“Respirators and wipes are harder to get,” said Town Health Director Ed Briggs, but Ridgefield’s town and school authorities — as well as the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association or RVNA — have been doing what they can to ready the town for coronavirus cases.

“Are we prepared for coronavirus? Selectman Bob Hebert asked at the selectmen’s budget meeting Monday night, March 2.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Health Director Ed Briggs was leading the town preparations.

“What we’re seeing as a larger issue is lack of supplies,” Marconi told the selectmen. “Masks — we can’t get masks anywhere,” he said. “We have a substantial supply.

“The seniors are the ones we’re going to have to protect the most,” Marconi said.

And anyone “whose immune system is compromised,” he added.

Selectman Sean Connelly, who works in consulting, said the concerns about social contact were showing up in the business world.

“A lot of my clients — everyone is re-thinking gatherings,” he said. “Conferences are off, and meetings.”

Schools, bus company

Vigorous “cleaning and disinfecting protocols” are being followed by the Ridgefield Public Schools and its bus contractor in response to concerns about the coronavirus, as well as the seasonal flu, interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. JeanAnne Paddyfote announced Friday, Feb. 28.

“Dear Parents and Staff,” Paddyfote’s message read, “I am writing in response to the recent media briefing by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and I want to assure you that we are staying updated on the coronavirus status in Connecticut and our community. Our school district is following guidance from the Ridgefield Department of Public Health under the direction of Mr. Ed Briggs, the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the CDC.

“Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person and is a specific virus in a large family of viruses. The CDC website has valuable information and can be accessed via this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

“As noted in the materials on the CDC website, there is currently no vaccine to prevent Coronavirus.

Preventative actions

The CDC recommends “everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases,” Paddyfote said. “The CDC prevention measures include the following:

 “Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

 “Stay home when you are sick.

  “Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

 “Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

 “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

 “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

“We continue to implement our seasonal influenza protocols in our schools. These protocols follow the CDC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Schools. In addition, our bus contractor, First Student, is implementing similar protocols to clean buses.

“If a student or employee is not feeling well and is experiencing flu-like symptoms, call your doctor. Parents be sure to reach out to your child’s school nurse should you have concerns about your child’s health, or to communicate an absence due to illness. If your child is sick, the best advice is to keep your child home. Employees should report their illness to a supervisor.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the Ridgefield Department of Public Health, and the first selectmen’s office to ensure we are sharing consistent information with families, employees and community members. We will provide updates as necessary.

“If you have any questions, please contact the school nurse, or the district’s School Health Coordinator, Mr. Aaron Crook RN at acrook@ridgefieldps.net.”

Budget implications?

At Monday night’s meeting Selectman Hebert asked if there appeared to be budget implications to the town’s coronavirus response.

“I have no requests,” Marconi replied.

Marconi said he’d been having meetings with Health Director Briggs, Emergency Management Director Dick Aarons, and Fire Chief Jerry Myers.

If there were a need to declare a state of emergency, budget concerns wouldn’t hold things up.

“We’d just go ahead and do it,” Marconi said.

“I wish we knew enough to predict what we’d need for A,B,C and D,” he said.

The first selectman had doubts about the response at higher levels of the government.

“I don’t think they have a lot of answers,” he said.

Marconi also said he received communications from MetroNorth railroad concerning the extra efforts undertaken to protect commuters and other train riders.

“MetroNorth, they are cleaning the stations every day,” Marconi said.

He read a statement from the railroad saying it had begun “enhanced station and car cleaning” on March 2.

Testing

Health Director Briggs had “not heard from any doctors’ offices” concerning cases of the virus — or testing for it. “People are being tested for flu,” Briggs said. “Testing for coronavirus (is) only done based on symptoms and travel history. Testing is at state lab and confirmed by CDC.”

“Ridgefield public safety agencies and the Ridgefield school system continue to coordinate efforts to prevent the potential local spread of coronavirus,” Marconi’s office said in a release.

“While currently, there is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID19),” Health Director Briggs said, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.”

RVNA

The Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association (RVNA) has also been closely following the situation.

“There are no cases or suspected cases in Connecticut at this moment; that could change at any time,” Nancy Rowe, the RVNA’s public relations director said Monday.

On testing, she said: “Connecticut was just approved a few days ago to test for the coronavirus here, instead of sending the specimens to Atlanta to be tested. The testing will take place in Rocky Hill, CT.

“There is no testing done in doctor offices. The CT Department of Public Health is asking people to contact their local public health office for screening and guidance to help prevent the spread.”

She said the RVNA was aware that some individuals were gathering supplies.

“What we have heard so far is that people are stocking up on face masks, hand sanitisers and disinfectants,” Rowe said. “The grocery store supplies have not been affected at this time.”

The RVNA said it hasn’t gotten a lot of inquiries about the coronavirus. “We have not received any direct calls or emails from the public,” Rowe said. “Our clinical team members, who serve patients in their homes, receive regular briefings to answer questions…”

The RVNA’s advice was simple — largely the same list of precautions from the CDC that both the school system and Health Director Briggs had put out.

“At this time, people should just be aware of the symptoms; Fever, cough and shortness of breath. They should also practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus,” Rowe said.

“Be sure to check on the CDC or Connecticut Department of Public Health website to confirm anything you may hear about the Covid-19,” she added. “Follow the advice of your local/state health department.”