Ridgefield first selectman tests positive for coronavirus, first in CT

RIDGEFIELD — First Selectman Rudy Marconi has tested positive for the coronavirus, and is believed to be the first municipal leader in the state to contract the disease.

Marconi, who has led the town for over two decades, said in a statement Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and is working from home in self-quarantine. It’s unclear how he was exposed to the virus.

“I have offered to step in, but Rudy is still in control from home,” Board of Selectmen member Barbara Manners said Monday. Manners, who has also served on the board some 20 years, confirmed she is the designated “second selecman” who would take over if Marconi needed to stop working.

“Everyone who was in close contact with Rudy last week has been asked to self-quarantine,” Manners said. “Rudy’s office is shut down though people continue to work remotely. ... The phones at town hall are still being answered and the tax collector and town clerk are I believe available by appointment only. Town Hall is locked.”

Marconi said he wanted to reassure all Ridgefield residents that, while he doesn’t feel great, he is doing fine and will work from home as he continues to isolate himself. The town’s count of COVID-19 cases rose to 107 on Monday, while the number of deaths from the disease remained at 12.

“Because I have been extremely careful in following all the directives, this is a reminder of how aggressive this virus is,” Marconi said. “Please stay home.”

Marconi could not be reached for further comment Monday.

Matt Knickerbocker, president of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns and first selectman of Bethel, said Marconi is the first municipal leader in the state to test positive for the disease to his knowledge.

“I certainly hope he is able to have a mild case,” said Knickerbocker, who said he has been “friends and colleagues” with Marconi since Knickerbocker won his seat as Bethel’s top elected official in 2009.

Knickerbocker said he sent Marconi a message Monday afternoon wishing him a speedy recovery.

“He’s a great guy, great leader,” Knickerbocker said. “I’m sure he will be modeling the right behavior to his citizens on how to handle this.”

Marconi was working daily in town hall through last week. Employees have been on reduced shifts in the building, and have notified of the first selectman’s condition, according to town officials.

“We have been working on skeleton crews and altering days in versus out, and many working from home,” Human Resources Director Laurie Fernandez said. “People with private offices have been working more regularly. ... We have discussed with those employees who may have had more direct contact about quarantining and working from home.”

She said town hall will be closed Tuesday for a deep sanitizing, and the annex will be closed Wednesday for a similar procedure.

“We have sent notice to all Town Hall employees this afternoon as well,” Fernandez said.

Long incubation

It’s difficult to know how Marconi may have been exposed.

“As you know, the problem with the coronavirus and its long incubation time is that it is impossible to know where one has gotten it,” said Gerri Lewis, public information officer for the town emergency management effort during the COVID-19 crisis. “Rudy continued to go to his office every day, in spite of the health risks of leaving his home, because of his immense sense of obligation to the town he loves.”

That said, he continued, the town hall staff has taken precautions from the beginning of the pandemic, with most working from home since closing doors to the public.

Controller Kevin Redmond is among those who have been working some days in town, and other days from home.

“We’ve been on a skeleton staff for probably a week or two weeks,” Redmond said Monday. “There haven’t been too many people here, mostly department heads. We’ve been rotating on and off for coverage.”

107 cases

The Monday update from Lewis in the town emergency managment office said:

  “Health Director Ed Briggs confirms that we have 107 COVID-19 cases reported with the expectation that these numbers will climb later today.

  “Our death toll remains at 12, all associated with a care facility. These numbers remind us of how diligent we must remain in keeping our most vulnerable population safe. Please continue to isolate as much as possible, practicing social distancing when you must go out and following all the CDC recommendations.

  “Anyone who has gathered in groups over the weekend are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before entering any public areas in Ridgefield. This is the only way we can protect everyone.

  “Ridgefield’s Emergency Operations Team has posted videos of previous streams where many of the most common questions are answered. Go to ridgefieldct.org. For questions, go to Facebook — Ridgefield oem or email selectman@ridgefieldct.org.

  “To sign up to receive messages pertaining to Ridgefield, sign up for CTAlert.gov. For those without an email use: noemail@ridgefield.com. Be sure to put the town in the relevant field and check off how you would like to receive the message. Prioritize how to receive your messages or check phone only. CTAlert messages are delivered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or as needed.

“Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy.”