After a painful and frightening two-week battle with COVID-19, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says he’s starting to feel better.

“There were some nights where — between the nausea and the aches and pains and fever and headache and sore throat — it was unbelievable,” he said.

“This is one of the first days I’ve really felt OK,” Marconi said in a phone conversation Tuesday, April 14.

“I still have the cough, it’s lingering in my lungs, which it does — it’s a respiratory illness. I remain on oxygen and I’ll do that for the next couple of days,” he said. “Every day is an improvement and today is probably the biggest improvement I’ve experienced, which is great.

“But it’s been a long couple of weeks, three weeks — two weeks, seems longer,” he said.

“It’s a tough illness, I guess there are various strains, some people don't experience it quite as bad as others. Unfortunately, some have passed away from the disease. It runs the gamut.”

Ridgefield Health Director Ed Briggs said Tuesday evening that the town had 126 known active cases of people who’d tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been a total of 16 deaths in town from the disease.

The COVID-19 deaths in Ridgefield have come over the last several weeks — 13 of them at Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings, the assisted living apartments on Route 7 where the disease first broke out in Connecticut. Of the other three deaths in Ridgefield, Briggs said one involved a resident of the Laurel Ridge Health Care Center, a separately owned nursing home that shares a campus with the Benchmark facility. For a time before and early on in the COVID-19 outbreak the two facilities had some employees that worked at both places. The other two deaths Briggs described as “other” — coming elsewhere in town.

The count of 126 people known to have tested positive is probably low — there are likely more people in town who have the disease but haven’t been tested.

Marconi said his wife, Peggy Marconi, seems in good health despite the risks of living in the same house with him.

“Peggy is in pretty good shape,” he said. “She had what we thought for a moment was — she wasn’t feeling well in the mornings. But now she’s fine — hopefully, unless something grabs her in the next couple of days — so we’re happy about that,” he said.

“Of course we’ve had our masks on, and as much isolation as possible. I pretty much lived in the bedroom the whole time.”

Town business

Tuesday evening, Marconi was beginning to focus on town business, work he’s started doing and virtual meetings he’s setting up with help from his administrative assistant Amy Escribano.

“Life goes on, and working with Amy today we scheduled a few meetings,” he said.

“Mainly we'll be having a Board of Selectmen’s meeting on April 22, and a tri-board meeting on April 23 for budget discussions.

“We have a few things to approve on the 22nd,” he said. “We have people for appointments. We have a grant for the Affordable Housing Committee we’ve got to get done. And then the board, you know, will receive updates on the storm last night.”

The tri-board meeting will gather — virtually — the Board of Selectmen, Board of Education and Board of Finance. The focus will be on the budget.

“It’s going to be a discussion of all of us and hopefully a budget conversation that reflects the times we’re in — unfortunately,” Marconi said.

“The governor has laid out in his executive order a very clear path for approval as there will be no public hearings, no town meetings,” Marconi said.

“However, in any of our meetings, the same protocol needs to be followed with an agenda being posted, and then motions and minutes, per FOIA (Freedom of Informatiaon Act), being posted as well.”

Access to meetings

People should be able to watch the virtual meetings via the town's website, http://www.ridgefieldct.org.

“What we will do is hopefully be able to have the meeting be viewed via the town website,” Marconi said. “Unfortunately it’s going to be several weeks before I can actually attend a meeting —until I’ve tested negative.

“But we will be making it accessible to the people of Ridgefield either through teleconference listening — it may not be the best, but we’ll do everything we can to create as much transparency as we possibly can,” Marconi said.

He hopes to get the meeting available on Zoom, but will try to avoid what happened at the last virtual selectmen’s meeting, which was electronically invaded by ‘zoom bombers’ who briefly disrupted the proceedings.

“We’ll use a more secure form of Zoom,” Marconi said. “On April 1st we attempted a public Zoom and it was hacked, unfortunately.

“But we’ll do a more secure form that will restrict, unfortunately, to a certain extent, the participation — but we have to do it.

“It may not be the best but we’ll do everything we can to create as much transparency as we possibly can,” Marconi said.

Budget approvals that have already been voted on will probably have to be rescinded, and budgets reworked in light of new realities. This is a concept the selectmen discussed April 1, deciding to postpone action and have Marconi set up the virtual tri-board meeting so the school and finance boards could be in on the deliberations.

“That discussion will reflect the state of our local economy, the unpredictability of what the next year will bring, the uncertainty and the need for all of us to make a decision that takes all of that into consideration,” Marconi said.

Town functioning

Overall, Marconi reports that town agencies are functioning despite the circumstances.

“It’s been quiet,” he said.

“Town hall continues to function on a skeletal basis, with appointments at town clerk’s office, and any other offices necessary.

“Our Highway Department is working on four-man shifts. Yesterday we had a four-man crew out working to clear the roads and trees that came down.

“Our police and fire, fortunately, continue to run at full strength,” he said.

“And Parks and Recreation, obviously parks is bringing some people in just to not fall behind with the spring season upon us. But the rec center remains closed.”

The same is true of all town fields and basketball and tennis courts, as well as town buildings.

“Everything remains closed,” Marconi said. “And they will remain closed until we feel we have control of the situation.

“Overall, the people of Ridgefield have been pretty good,” Marconi said. “We’d probably like to see more masks being used. We’ve had some concerns at Stop & Shop, that people are there without any masks, which is inconsiderate.

“Some kind of a face covering — anything is better than nothing,” Marconi said.

“That will be one of the things I’ll be following up on in the next week or so.”