COVID-19: NPS considers closing middle and high schools; Rilling maintains Phase 3

The view from the driver’s seat Saturday at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, as people line up to get tested for COVID-19. “There was a steady flow of cars today for the testing event, and I am pleased to see that residents are taking their health seriously, and are getting tested,” Mayor Rilling said. “…I encourage residents to get tested. The more we know how this virus is spreading, the better equipped we’ll be to slow it down.” (Erin Herring)

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk middle and high schools may close in response to the increasing COVID-19 numbers.

The potential switch to full remote learning for students in grades 6-12 “is not a decision we are taking lightly,” Norwalk Public Schools said in a statement.

The State classified Norwalk as a COVID “red zone” Thursday due to the recent sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Municipalities in the red zone have confirmed positive cases above 15 per 100,000 people, based on a 14-day average.

State figures show Norwalk with an infection rate of 19.9 per 100,000 people. Mayor Harry Rilling’s Friday update shows a rate of 38.2 per 100,000 people over the previous seven days and 30.2 per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days.

The percentages differ for two reasons, the update said. “First, the date range is different, and is more recent from what the state reported. Second, Norwalk officials are including positive antigen tests, in addition to PCR tests, to calculate case rates. The state calculations do not include antigen test results. Antigen tests are widely used in the community, and officials feel it is important to include them in the case rate to paint a more accurate picture of local health conditions.”

Rilling sent a CodeRED Emergency robocall alert Friday. Norwalk has seen 230 new cases in a week, the highest number since April, he said.

“This is not a time to panic, but it is time to be concerned and to double down on our efforts to slow the spread of this virus. I encourage residents to limit outings and avoid social gatherings. If someone can work from home, please consider doing so. Those who can stay home should stay home, especially those who are in high risk,” he said.

Friday’s update showed 53 new cases; on Saturday, 45 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 2,766, with no new deaths.

The view from the driver’s seat Saturday at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, as people line up to get tested for COVID-19. (Erin Herring)

Free COVID-19 testing is available from 9 a.m. to noon today, Oct. 25, in the Stepping Stones Museum parking lot, located at 303 West Ave. “No appointment, insurance, symptoms, or doctor’s note is required to get tested. The courts and playground at Mathews Park will be closed for the day,” the update said.

The Day Street Community Health Center, located at 49 Day St., offers free COVID-19 testing from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday.

“It’s critical that residents get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms,” Rilling said. “People can have the virus and unknowingly transmit it to others.”

City officials are strongly discouraging normal Halloween activities, such as going door-to-door or visiting a haunting house, Saturday’s update said. The State’s Halloween recommendations and guidance are here.

The State has given red zone communities the option of pulling back from Phase 3, Rilling said.

“At this point in time however, our contact tracing does not show Phase 3 as the cause of the increased cases,” Rilling said. “Smaller social gatherings, family events and parties are believed to be the cross. If we continue to remain in the red zone, we will reevaluate this decision to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

As for the school district, “Superintendent Dr. Alexandra Estrella and her team will review the most recent data over the next few days, in consultation with the Norwalk Health Department, before making a decision,” the statement said. “Any transition from hybrid to full remote would be effective as of Monday, November 2, unless there is a significant change in circumstances that would require an earlier switch. Secondary teachers and staff would continue to report and provide instruction from their school buildings.”
Elementary school students could continue in-person, as could certain students with disabilities and some English language learners, the statement said. More information will be sent directly to families.

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