UPDATE, Tuesday evening —The count of Ridgefielders who have tested positive for coronavirus remained at one at one, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

Marconi spoke to townspeople in a telephone call received at homes across Ridgefield a little before 8 Tuesday night.

“First I want to thank all Ridgefielders for your continued efforts to comply with the requests of health experts to maintain social distancing and avoid crowds,” Marconi said. “If we work together we will all get through this emergency.

“Currently Fairfield County has 48 of the 68 state cases that tested positive. Of those, one is from Ridgefield,” Marconi said.

“The Emergency Operations Center is fully activated. Visit RidgefieldEOM on facebook.

“Governor Lamont has ordered all restaurants and bars closed for table service,” Marconi said. “You can still support local restaurants by taking advantage of their take out or pick up orders. Please give them a call, they need your support.”

Friendly phone calls

He also asked Ridgefielders to look out for one another.

“Please reach out by telephone to your neighbors, especially the elderly,” he said.

“Day care centers will remain open,” he said.

Marconi added that there are currently no curfews in the State of Connecticut.

“Although all town buildings are closed, staff is available in all departments to help you find the information and services you need,” he said. “Call 431-2700 or visit Ridgefieldct.org.

“Our Neighbor Helping Neighbor project will help those who may need a friendly ear, or someone to pick up groceries for them. To help, please call 431-7000 and leave information,” he said.

“For information on our Food Pantry, please call Social Services: 203-431-2777.”

Testing

Marconi also addressed coronavirus testing.

“Any test being requested must have a prescription from your doctor,” he said.

“Danbury Hospital has opened a mobile testing site with specific protocols for testing.

Please call Danbury Hospital at 888-667-9262

“If you do have symptoms, the first step is to contact your primary care provider and follow their recommendations.”

UPDATE, Monday evening —At least one Ridgefielder has tested positive for coronavirus, Health Director Ed Briggs said late Monday afternoon, and others have exposures that may develop into cases of COVID-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes.

“We do have a person with coronavirus in Ridgefield,” Briggs said in a broadcast streamed over the town website. “I was notified yesterday. The person is in his 80s and we’re following up on all his contracts.”

Brigss added, “At the present time we are monitoring several people who have been exposed to some people in New Rochelle.”

The public information session was broadcast by town officials starting at 4 p.m. They said people who feel sick need to start by calling their personal doctors, who need to provide prescriptions for people to get test.

“If you are sick, don’t just show up at a doctor’s office or emergency room,” Briggs said.

“The most important protocol we hear over and over,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said, “if you’re feeling symptoms don’t automatically go to the hospital … Call your doctor.

“The hospital cannot commence a testing protocol unless they get an appropriate script from your doctor.”

Testing

Danbury Hospital is now doing tests for coronavirus on patients with doctor’s prescriptions.

“Testing did begin, and what we expect to see is the number to go upward as we are doing more and more tests. Today they expect to do about 3,000 tests at Danbury Hospital.”

At the hospital there is a line and what Brigges described as a “very thorough” screening process.

“What you need to do is get a doctor’s script stating you meet the criteria for testing,” Briggs said. “...People at the other end will be taking swabs and sending them to the labs.

“As we get more and more test kits available they’ll be available at places like CVS, local Walmart and Targets — for those you won’t need a physician’s script to get it.

The public officials on the streamcast —including POlice Chief Jeff Kreitz, Fire Chief Jerry Myers and Emergency Director Dick Aarons, as well as Marconi and Briggs — urged people to shop reasonable, rather than give in to the temptation to overbuy and hoard.

“You don’t need to think in terms of months,” said Aarons. “The stores, you can bet, are doing everything they can to widen their pipelines, increase their flow from warehouses.”

The goal for townspeople “to be as close to normal as we can,” Aarons said.

He suggested that people who can phone in with elderly friends and neighbors.

“We had several cases where folks in their 70s and 80s are afraid to go out shopping,” he said. “If you’ve got a grandma or friend or neighbor, you might reach out to them, see if they’re OK. Give them a phone cal, see if there’s something you can do l, picking up something at the drug store or food store.”

