’re staffed, and in the event of emergency, call 911. If not an emergency call our routine line.” (203-438-6531)

Aarons said there will be blood drives in town April 2 and April 7, at Yanity Gym.

He urged people to participate. Due to fear of the coronavirus, blood donations are down, he said.

The Red Cross would run safe and sanitary operations, he said..

“They need the blood badly,” Aarons added.

Groups, playing games

Emergency Management Director Dick Aarons brought up the continuing problem of people not taking the coronavirus seriously and continuing to socialize, gather to play games. People have been seen on town fields and courts.

“Avoid congregating in groups,” Aarons said. “...Pick-up basketball games, pick-up baseball games — you just can’t do that.”

While senior citizens are the most susceptible to the coronavirus, he said, medical evidence is mounting that younger people can also get very sick from it.

“Folks in the 20 to 44 years old age group are really beginning to show a potential of very serious illness,” Aarons said. “They’ve moved from carefree carriers to possibly very sick people.

Marconi made it a plea.

“We need your help, all of you,” he said, “to protect your own family, to protect others. You could be a carrier. You could be a person who’s spreading the disease.”

He went into closures.

“I spoke to (Parks and Recreation Director) Dennis DiPinto, told him: close every tennis court, basketball court, everywhere; we don’t want anything.

No pickleball!

“All playgrounds are closed. All pickleball courts are closed. There is no pickleball, period. You will not be allowed to play pickleball In this town.”

Marconi said he was amazed at the resistance of senior citizens — the most vulnerable group — to listen to health authorities, avoid groups, stop playing pickleball.

“I’ve had you children reach out to me: ‘Keep our parents from playing.’ ” he said.

“Sean Connelly, a member of the Board of Selectmen, mentioned that even on social media there was an adult trying to pull together a team for a practice as recently as yesterday,” Marconi said..

“There’s this myth out there that if you’re young you don’t have to worry, you can’t fall to this virus — but you can,” he said.

“To the parents: please, please, exercise control.”

Marconi said DiPinto had told him about something he’d seen outside the Parks and Recreation Center, where there’s a sign saying the playground is closed.

“Next to the sign, clearly marked, a mom was standing there watching her kids play on the equipment — with no sanatizer,” Marconi said.

The first selectman also said he’d heard there was a private driver’s education class, conducting business as if normal. “Classroom full of kids,” he said..

Marconi was clearly frustrated by some people’s unwillingness to practice the social distancing that the situation demands.

“I don’t know why this is happening,” he said..

“It is here and our numbers are going to go up. I don't’ know how many deaths it's going to take,” Marconi said. “The only tool in our toolbox is social distancing.”