No masks? Big gatherings? Ridgefield may enforce fines
RIDGEFIELD — “If the rate goes up we may start issuing fines for masks,” Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.
With some discipline and community spirit, Marconi believes, townspeople can keep Ridgefield’s COVID-19 infection rate from moving up.
But if Ridgefielders don’t practice personal mitigation efforts — mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing — well enough to keep the town’s infection rate under control, the town may start enforcing state-authorized fines against people who don’t wear face coverings in public, or who violate limits on gathering sizes, Marconi said.
It’s also a critical time because of Halloween, and the holidays that follow.
“My office is strongly discouraging traditional Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treat, trunk-or-treating, indoor haunted houses, costume parties, or any other social gatherings for Halloween,” Marconi said this week.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced in late September that the state was authorizing fines of $100 for people not wearing masks in public.
For ignoring size-limits on gatherings — 25 people for indoor private gatherings, 150 for an outdoor gatherings — there are fines of $250 for attending such an event and fines of $500 for organizing one.
Ridgefield has not yet actively enforced these state rules by issuing fines to violators.
But that may change. If the COVID-19 situation worsens, Marconi said, town authorities may begin levying the state fines on people caught violating mask and gathering rules.
“If people are going to have gatherings and say ‘It’s going to disappear Nov. 4 or Nov. 5’ or whatever, we’re going to start,” he said.
Marconi had said publicly the town would not be enforcing the fines when the Lamont announced them in September.
He’s been criticized for that, but the town stood its ground and has not enforced the fines — so far.
“Right now we have not, and a lot of people think we should be,” Marconi said.
“A lot of people write: ‘Why aren’t you issuing fines?’ It’s a legitimate point. We may be implementing that in the near future.”
People may be a little baffled, Marconi said, by the state’s color-coding of infection levels for its map — yellow, orange, red. The color-coding is based on the number of new cases a day per 100,000 population.
“If you’re yellow you’re between 5 and 9 cases per 100,000 people. If you’re orange it’s 10 to 14 per 100,000. And if you’re red it’s 15 or more cases per 100,000,” Marconi said.
“Ridgefield and Wilton are yellow. Norwalk is red. Stamford is red. Danbury’s been red for a while.”
Speaking Friday morning, Marconi said the latest state numbers he had showed Ridgefield’s infection rate at as 6.6 cases per 100,000 — which, with a population of around 25,000, would be between one and two new active cases per day.
Marconi focused Friday morning on the most recent two-week period.
“The Town of Redding is 12. We are 6.6. Wilton is 8.5 — this is from Oct, 11 to Oct 24,” he said.
Shortly after 3 on Friday afternoon, the state had a chart on its website showing Ridgefield had 44 cases in the first 28 days of October — for a rate of 1.57 average daily cases. The chart showed 24 cases in September, a month with its 30 days, for a rate of 0.80 new cases per day.
The goal is to get people to practice the easy personal mitigation strategies — wearing masks in public, washing hands frequently, social distance at 6 feet or more — to hold down the spread of the virus and limit any increase in the infection rate that might come with the fall’s colder weather, people going more, the return to school.
“What we want to do is keep Ridgefield at the yellow, Marconi said. “We don’t want to get up to 10. We’re currently yellow. We’re at 6.6. What we’d like to do is get our number down below the 5 — that’s what our goal will be.
“That is why we stress the importance of wearing a face covering,” he said. “I can tell you: We see a statistically significant reduction — a huge impact — of mask wearing at the state level, COVID-19 case rates.
“There’s no question that wearing a mask works. And there’s no reason anyone should be in public without a mask,” he said.
“And yet we will have those people — it’s amazing to me…”
Marconi addressed Halloween and other holidays in a letter to townspeople on Wednesday — his second of the week on the subject.
“As we all know by now, it is more important than ever that we come together as a community working to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he began in Wednesday’s letter.
Marconi said that the one safe event planned for Halloween. the police department’s “Spooktacular Drive-Thru Halloween Event at the Lounsbury House” would take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
But the event “is unfortunately sold out,” Marconi said.
“Anyone attending must remain in their vehicles,” he reminded those who are signed up.
Marconi said in the letter that he was “strongly discouraging traditional Halloween activities” such as trick-or-treating, parties, haunted houses.
He elaborated in Friday’s interview. He didn’t have a problem with Halloween fun “if you want to stage some kind of event for your own family members in your own home with the kids dressing up,” he said.
But the traditional wandering from house to house in costume is worrisome — and many homeowners in prime trick-or-treating areas such as Main Street and New Street have said they’re not participating in Halloween this year.
“We do not want to see people walking the streets, gathering, during these COVID-19 times — unfortunately,” Marconi said.
In his letter to townspeople Marconi reviewed the mitigation practices that have a record of success at reducing the spread of infection.
“Please,” he said, “practice Covid-19 protocols:
“Wearing facemasks, social distancing by remaining 6 feet apart and wash hands frequently.
“Keep all activities outdoors.”
Marconi also addressed other holidays on the horizon.
“...With the upcoming holidays around the corner, this is a time of year where many families look to travel or have gatherings with extended family and friends,” Marconi said. “Both travel and gatherings with people outside of your immediate family increase the chance of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Please rethink your holiday plans.
“We ask that you continue to consider yourself and others in our community by practicing proper social distancing and the wearing of face coverings in all public spaces whether on sidewalks, in common areas, while shopping or at sporting events,” Marconi said.
“It is important that small businesses, nonprofits and all residents also continue to post Covid-19 safety guidelines as a reminder for all to see. Together, we can continue to keep Ridgefield safe and healthy.
“If you should have any questions or concerns,” his letter closed, please email my office at selectman@ridgefield ct.org or 203-431-2774.”