Marconi added that Ridgefield’s Meals on Wheels organization and also the Neighbor to Neighbor program set up the the Compassionate RIodgefiled group were working to assist peopel in need.

“Meals on Wheels delivers about 20,000 meals a year in our community, helping seniors and those with special needs who are housebound and difficult with movement,” he said. “They’re pushed to the limt but they’re going to do a little bit extra, go the extra yard.”

UPDATE, Monday afternoon — Ridgefield’s Stop and Shop has posted shortened hours of 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. as of Monday, March 16.

Stop and Shop had a considerable number of customers mid-afternoon Monday, but many shelves were depleted — and the cleaning supplies aisle had virtually nothing.

Kohl’s department store in Copps Hill Plaza was almost empty.

“It’s dead, a couple of people here and there,” said one worker.

“People have been out, in good spirits,” said Louis Darcangelo at Genoa Deli. “The schools have been closed, which is part of our business.

“Regular hours, for now,” he said. “We’ll abide with whatever they come up with statewide,” he said.

“Just to-go today,” said the worker next door at Empire Szechuan.

Restaurants maintain take-out and food delivery services, but otherwise are among a list of public gathering places ordered closed by 8 p.m. Monday, March 16, by order of Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, joining the governors of New York and New Jersey in a tri-state effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The state counted 26 patients as having tested positive (including presumptive positive) as of 6 p.m. Sunday evening, with 16 of the 26 in Fairfield County.

As yet Ridgefield authorities have announced no known cases in town, although First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Sunday night that they are awaiting test results on some residents.

The Board of Selectmen will meet this afternoon at 4, and are live-streaming the meeting and asking the public not to attend. Streaming will be available through the town’s website: www.ridgefieldct.org.

Ridgefield Public Schools closed indefinitely on Friday, and Sunday night Governor Lamont ordered all school districts in the state to shut down at the end of Monday through at least March 31.

Other facilities closed indefinitely as of 8 p.m. tonight by the governors of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey include: movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers, and similar public workout facilities and studios. They are also limiting social and recreational gatherings to 50 people or fewer.

The Town of Ridgefield is offering the following:

A COVID-19 update with First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Health Director Ed Briggs, and Emergency Management director Dick Aarons will be streamed today live at 4 pm. ridgefieldct.org. (Click on red banner, meeting name and word link to access the stream.)

Original protocol for testing remains in place. The first step is to contact your primary care provider and follow recommendations. Any test being conducted must have a prescription from your doctor.

Danbury Hospital has opened a mobile testing site with specific protocol for testing. Please call the Danbury Hospital: 888-667-9262.

Effective tonight at 8pm, Governor Lamont has ordered all restaurants, and bars closed for all table service. Support your local businesses by taking advantage of restaurant take out programs and other initiatives created by your favorite town shops.

Stop and Shop reports that they have recurring deliveries and if people refrain from hording, we will all have plenty of provisions.

Town administrative services are open and running today. We hope you will seek online alternatives before coming into public town buildings, but if you do come in please note:

Please practice repeatedly advertised hygiene for both your safety as well as that of our town employees.

Visitors to any town buildings will be asked to sign in with address phone and email.

Please avoid play dates, any gatherings and large crowds especially on St. Patrick’s Day.

For information on the food pantry, please call Social Services 203-431-2777.

You should have two negative tests before resuming activities. Feeling better does not necessarily mean you are free of the virus. In order to be 100% sure you are clear, you need to test negative twice.

For more accurate information:

Center For Disease Control: (CDC): www.cdc.gov

Connecticut’s Official State Site: www.ct.gov

Town of Ridgefield Official Site: www.ridgefieldct.org

Town of Ridgefield Office of Emergency Management Social Media: Facebook: ridgefieldoem

Ridgefield Public Schools: www.ridgefield.org

Danbury Hospital Coronavirus hotline: 888-667-9262.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: fever, cough, shortness of breath. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 consult your medical provider.

