NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk officials are expressing confidence as global concerns rise about the coronavirus.
“Right now there are no cases in Connecticut for coronavirus, or Virus Disease 2019, but it’s something that we of course, are closely monitoring,” Director of Health Deanne D’Amore said Thursday. “ We have been on calls weekly conference calls with the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the CDC has been hosting conference calls with all the health departments across the country once a week, the state health department has been hosting conference calls … with local health departments. So this is a situation that we have been monitoring, you know, closely since it began.”
D’Amore was quizzed about virus preparation by the Common Council Health and Public Safety Committee on Thursday evening, where Norwalk Chief of Social Services Lamond Daniels also answered questions. This followed Mayor Harry Rilling releasing the following statement:
“I want to assure the public that we are monitoring the coronavirus closely and taking the matter seriously. Although there are no confirmed cases in our area, we should all take necessary precautions. Residents can take steps to stop the spread of germs by washing their hands regularly, covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, and if they feel sick, to stay home from work or school. If someone feels flu-like symptoms, please contact your health care provider.
“I am in frequent contact with the experts at the Norwalk Health Department and Norwalk Department of Emergency Management. We are meeting regularly and are receiving updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health. We all must be cognizant that there will be disinformation and rumors circulating online. As this situation is evolving, we will be providing the most up-to-date and accurate information residents can trust at norwalkct.org/coronavirus.”
“CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in 50 locations internationally, including cases in the United States,” the CDC website states.
There’s one case of coronavirus in the area, in Massachusetts, D’Amore told the Committee.
Six New York City residents have been tested for the coronavirus, and the tests have come back negative, the New York Daily News reports. There are 14 confirmed cases in the country, according to the CDC.
The CDC’s first response was to monitor travelers and notify local health departments if there was a traveler coming to their area, D’Amore said.
“The ask is self-isolation (for patients) with under public health supervision,” she said. The health department would contact the patients and guide them.
“That has been the response and continues to be the response of health departments across the country,” she continued. “But with recent activity and seeing it spread to other countries, we’re doing more to prepare for the possibility of community spread, within our own cities and towns and states throughout the country. It’s important, we hope for the best but … we have to be prepared for anything and so we’re brushing up our plans that we have many existing plans already that are very relevant to the situation.”
All of the Council members present expressed faith in the Norwalk Health Department. Committee Chairman Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) called the Health Department “impressive.”
“It’s a matter of getting back to our core public health practices and recognizing that we won’t have a vaccine for another year,” D’Amore said. “So, if it were to occur in our communities, looking at different community mitigation measures that might need to be taken into consideration.”
As far as communication goes, “One, we are committed to keeping our website current,” Daniels said. “Two, we will be meeting with the … superintendent’s office (this weekend), to support them in whatever they release. How can we be a resource to them through the health department, and that may well be happening within the next 48 hours, from either tomorrow or Monday. And I believe they’re going to do something …We can’t say what they’re going to do, but the openness and the conversations are there.”
Rilling is intent on there being one message, they said.
Dominique Johnson (D-At Large) asked if the City would help Norwalk Hospital “if all of a sudden they get an influx of people who are expressing symptoms of coronavirus, deeply quarantined.”
“Usually hospitals will work with each other,” D’Amore replied.
Given that Connecticut does not have county government, many costs fall upon individual communities. Sacchinelli wanted to know if there’s an estimated cost to mobilize city resources in the event of a pandemic. D’Amore wanted specifics on the word “mobilize,” and Sacchinelli asked how the federal-municipal-state dance would play out.
Decisions for quarantines reside in local health directors, but the state can declare a public health emergency, she replied. Norwalk is not lacking in assets to deal with an outbreak, she said.
Masks won’t protect the uninfected, she advised.
Health officials would look into easing the ban on bleach in the schools, if it’s necessary, D’Amore said, responding to a question from Thomas Keegan (R-District D).
“I’m really confident in our health department,” D’Amore said. “I’m really confident in our city, our emergency management, our state, you know, or the state health department is an amazing resource and asset to us, the CDC. So I think, you know, like, this is, this is public health practice. This is what we do. So we are prepared to respond.”