State of emergency: Town, schools respond to coronavirus
As the country and the world respond to the pandemic that is coronavirus, Darien officials and school administrators have responded to do their part to slow the spread.
Schools in the state have been shut down by Gov. Ned Lamont until at least March 31 after the district announced a two-week shutdown last Wednesday. Lamont joined with the governors of New York and New Jersey to shut down all fitness studios, entertainment venues, as well as restaurants and bars, other than take-out services, as of Monday at 8 p.m.
On Friday, March 13, Darien reported its first positive case — after a letter was sent out to families in the Darien Youth Lacrosse Association that said a parent of an eighth grader had tested positive. On Saturday, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said another resident had tested positive. Also on Saturday, an email was sent to families in the Darien Youth Hockey Association that a person who attended some of the events had tested positive.
It is unclear if the person mentioned is the second case in Darien. No details on the second case have been made public. As of Tuesday, those two cases are still the only two officially reported.
On Monday, First Selectman Stevenson declared a state of emergency in Darien. She sent out a Code Red message to residents.
“Darien’s Emergency Management team, which includes representatives from Public Health, EMS, Police, Fire, schools and all municipal and social service functions, is fully operational and we are working closely with our federal, state and regional partners,” she said.
Group gatherings are limited to 50 people or fewer but that may be reduced in coming days, she said.
“In spite of this formal guidance, play dates, dinner parties and all social gatherings should be put on temporary hold ... you may not know if you or others are contagious. The risks are just not worth taking,” she said.
As of Monday, 41 people had tested positive for COVID-19 here in CT. There were 29 cases in Fairfield County, 13 new cases since Monday alone.
Though Darien only has two official cases, Stevenson said limited testing suggests that number may be much higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the spread of COVID-19 is in the acceleration phase and that is particularly true in Fairfield County.
“Stay home if you can. Turn family time into opportunities for making those deep connections with your kids that are so rare when our schedules are busy. Think about the less fortunate among us by making donations to the Darien Human Service Department. Please don’t hoard food or nonperishables,” Stevenson said.
Town Hall is open to the public on a limited basis. Residents are encouraged to conduct business online . Please check the tabs: Online Services, How Do I?, and go to individual departments (additional online opportunities have been added). You may also contact departments by phone or email.
Stevenson also encouraged residents to look out for elderly neighbors and patronize local businesses via take out while maintaining social distancing.
Stop & Shop has limited hours and added a morning shopping time only for seniors.
Darien Library, the Darien Community Association, Darien YMCA, the Darien Arts Center and many more community organizations have closed and suspended programming indefinitely. Public playgrounds are closed, but beaches and parks remain open. Many Darien churches have switched to streaming their services or suspending them for the month.
Darien schools will remain closed until at least March 31 as directed by the governor. On Monday, the Board of Education held an emergency meeting to approve the submission of a waiver application to the state Department of Education.
In a letter to parents on Monday night, Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley said the state Department of Education is “now planning to reduce the reporting requirements and is considering eliminating individual district applications for 180-day waivers. Things seem to change daily in this public health crisis.”
Obtaining a waiver, should it be needed, will allow eLearning to be used in lieu of adding days to the end of the year in June.
In anticipation of the approval of the waiver in the next day or so, Addley outlined the expected next steps.
Wednesday, March 18 through March 20: Students will be required to complete the daily activities that are currently posted on the eLearning site and/or offered through Google Classroom. These activities may be completed at a student’s own pace.
And Monday, March 23 until further notice: Students will be required to complete the daily activities that will be available through Google Classroom. Attendance will be taken daily. Parents should notify their child’s teacher or school if they are unable to attend or complete the assigned work.
Teachers will be available to answer questions during school hours.
Addley said the district recognizes that any type of eLearning model cannot perfectly replicate a typical school day experience, but said the model will provide students with daily structure, with continued participation in their school learning communities, and with ongoing access to meaningful teaching and learning.
“As we are in uncharted waters, we appreciate your patience and support as we enter this new adventure in learning,” he said.
Other suggestions included designating a space for students to work, printing a copy of the daily schedule, providing earphones or a headset, encouraging breaks, establishing a daily routine, and communicating with the child’s teacher.
Earlier this week, there were 41 cases in the state of Connecticut. Twenty-nine of them are in Fairfield County, four in Hartford County, four in Litchfield County and four in New Haven County. The first case in Connecticut was a Wilton man who remains in a coma in Danbury Hospital. A GoFundMe page for the man, a father of infant twins whose wife and children remain in quarantine, has raised over $100,000.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. There were 4,661 confirmed cases in the United States and 85 deaths.
Gov. Lamont noted on Monday that drive-through testing has been approved at seven Connecticut hospitals, but only for those who have a prescription for the test from their doctor and make an appointment in advance.
Those hospitals are: Bridgeport Hospital, Bristol Health, Danbury Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Stamford Health, Waterbury Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Town of Darien updates — darienct.gov, hit the coronavirus tab.
Darien School District — darienps.org
State of Connecticut Department of Health — portal.ct.gov/dph
State of Connecticut coronavirus latest — ct.gov/coronavirus
Centers for Disease Control coronavirus latest — cdc.gov/coronavirus
Anyone with questions can call 2-1-1 or text “CTCOVID” to 898211. The 2-1-1 hotline is available 24 hours a day.