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COVID-19: More sad news; NPS adapting; City vaccinates

3D print of a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—in front of a 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle. (NIH)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk has lost an additional eight citizens due to COVID-19, Mayor Harry Rilling’s Tuesday update said.

In addition:

  • NPS has changed its COVID-19 guidelines
  • Norwalk expects 300 Moderna vaccines this week
  • O’Connor reports 10 police officers have had COVID-19
  • Four of seven tax collector employees were infected, according to Biagiarelli

 

Eight deaths

A total 182 Norwalk residents have died due to the coronavirus, Rilling’s update said.

It indicates that:

  • One of the new victims was in his or her 50s (12 people in that age group have died)
  • Three were in their 60s (27 people in that age group have died)
  • Two were in their 70s (46 people in that age group have died)
  • Two were 80 years old or older (89 people in that age group have died)

 

“I am deeply saddened by the news that eight more of our residents have died from COVID-19. I am keeping their loved ones in my prayers as they continue to grieve. Let us all remember that these are people, not statistics. These are our neighbors and friends and family members,” Rilling is quoted as saying.

There were 52 new cases reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 6,732.Rilling’s office did not issue updates between Dec. 31 and Jan. 4; in that time period, 282 new positive cases were reported.

“COVID-19 continues to be transmitted through the community,” Rilling is quoted as saying. “While we continue to hear reports of small social gatherings and parties at homes, it is challenging to pinpoint a single cause of where people are contracting the virus. This is why it’s critically important residents do not let down their guard at home or work. I ask residents to remain vigilant in our fight against this virus. We continue to distribute COVID-19 vaccines per state guidelines and will keep the public updated regularly on these efforts.”

 

NPS to require staff to be in schools, older students given more options on Feb. 1

Norwalk Public Schools has reduced its quarantine period for anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 to 10 days, down from the two-week period it’s been since the beginning of the school year. This was done in response to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Connecticut State Department of Public Health, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella said in an announcement.

The district is not allowing people to reduce their quarantine time with a negative test.

Also, starting Monday, employees will report to their work locations when their school moves to fully remote learning, as long as they’re not in quarantine, Estrella’s letter said. Employees have been given the option to work remotely until now.

The change is said to benefit students by:

  • “Allowing students with moderate or severe disabilities, and multi-language learners with moderate to high needs, to remain in school full time if not directly impacted by a quarantine.
  • “Supporting consistent instruction for all students by reducing the transitions personnel need to make.
  • “Giving students the reassurance of seeing a familiar classroom location.
  • “Signaling to students that school is still “in session,” even if they are learning from home.
  • “Addressing privacy and other concerns that teachers and staff have raised about teaching from home.
  • “Reducing tech issues from potential problems with home Internet and Wi-Fi.
  • “Providing easier access to administrators and building tech support as needed.”

 

The district promises to “continue to deep clean and thoroughly sanitize classrooms and other areas as needed, before staff and students return to the building.”

Further, NPS is expanding the “availability of five-day-a-week, in-person instruction for middle and high school students who have been most negatively impacted by remote learning,” effective Feb. 1, after assessing attendance levels at its middle and high schools and determining that “sufficient space is available at these buildings to safely accommodate additional students.”

“Students who are failing two or more subjects in the first semester will be eligible,” Estrella’s letter said. “Individual outreach will be made from the schools to eligible students, should a change in the model of instruction be indicated for a specific student. More information will be available later this month.”

“The past few months have confirmed our ability to adapt and grow as a district, traits that we will likely need for the remainder of this school year, and beyond,” the letter said. “Students and staff have demonstrated incredible resilience, adapting to a learning environment that is different from anything we have ever experienced. We truly appreciate the caring and commitment shown to students each day by our staff, and look forward to continued successes in the New Year.”

 

Norwalk vaccinations continue

The City of Norwalk administered 60 COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday, “the remainder of our initial allotment,” Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan said in an email.

“Norwalk, like the entire State of Connecticut, is currently in Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccine distribution,” he explained. “Healthcare workers, medical first responders, and long-term care facility staff and residents are eligible to receive a vaccine in this first phase of the vaccine roll out. Last week at Norwalk High School, we vaccinated 148 employees (police, fire, school nurses, healthcare workers) and Emergency Response Team (ERT) volunteers that meet the Phase 1A Criteria.”

Norwalk High School is open to students now; Morgan said the city has additional locations to administer vaccines “when production ramps up in the weeks and months ahead.”

