Ridgefield COVID-19 cases hit 111; Marconi in recovery
With the lives of 13 Ridgefielders already lost to COVID-19, First Selectman Rudy Marconi assured townspeople Tuesday that he had “turned the corner” in his personal struggle with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
And the town’s COVID-19 case count reached 111 Wednesday. And the cancelation of the Memorial Day parade until 2021 was announced.
“I want to thank you for the outpouring of get-well wishes I have received as I recover from COVID-19,” Marconi said. “I assure you I am doing well and feel like I’ve turned the corner,” Marconi said Tuesday night. “So, thank you again.”
Marconi said Wednesday that he wanted “to reassure Ridgefielders that he has complete confidence in the dedicated team he leads while he recuperates from COVID-19.”
Marconi had announced Monday that he had tested positive and was among more than 100 Ridgefielders with the disease — the count of confirmed cases in town was 107 when Marconi made his announcement Monday, had reached 110 on Tuesday, 111 Wednesday middday, and was expected to continue rising.
“Health Director Ed Briggs confirms that we have 110 COVID-19 cases reported with the expectation that these numbers will continue to climb,” Marconi said Tuesday night. “Sadly, our death toll has climbed to 13 and this is a reminder of how diligent we must remain in keeping our most vulnerable population safe.”
The 13 deaths now include: one that is the first fatality of a resident of Laurel Ridge Health Care Center, a nursing home; 11 from the Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings, an assisted living facility that shares a Route 7 campus with Laurel Ridge; and one from elsewhere in town.
Marconi made Monday’s announcement that he had the disease into a warning.
“Because I have been extremely careful in following all the directives, this is a reminder of how aggressive this virus is,” he said. “Please stay home.”
Marconi echoed the CDC’s instruction that people should make their own face masks for any necessary trips out, and reiterated his pleas — and those of countless authorities — for people to avoid making any nonessential trips out.
The CDC “recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” Marconi said through a release from the town’s emergency management office Tuesday.
“We ask that all Ridgefielders to follow CDC guidelines and wear face coverings in public settings even if you do not have symptoms,” Marconi’s message said. “There are many recommended homemade options that can be fashioned from household items or common materials. This adds an extra measure of protection. However, continue to practice social distancing if you must go out.
“If you must go out, it is critical that you maintain six-feet social distancing, the only tool we have to slow the spread of the virus,” Marconi said. “Group gatherings are prohibited by the Governor of Connecticut. If you have gathered in a group recently, please self-quarantine for 14 days before entering any public areas.”
Manners on deck
After Marconi’s announcement, members of the Board of Selectmen confirmed that his fellow Democrat and 20-year veteran of the board, Barbara Manners, would assume his duties in the event he needed a break from them — although reports were he was working from home and overseeing town operations.
Because Marconi had been working daily in town hall through the end of last week, precautions are being taken by others who worked in the building.
“Everyone who was in close contact with Rudy last week has been asked to self-quarantine,” said Manners. “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,” she said. “Town Hall is locked.”
Employees had already been on reduced shifts in the building, and have been notified of Marconi’s condition, according to town officials.
“We have been working on skeleton crews and altering days in versus out and many working from home,” said town Human Resources Director Laurie Fernandez. “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 Monday, April 5, in an email response.
“We have sent notice to all Town Hall employees this afternoon as well.”
The town hall was closed Tuesday for a “deep cleaning” and the Town Hall Annex in the Venus Building would be deep cleaned Wednesday, Fernandez said.
It’s difficult to know all the people who 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.” Lewis said.
“That said, the entire town hall staff has taken extreme precautions from the very beginning, most working from home since the close of the doors to the public.”
Lewis added, “The town is being efficiently taken care of, as the first selectman has put into place, by the designated task force: The police, fire, health department and emergency management all continue to work on the front lines.”
Controller Kevin Redmond is among those who have been working some days in town, and some days from home.
“We’ve been on a skeleton staff for probably a week or two weeks,” Redmond said in a telephone conversation Monday afternoon.
“There haven’t been too many people here, mostly department heads. We’ve been rotating on and off for coverage,” he said.
“Department heads, you should be able to run your department on your own, anyway. We look to Rudy for guidance and kind of the big important things and his knowledge of the town, but the day-to-day running of every department, I assume every department can do that.”
While Marconi had been going to his office in town hall, Redmond said contact among workers there had been limited.
“I know he’s been very careful,” he said of Marconi.
Redmond hadn’t heard of any other employees who’d reported symptoms.
“Not that I know of,” Redmond said Monday. “I just stay in my office, which has proven to be helpful. It’s good to be an introvert in situations like this.”
Marconi spoke to townspeople in a CTAlert telephone call received in homes around the town about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Good evening. This is First Selectman Rudy Marconi,” he said. “I want to thank you for the outpouring of get-well wishes I have received as I recover from COVID-19. I assure you I am doing well and feel like I’ve turned the corner,” he said. “So, thank you again.”
Marconi then proceeded with updates on the situation in Ridgefield.
“The Ridgefield Police Department warns that residents should be alert to the many scams that are reaching out via phone, text and email. Please do not give out any personal information to unsolicited callers, emailers or texters. If you have any questions, call the Ridgefield Police Department non-emergency number: 203-438-6531. Please share this information with friends, family and neighbors.
“To sign up to receive messages pertaining to Ridgefield, sign up for CTAlert.gov. For those without an email use: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
“Please,” Marconi ended his call, “stay home, stay safe, stay healthy. We will get through this.”
Council of towns
Matt Knickerbocker, president of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns and first selectman of Bethel, said to his knowledge Marconi is the first municipal leader in the state to test positive for the disease.
“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.
Marconi previously served as president of the organization, which represents 110 smaller municipalities throughout the state.
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.”