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NPS: No one involved in food prep has tested positive for COVID-19

Jefferson Elementary School, one of 10 meal distribution sites, on Monday. (Claire Schoen)

Updated, 9:18 p.m.: Comment from Mayor Harry Rilling.

NORWALK, Conn. — Rumors continue to allege that Norwalk Public Schools changed its food delivery system because workers contracted COVID-19.

Norwalk Public Schools Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams denied that but states that a Chartwells worker noticed possible symptoms on Saturday and immediately reported them to a supervisor and the district.

“The person has not yet been tested and so we don’t have results, but out of an abundance of caution, anyone who may have been working with this individual was asked to remain home,” Wilcox Williams wrote.

Chartwells was hired as NPS’ food provider last year. NPS has been delivering meals to students by school bus but abruptly halted that Sunday. Now families must go to one of 10 locations to pick up meals.

A woman who identified herself only as “Amanda” contacted NancyOnNorwalk on Sunday to allege that three Chartwells employees had been tested for COVID-19 on Thursday but were still working in the kitchen on Friday. Their results weren’t in, she said.

NancyOnNorwalk offered to talk to the Chartwells workers who are alleging unsafe conditions and protect their identity. None have accepted the offer, according to Amanda.

Amanda alleged that the workers prepared food to go out this week. The community needs to be warned, she said.

“We are not aware of anyone at Chartwells who has tested positive at this point. We are aware that one Chartwells employee {as mentioned above} may be tested but has not yet been,” Wilcox Williams said.

An NPS employee who was not involved in food prep recently tested positive, she said.

“Central Kitchen is cleaned and sanitized every night, as were the buses used for deliveries. Food service workers assemble meals at prep stations that are physically separated and employees wear gloves. These have been meals like a yogurt and bagel or cereal, not a fully cooked meal like a regular school day, so the work is different than a regular school day,” Wilcox Williams wrote.

Multiple sources say that Friday’s food delivery was late.

“When I heard there was a problem on Friday afternoon relative to food not arriving on time, I immediately called Dr. Costanzo to inquire about the situation,” Mayor Harry Rilling wrote Tuesday. “Over the weekend I was advised that due to several workers being isolated because of possible exposure, we discussed ways that the food delivery could continue with limited staff. That is the reason for the new plan.”

“There are no easy solutions to the problems everyone is facing right now,” Wilcox Williams said. “Demand for student meals is high as more and more people are out of work and at home, and at the same time, the health situation keeps evolving. Switching to the 10 site model this week reduces the number of employees needed to provide student meals as Fairfield County seems to be heading into the peak.”

“We’re trying to balance meal needs with health needs in an environment that keeps evolving. If it makes sense to reinstate bus deliveries at some point, we will definitely look to do so,” Wilcox Williams said.

It’s been alleged that some people have taken advantage of the meal giveaways, “claiming meals despite not even having kids or their kids go to a different school and they collected off other stops instead.”

“In general, people have been grateful and respectful,” Wilcox Williams said. “In some cases, families are picking up for multiple children, so they may be receiving more than others.”

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