He explained, “We expect to receive roughly 300 more doses of the Moderna vaccine this week which will be used to vaccinate more staff and community members who meet Phase 1A guidelines. The Office of the Governor sets the priority groups, the timeline, and the process for future phases of vaccination, after reviewing recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CT COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group. The Governor’s Vaccine Advisory Group met today to discuss future phases, and we expect final guidance from the Governor’s office in the next few weeks.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a Tweet said Tuesday that Connecticut “learns how much vaccine we will get 6 days ahead of delivery, with no visibility on future weeks. This is a recipe for disaster. No state can build a distribution plan if it never has more than 6 days of supply visibility. This is the first thing Biden must fix.”

Mayor Harry Rilling said late Tuesday that he has not been vaccinated.

 

O’Connor: Still coughing after contracting COVID-19 in December

Norwalk Police Lt. David O’Connor said Tuesday that he’s likely to pass on the vaccine so someone else can take it – because he had COVID last month and figures he has antibodies.

O’Connor said he was diagnosed Dec. 5 and was “really sick” for 10 days, although that’s relative because he wasn’t hospitalized, “so I really wasn’t that sick. And I felt like I was.”

He “can’t help but think” that he picked up the virus on the job because “I really live a very solitary life” and doesn’t know where he would have contracted it other than at work, he said.

O’Connor, police union president, estimated that about 10 Norwalk Police officers have had COVID-19. “We can’t complain because none of us had to go to the hospital,” he said.

But he’s still coughing and “I still feel like crap all the time.”

 

Tax Collector’s infection rate

The Norwalk Tax Collector’s Office and the Town Clerk’s Office closed in November due to COVID-19 cases in City Hall.

“With my staff’s permission, I can disclose that four out of seven of us were affected and came down with COVID,” Tax Collector Lisa Biagiarelli told Common Council members in early December. “And so we had to shut our office for a couple days.”

She said this by way of explaining that she didn’t have as thorough of a tax collector’s report as she usually does.

“But in terms of my preliminary look at current collections for the month of November, we’re at 53.3 percent, which is about where we need to be considering everything that happened,” she said.

 

 

Additional COVID info

Rilling’s Monday and Tuesday updates also reported:

  • “Due to COVID-19, Norwalk taxpayers have an extended grace period for tax payments. The last day to pay the second installment of Norwalk taxes is April 1, 2021. Tax bills were printed and mailed before the City was given authorization by the State of Connecticut to extend the payment deadline, therefore the due date on the bills is listed as February 1. Payments received or postmarked April 2 and later will incur interest at the rate of 6 percent, as interest reverts back to January 1 per state law. For more information, visit norwalkct.org/taxcollector.
  • “There are new hours for both the Main Branch and SoNo Branch Libraries until further notice. The Main Branch will be open by appointment-only five days per week, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and will be closed every Wednesday and Sunday. The SoNo Branch will be open by appointment-only five days per week, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and will be closed every Thursday and Sunday. The weekday closures allows time for staff to fulfill Sidewalk Service requests, and continue to brainstorm new and creative ways to serve the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The latest news and information from the Library can be found at norwalkpl.org.
  • “The City has remained in red-alert status per the State Department of Health for the eleventh consecutive week. Norwalk is one of 162 communities listed in a red-alert category by DPH. The alert is based on having more than 15 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two week period. More details can be found on the state’s COVID-19 Data Tracker.
  • “The Norwalk Health Department continues to track the daily positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population on a 7- and 14-day average in Norwalk. For the time period, 12/27 – 1/2 (7-day average), the daily cases per 100,000 population was 63.9. For the time period, 12/20 – 1/2 (14-day average), the daily cases per 100,000 population was 58.4. Analyzing cases per 100,000 residents helps track the incidence rate of COVID-19 in the community and allows for standard comparisons between communities. The test positivity rate from 12/20 – 1/2 was 8.7%. This analysis will be updated on Friday as new reports are received from the previous week.
  • “Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing is available daily 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Veteran’s Park and Norwalk Community College. Due to high demand, testing lines may be closed periodically during the day and there may be significant wait times. Cars should not park on neighboring streets as walk-up capacity is limited. Anyone seeking a COVID-19 test is advised to pre-register online at chc1.com.”

2 comments

Sped Parent January 6, 2021 at 9:51 am

I applaud NPS efforts to try and help those in need, but why does a student need to fail before they receive the help? This seems especially true among the Sped population, where it feels as if NPS is rarely proactive and instead waits for failure before stepping in. This has seemed true pre-covid as well. It takes much more effort and takes such a heavy toll to come back from failing rather than prevent it in the first place.

john j flynn January 6, 2021 at 9:59 am

Where they all in the 140? Are they counting all the people that died in Cedar Court? I seriously doubt it. How many in each district? I have some concerns.

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