Ridgefield nears state's red alert status for COVID-19

The COVID-19 alarm is sounding.

“Ridgefield is flirting very dangerously with the most critical COVID response level,” the town’s new COVID-19 Task Force said Tuesday, “and our data shows that if we continue on this trend over the next seven days, we will be designated by the state as a red town.

“We are currently averaging four cases per day occurring in all age groups and have dipped into the red zone three times in the last 10 days.

“As the holidays approach, if we all don’t act promptly to mitigate our current trend, we could see an explosion with a large increase of infections and potential spreaders.”

The task force, formed by First Selectman Rudy Marconi after the town crossed into the state’s “orange” designation in the last week of October, provided a chart showing the town’s COVID-19 new case rate climbing steadily.

After more than a month below state’s “yellow alert level” of fewer than five new cases a day per 100,000 people, averaged over seven days, the town’s number began a steady rise about Oct. 20.

The town crossed into the state’s “orange alert” category — 10 to 14 new cases per day, per 100,000 residents, averaged over seven days — and kept climbing.

By Oct. 28 Ridgefield had bumped up against the bottom of the state’s “red” COVID-19 alert category: 15 or more new cases a day, per 100,000 residents, averaged over seven days.

By the start of this week on Sunday, Nov. 8, the town has crossed the state’s red line and hit new 16 cases per day, per 100,000.

Ridgefield’s population is just about 25,000, so that rate translates into four new cases per day, townwide.

The chart also shows statewide and Fairfield County numbers as of Nov. 8, with the state averaging 30.5 new cases a for every 100,000 people, and the 23 towns of Fairfield County — which includes Ridgefield — averaging 39.4 new cases a day.

Better than the state and county, yes, but the task force still regards the town’s rising numbers as a cause for serious concern.

“Note that we have recently been crossing into the Red Alert Zone and the COVID Task Force is closely monitoring this situation,” said the new release from town Emergency Management Department’s public information officer, Gerri Lewis, who is the voice of the task force.

She related the state color designation to the state’s different re-opening phases, which set lims for things such as how many people various types of businesses could legally serve at one time.

“Being in the red can potentially roll us back to Phase 2 and possibly Phase 1,” Lewis said, “however if we increase our vigilance, we still have a short window to alter this trend.

COVID rules

“We are therefore asking everyone to make sure they are following the state COVID response rules.” she said.

“Please be reminded of the following:

  “Consider everyone a potential spreader and behave accordingly.

  “All indoor and outdoor gatherings in residences are now capped at 10.

  “Stay home if you feel ill.

  “Wear a face mask when leaving your home, distance at least six feet apart, wash your hands often and sanitize your surroundings regularly.

  “Be respectful of the rules because your efforts affect the entire community.

  “Keep your eye on the big picture by making sacrifices now so we can continue to allow our schools and our businesses to stay open for the future.”

Lewis provided a chart listing state rules for different types of businesses at the Phase 2 and Phase 3 levels and at “Phase 2.1” — the status Gov. Lamont declared the state to be in on Nov. 6.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi also encouraged people to work together to control the spread of COVID-19 in Ridgefield.

“Everyone can do their part,” Marconi said. “... We’re all in this together and only together will we get out of it.”

Marconi announced plans to form the new task force last week, after Lamont’s Phase 2.1 designation.

The goal of task force is ot keep Ridgefielders informed of the COVID-19 situation, and aware of the importance of protective measures — for themselves, their neighbors, and the town.

Marconi worries that if the COVID-19 situation continues to get worse, town businesses may have to be shut down again as they were six months ago.

“If you love our town, you love the downtown, you love the stores and Branchville and Copps Hill, then please be compliance, follow the protocols and get tested,” Marconi said.

“Go back to April or May: What did our town look like back then? It wasn’t good.”

Informed town

A key part of Marconi’s plan is to keep townspeople informed.

“The town will begin issuing weekly reports that will contain all of this information,” Marconi said.

“There will be a general one page press release on Tuesday,” he said. “And the reason for Tuesday is the state does a huge dump of data for over the weekend. They don’t enter it on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, it’s usually done sometime around 4 p.m. Monday.

“We’re going to get that most current data, and load it into our graphs so people can see where we’re heading — and that will be relative to the yellow, orange and red status.

“You will then be able to to go to the Town of Ridgefield website and on our front page there’s a red bar that says ‘COVID-19’ — you will click on that, and that will bring you to a wealth of information. You’re going to have to click the links to all of this information and it may take a little while because of the amount of data involved, but be patient.”

Phase 2.1

Lewis, the public information officer, gathered together for townspeople “major changes” to rules regarding the conduct of business under the state’s Phase 2.l status. They are:

  “Restaurants (including restaurants with bars), entertainment and recreation venues and both indoor and outdoor events at commercial venues must close in-person service at 10 p.m. (Takeout and delivery may continue later.)

  Restaurants’ indoor capacity capped at 50 percent, with 6 feet spacing, and non-porous barriers, and a maximum number of people at one table is capped at 8.

  Private social gatherings at commercial venues are capped at 25 indoors and 50 outside.

  Private (in residence) social gatherings are capped at 10 people both inside and outdoors.

  Indoor religious services may operate at 50 percent of capacity but must be capped at 100 people with 6 feet spacing between parties. Outdoor services are no change from Phase 3.

  Indoor performing arts theatres may operate at 50 percent of capacity with a cap of 100 people.

  Outdoor municipal spaces capped at 500 as long as social distancing and mask wearing are mandated.

  Personal services establishments and libraries will remain the same as Phase 3 rules.

“In all cases,” Lewis said, “follow the 3 W’s: Wear your mask. Wash your hands. And watch your distance!”