Ridgefield battles COVID-19; Marconi says ‘no gatherings’

Ridgefield is in the Red Level.

Ridgefield is in the Red Level.

Ridgefield Town Hall / Contributed graphic

“COVID, COVID, COVID,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “That’s where we’ve been at.”

Marconi was addressing Tuesday night’s tri-board meeting, where the board of Selectmen, Finance and Education discuss the upcoming budget.

“As a community, we’re at 28 cases per 100,000,” he said — meaning 28 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, per day, averaged over the last week.

Ridgefield’s “rolling seven day average” of new COVID-19 cases was seven — based on data through Monday, Nov. 16 — because there’d been 49 news cases that tested positive over the previous seven days.

An average of seven new cases per day in a town of 25,000 residents equates to 28 daily new cases per 100,000 people. The “cases per 100,000” is the metric the state uses to track the numbers.

“As a community we’re not doing too well, especially in the last two days,” Marconi said.

The town added 17 new cases Monday, after picking up 21 over the weekend.

People who look for Ridgefield on the state’s COVID-19 data tracker map will find the state’s comparisons are based on the number of new cases per 100,000 people — with the state averaging over a 14-day period and the state calculations are based on data that is week behind the numbers Marconi has access to.

“Last report we were 10.2 cases per 100,000,” Marconi said of the state’s figures. “We’re going to blow that out of the water.”

While the state’s map is based on number from a 14-day period covering two and three weeks ago, Marconi has an average based on one-week numbers reflecting last week.

“We’ve shot almost straight up,” Marconi told the tri-board meeting.

“We’re at about 28 as of today.”

Effort in school

The annual tri-board meeting is usually all about budgets. This year the focus was COVID-19, and efforts to fight it.

Marconi had praise for the COVID containment efforts led by Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva, in what has to be proving a very challenging first year on the job.

“She’s doing an excellent job with the schools,” Marconi said. “...Thanks for everything you’re doing to try to keep a lid on this.”

Changing habits

Ridgefielders need to change they way they’re behaving, tighten up their adherence to recommendations, according to Marconi.

“We’re looking at implementing some of — if not all — the recommendations the Department of Public Health just put out,” he said. “There could be some real cutbacks.”

Marconi said he wasn’t talking just about the governor’s “Phase 2.1” rules for business — such as limiting restaurants to 50 percent of capacity and a maximum of eight people per table.

Sports might be stopped, as well as holiday events.

The town had already called off the in-person version of its traditional tree lighting ceremony that bring crowds of people to Main Street in front of town hall for the ceremonial flipping of the light switch on evening after Thanksgiving.

“It will be virtual. We just can’t afford to be gathering at events like that,” Marconi said.

Shops and stores

“The Holiday Village — a lot of effort is going into that,” he said.

Marconi was referring to plans by Downtown Ridgefield, the Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic and Community Development Commission to fill the commercial village with events and attractions to bring shoppers to town each weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It might have to be called off due to the rising rate of COVID-19, he said.

“That’s going to be questionable because of the increase we’ve seen in the last few days,” Marconi told the tri-board meeting.

Even traditional Thanksgiving dinners and family gatherings need to be reconsidered.

“I urge everyone, if you’re planning a family get together — please don’t,” Marconi said.

It feels wrong to be telling families not to get together on Thanksgiving, he admitted. But that’s exactly what he was doing — asking Ridgiefielders not to gather in groups and risk spreading the virus.

Without using a name, Marconi told of a family in town that had ignored all the recommendations and had gotten together for a birthday party.

“All infected,” he said.

One person attending hadn’t known they were sick and had exposed all the others.

At the same time, Marconi said that this year doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad year for local retailers.

“People are not going to New York City. They’re not going to go to the malls to shop. Our real competition is the Internet,” Marconi said.

The first selectman urged Ridgefielders to do their holiday shopping with local stores — even if they’re not shopping in person.

“We ask everyone — call, email a local store,” he said.

“Try and do all your shopping locally.”

That’s what Ridgefielders will need to do, he said, if they want to come out of the pandemic and find their town still has its village and Main Street shops.

Marconi recalled the shuttered businesses — retailers and restaurants — that had lined Main Street in earlier this year, closed on the governor’s orders.

He wants to avoid a return to that scenario.

“I’m hoping we don’t see a lockdown,” he said.

“They took a pretty good hit that last time around. They survived,” Marconi said of town businesses.

“We need to help them stay alive.”

That’s why he encouraged people to do their holiday shopping — perhaps online, or by phone — with Ridgefield businesses.

But Marconi’s major point was simple: people should not get together, not have parties, not gather in groups.

“Hold off on the holiday celebrations,” Marconi said.

“We’re by no means out of the woods on this,” he added. “In fact we’re heading in deeper.”