And, authorities are recommending that people who can simply stay at home.

“We must do everything we can as a community to slow the spread of this virus so that we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system and we protect the most vulnerable,” Governor Lamont said.” Viruses do not know borders, which is why taking a regional approach on this issue is the best plan forward. A national approach to these measures would be the best option to slow and mitigate the spread of this virus.”

The Ridgefield Library remains closed until further notice.

The library says its staff will be answering phones Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting today, March 16. They also encourage emailing.

UPDATE, Sunday evening —Although no Ridgefielders are known to have tested positive for COVID-19 — as of Sunday evening — First Selectman said town officials are expecting test results will soon reveal the presence of the disease.

Sunday statewide news outlets were reporting 26 confirmed cases in Connecticut, and Governor Ned Lamont had ordered all schools in the state closed — Ridgefield’s have been closed since Friday.

“The situation has not changed very much in Ridgefield,” Marconi said in a phone interview about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15, after meeting with town Health Director Ed Briggs and other personnel.

Schools are closed, restaurants are most restaurants are open — and Marconi is worried people will go out to bars and restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day, despite the coronavirus crisis which prompted him to declare a state of emergency in town on Friday.

Sunday he said town officials are expecting Ridgefield will have “our first case in this next four to eight days, as testing ramps up,” Marconi said.

“We’re expecting returns to come on people who have been tested this week,” he said.

“As more and more people get tested and tests come back, we're bound to have some positive tests.

“So we’re not going to be surprised if we have three or four cases here in Ridgefield,” Marconi said.

“I just need people not to panic, to follow the protocols that we’ve been talking about for the last several weeks, and we suggest they go to CDC.gov/coronavirus” for information on how to protect individuals and families.

“There’s still concern, obviously. We’re living in a different world today. Many people have changed their habits. No more handshakes. The use of sanitary wipes and hand sanatizer are ever present.

“Today we had a company sanitize all of our buildings. They were in town hall around 10:30. I know they did the Police Department, 14 police cars, and the Fire Department.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote had described the school system’s cleaning plans in a letter to parents Friday, the first day of an indefinite closing of the Ridgefield Public Schools announced Thursday.

“The District’s custodial staff will be performing a complete cleaning and disinfecting of our schools,” Parryfote wrote. “Night custodians will be repositioned on days to help accomplish this work with day crews. They will be targeting the use of EPA registered disinfectants on all those areas identified by the CDC as high touch surfaces.

“After cleaning and disinfecting, all rooms will be locked and sealed with a barrier tape.

“The facilities department is closely monitoring its cleaning and disinfecting supplies and working actively with vendors on a daily basis to ensure supplies are available when needed.”

School learning

The superintendent also addressed how the school system will work to maintain learning during the period without classes.

“We have developed “continuity of learning” plans to help our students engage in learning activities during this closure,” Paddyfote said in her letter to parents. “Our expectation is that students would complete these two-week packets on a schedule that works for your family,” Paddyfote said.

“At all levels (K-12), these plans will be counted toward an effort or participation grade,” she said. “These learning plans were designed to reinforce essential skills and keep our children academically engaged so that they are ready when we return to school.”

The superintendent suggested parents and students visit the school system’s homepage (ridgefield.org) for more information and added the “hard copies” or versions for Chromebook computers would be available through the assistant Assistant Superintendent’s office at 203-894-5550, ext 1, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Monday, March 18.

In addition to the school system, many public venues are closed — the Ridgefield library, the town Parks and Recreation Center museums like the Aldrich and the Keeler Tavern, theaters like The Prospector, the Ridgefield Playhouse, ACT of CT and the Ridgefield Theater Barn.

The announcement posted on The Playhouse’s website referenced Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s state of emergency orders.

“In compliance with Governor Lamont’s executive order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people, The Ridgefield Playhouse will be rescheduling all live shows effective immediately for the next 30 days. If you have a ticket for one of our upcoming shows, we will be contacting you as soon as possible with the new show date.”

