Fairfield County towns issue coronavirus precautions

In response to national news surrounding coronavirus, Norwalk’s Health Department as well as Westport and Weston’s school districts are issuing precautionary steps for families and employees.

“COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is a serious international health concern. It now has become a focus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state of Connecticut,” Weston Superintendent William Mckersie wrote in an email to parents and staff on Thursday. “Nationwide, there have been only 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 26, 2020. Nevertheless, school districts are being asked to inform families and employees of precautionary steps to mitigate the spread of the disease.”

The memorandum is meant to represent a “be prepared” moment, not to fuel rumors or fears.

“If needed and required, we will close the district,” the email states. “This would be a last resort and would occur only if medical experts and authorities are requiring drastic action. The difficult truth is that it is not advisable to partially open the district.”

All families and employees will be notified if coronavirus is medically confirmed and the district will announce specific action steps. In all communications, the privacy of individual students, families and employees will also be protected, according to the email.

Students or employees are recommended to stay home if they have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, and to follow coughing and sneezing etiquette. The district will also be performing routine environmental cleaning.

Norwalk’s Health Department also stated it will be closely monitoring the virus.

“We will continue to work with partners at the state and federal levels, as well as our partners here in Norwalk, to stay updated on this situation and to prepare for a response should the situation warrant it,” it states on its site.

Similarly, Westport Interim Superintendent David Abbey said in an email to parents this week that district officials are collaborating on a daily basis with the Westport-Weston Health District, as well as the state Department of Public Health.

“Please be assured that if there are health and safety risks to the community, they will be communicated and appropriate measures will be taken,” Abbey said.

Both districts stated they are developing action plans in coordination with guidelines and compliance requirements from the state Department of Health, Westport-Weston Health District, and the CDC.

“The District is also updating our operational pandemic plan to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in the event that schools are closed,” Abbey said. “ To that end, we are exploring alternate procedures for instruction, as well as developing plans to guarantee essential office functions remain in place.”

Regarding international travel, the district will continue to follow the interim United States Guidance for risk assessment and public health management of people with potential COVID-19 exposure in travel-associated or community settings.

“Please be assured that if there are health and safety risk to the community, they will be communicated and appropriate measures will be taken,” Abbey said.