“They’re all closed,” Marconi said.

And no one really knows when things will reopen.

“I have some people thinking middle of May we should be OK, others maybe the middle of June. And some say: ‘I’m not even going to guess.’

Businesses, restaurants

Many businesses in town, including restaurants and shops, have been open — so far.

“They are. But people are nervous,” Marconi said. “I know several of the owners don’t know what to do: Should we be closed? Should we stay open?

“It’s a tough call,” Marconi said. “Some businesses are off 40 to 50 percent.

“Some don't have the cash reserves to continue to pay people. They don’t want to put their employees in the position of not getting a paycheck.

And there’s a potential long term cost to closing doors.

“The business you lose, you many not get it back. People may go out and get other jobs. It’s a very difficult decision to make and I respect what they're going through,” Marconi said.

The town Health Director may take action, particularly in regard to restaurants.

“Over the next week or two we may find it necessary to evaluate our restaurants for more closures, but we’ll wait until then.”

The decision would be up to Health Director Ed Briggs, Marconi said.

“Our suggestion is that, if they can, go to a take-out menu. Have employees for delivery. I know it’s difficult because you're going to have a decrease in business -- not everyone’s going to call you. But there are few alternatives.”

Sunday many restaurants in town were open and people were in them.

“We’re worried, people on St. Patty’s Day are going to go for their corned beef and cabbage,” Marconi said.

He urges folks to stay home. “One time is not going to hurt,” Marconi said. “The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is canceled in Ireland!

“People need to realize this is a very serious issue. Don’t go partying with a group of people because it’s St. Patrick’s Day — please.”

Stronger action by the town remains a possibility.

“There are communities in New Jersey that have implemented curfews, closed restaurants — not too far from what happened in Italy.”

Saturday

UPDATE, Saturday 5:30 — Ridgefield appeared not to have a confirmed case of COVID-19 as of late Saturday afternoon, even as there are statewide news reports Governor Ned Lamont has said there are 20 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed in Connecticut.

“In Ridgefield there is no formal positive test that we’re aware of,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said about 5 p.m. Saturday.

He’d just come out of an afternoon meeting with Town Health Director Ed Briggs, Town Emergency Director Dick Aarons and Public Information Officer Gerri Lewis. Marconi had declared a state of emergency in Ridgefield on Friday.

A number of Ridgefielders are self-quarantining or staying in isolation on their own.

“There are some that are,” Marconi said, “due to work relationships, or more of a general concern appropriate to their situation — people that may just be saying we’re staying home, we're not going anywhere. We’ll watch TV.

Saturday was the last day the Ridgefield Recreation Center will be open for a while.

“I can tell you that our indoor recreation facilities will be closed effective this evening, 7 p.m.,” Marconi said.

How long?

“Indefinitely,” he said.

“There are plenty of trails in this town — Hemlock Hills, Bennett’s Pond — people should take advantage of it, and exercise,” Marconi said. “The whole family could go out for a walk. It’s a whole new norm, now — for how long we don't know.”

Beware play dates

The public schools are closed — Thursday was the last day of classes — and Marconi warned parents to resist the inevitable pressure from kids to get together with other kids.

“There are a lot of families now where the kids are at home and they are doing playdates, having a couple of kids, maybe more, or less, coming over to play with their kids. This is something that needs to be checked. People need to be aware where the other kids have been — check with your neighbor, your brother, your sister,” Marconi said.

He paraphrased what was a plea posted on Facebook by an emergency room doctor from Wilton — adding that town Health Director Ed Briggs supported the firm advice:

“Please do not arrange playdates. No pandemic parties. No sleepovers. This defeats the purpose of closing the schools. You can be shedding the virus without any symptoms. That means that your child, your friend’s child, your sisters’ kids, can look fine but still be contagious. Cancel the birthday party, Postpone the trip. Let your kids be bored.”

Marconi added that sensible precautions apply to all age groups.

“Be aware who you’re inviting into your home,” he said. “Many of us can be asymptomatic, showing no sign of illness. That’s the most concerning part.”

Parents should also consider their childcare arrangements.

“Unfortunately many daycare facilities are being closed. We anticipate our health director taking action Monday,” Marconi said.

“That will give people a chance to make arrangements. People should start thinking about that now, over the weekend,” he said.

“What we don't want to have happen is to call grandma or grandpa, who are more susceptible,” Marconi said. “It’s a very difficult time right now, and we have to work together on this.”

Meals on Wheels

One of the groups working to help their neighbors is Meals on Wheels (MOW).

A message from MOW president Dean Miller says:

“We’re available to help all Ridgefield seniors and Ridgefielders with chronic medical conditions who are self isolating because of COVID-19 coronavirus. If you or someone you know needs meals, contact our kitchen at 203-438-8788, or sign up online at:

mealsonwheelsofridgeifled.org/becoming-a-client.

Marconi had this advice concerning local hospitals’ COVID-19 community hotline:

“Today around noon I received an email from Danbury Hospital. Bottom line, individuals experiencing symptoms, are encouraged to call this line to mitigate the high volume calls intake of our emergency departments ... So, If you think you have symptoms this is the number to call 888-667-9262.

“The hotline is working going forward 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

Religious services

Various religious congregations are taking steps out of concerns about the spread of the virus.

“They’re washing down pews and backs of pews,” said Emergency Director Aarons. “They’re sanitizing areas that are often touched by parishioners. Some churches are even recommending social separation within the pews.

“Those churches that pass around a single chalice for the wine and communion are probably not going to do that,” Aarons added.

Ridgebury Congregational Church is “suspending all in-person gatherings through the end of the month, at which time we will re-evaluate,” Pastor Deborah Rundlett said in a message sent to parishioners.

However, Ridgebury Congregation is conducting services through a zoom link she shared with members.

“We’re delighted with the leadership the Clergy Association is taking to make common sense adjustments,” Aarons said.

Pastor Deborah Rundlett of Ridgebury Congregational Church also praised the efforts of the Compassionate Ridgefield Project’s Carol Mahlstedt and Jan Triani, and the visiting nurse association, RVNAHealth.

“Compassionate Ridgefield collaborated with the RVNA to assign people to homebound seniors to ensure doorstep delivery of food, medicines, etc. because, “It’s who we are!” in Ridgefield.

Town Hall

The town’s administrative departments in town hall and the town hall annex are expected to be open as usual next week, after a deep cleaning this weekend.

“That’s more than a routine cleaning,” Aarons said. “They’re specialists at big area sanitation.”

“All town hall departments will be functioning as normal Monday,” Marconi said.

The Board of Selectmen have canceled their regular meeting planned for Wednesday night, March 18.

The selectmen have added a planned meeting Monday afternoon at 4.

“We’re asking the public not to attend, but it will be streamed and recorded,” Marconi said.

To stream the selectmen’s meeting people should get on a computer, go to Ridgefieldct.org and there will be a button to click that should activate the streaming of the meeting. People can also find a link on the town calendar on the date March 16.

Friday update

UPDATE, Friday 4:30 — Ridgefield had no known cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Friday afternoon about 4:30.

But with at least six cases statewide and many clustered in Fairfield County, it seems likely the disease will be confirmed in town soon — already there are Ridgefield residents who have self-quarantined due to potential exposure.

“It’s going to become more the norm than the exception,” Marconi said. “I think that all of the precautions we are taking are to hopefully put a cap on any cases, but because it’s so difficult to detect — people can be asymptomatic and still carry it and spread — is to me one of the biggest issues and why we need to take the drastic actions we’re taking.”

Drastic actions by the town include closing the public schools indefinitely, closing Founders Hall Senior Center, shutting down many of the Recreation Center’s programs. Marconi declared a state of emergency around midday Friday.

Most major private institutions in town — the library, the Prospector Theater, the Aldrich Museum, Keeler Tavern — have closed indefinitely or for a period of weeks or months.

Many religious institutions are cutting back on activities, although only one — Jesse Lee Methodist Church — had announced by Friday afternoon that there would be no worship services Sunday.

“When you think about it, I don’t ever remember this type of action ever being taken for any reason in my lifetime,” Marconi said.

“It's a serious issue and we need to pay attention.

“And we also have to realize that we’re in this together, and we need to work our way through it together,” he said. “And that means respecting others, and the actions that are being taken — and that it’s for a reason and that is for the well being of everyone.

“Last night school was closed for an indefinite period of time. The senior center was closed, because in addition. Other activities in town involving seniors will be postponed indefinitely until we can get our way through this. And the reason for that is that seniors are showing the highest vulnerability to this virus.”

The town recreation center is open, but group activities are limited.

Political meetings

The Board of Selectmen will be canceling it’s meeting for next Wednesday,” Marconi said. “I may be doing on Monday a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen at 4 p.m. it’s been posted — at town hall.”

Marconi is asking people to stay away.

“Technically I can’t close it to the public but I’m asking the public not to attend for obvious reasons,” he said. “If a group of people show up, I will cancel the meeting immediately.

“It will be streamed, and on the (public access) channel on Comcast.”

Marconi is looking into calling off more planned public meetings, and is researching what can be done about the budget process.

“I’m probably going to say all meetings should be canceled until the end of March,” he said.

But it’s not that simple. There are legal obstacles.

“There are certainly charter requirements, meetings related to the budget, we have to figure out, and I’m waiting for a legal opinion,” Marconi said.

The most immediate is a Board of Finance public hearing on the budget scheduled for March 23.

“Then there is the Annual Town Meeting the first Monday in May, and the referendum the second Tuesday.

“So, the registrars’ office, town clerk’s office, are all working on that, with the secretary of the state.”

And the Connecticut Presidential Primary is scheduled for April 28.

“So, there’s a lot going on right now — primary elections voting, the budget elections, public hearings — all of that are technically open to the public.

“We need to be sure we provide the streaming and the ability to ask questions, that we’re in compliance with charter — and that’s what I’m waiting for.

Self-quaranting

Update, 2 p.m.— No Covid-19 cases are reported in town as yet, but an official state of emergency in Ridgefield was declared Friday by First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

“No positive cases,” Ridgefield Health Director Ed Briggs said a little before 2 on Friday.

There are people in town self-quarantining due to potential exposure, Briggs said, but he is not at liberty to make the number of people public.

People who have some flu-like symptoms and wonder if they could be tested should consult with their private physicians to determine if they meet criteria for testing set by the Centers for Disease Control, Briggs said. Their doctor would arrange for the test, he said.

Ridgefield Public Schools were closed indefinitely starting Friday, the school system announced late Thursday. Other town institutions that have closed include the Ridgefield Library, Founders Hall, Lounsbury House, the Prospector Theater and the Aldrich Museum.

The emergency declaration came in the following announcement from Marconi’s office, released about midday Friday:

First Selectman Rudy Marconi declared a local State of Emergency for the Town of Ridgefield. This action gives the greatest possible operational flexibility to our departments involved in COVID-19 response, recovery and mitigation. The declaration does not indicate a major change in the local situation, but rather parallels the declaration made by Governor Lamont and facilitates dealings with state and federal authorities as necessary.

Earlier this week, Mr. Marconi ordered the partial activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) policy group comprising health and public safety department heads. This group meets daily to assure a coordinated response by schools, government and local businesses. Watch for situation reports and updates on these social media resources:

Center For Disease Control: (CDC): www.cdc.gov Connecticut’s Official State Site: www.ct.gov Town of Ridgefield Official Site: www.ridgefieldct.org

Town of Ridgefield Office of Emergency Management Social Media: Facebook: ridgefieldoem Ridgefield Public Schools: www.ridgefield.org

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: fever, cough, shortness of breath. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 consult your medical provider.