Weston declares state of emergency in response to coronavirus

WESTON — First Selectman Chris Spaulding declared a local civil preparedness emergency on Monday, in response to growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

“It was a natural progression from the governor declaring a state of emergency, to the federal government declaring one, and it made sense for us to declare,” Spaulding said. “With this moving so fast you want those powers to be flexible to do things.”

One member of the Weston Racquet Club recently tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, forcing the club to close, according to the organization’s site. The club will remain closed until further notice and make-ups for regularly scheduled programs will be provided once it reopens.

“The infected member informed us that their last visit to that their last visit to the club was on Tuesday evening, March 10,” it reads on the club’s site. “Thankfully, during this time the club had already implemented additional intensive cleaning protocols throughout the facility.”

All schools in Weston have been closed since March 11, when Superintendent William McKersie after receiving information that members of the community may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

In neighboring town Westport, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced a state of emergency Monday after the town confirmed 20 new cases of COVID-19 out of 31 tests performed.

Marpe’s decision came two weeks after more than a dozen people started experiencing flu-like symptoms after attending a private party in Westport, where one of the guests who does not live in the U.S. was believe to have the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Westport-Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper confirmed the positive cases tied back to the party.

“Our initial testing effort was for those connected to the index case,” Cooper said. “At that time we didn’t know how widespread it was.”

He added further testing will no longer be done by the health district. The state will now conduct testing at several locations including Danbury, Bridgeport and Waterbury’s hospitals, he said. Residents can call the state’s 2-1-1 line if advised by their primary care provider to arrange for testing, or if they have questions about being tested.

“It’s no longer about a party or one location,” Cooper said. “We don’t know who does not have it, so you should assume everyone does and take the proper precautions.”

He stressed the importance of social distancing and good hygiene practices by residents. Using cards for transactions instead of cash was also a good practice to follow for now, he said.

While these are hopefully temporary measures, Cooper said it could help slow the spread of the virus.

“This is a pandemic it could last a couple of weeks or it could last through the summer,” Cooper said. “It’s brand new. Nobody has had experience with this.”

Spaulding said he was unaware if Weston residents attended the party, but due to the network of family and friends, it could be possible a resident may have came into contact with one of the guests.

“We weren’t reacting to our neighbors. We were in fact ahead of them,” Spaulding said, adding the sharp uptick of cases in Westport was concerning. “ ... Whether or not Westonites were in contact with people at that party we will have no way of knowing. So we have to assume.”

Nevertheless, he said, the close relationship between the two towns made it necessary to take precautions.

“We share so many common resources with Westport,” Spaulding said. “We did announced this out of an abundance of caution and in order to ensure maximum flexibility to deal with a number of cases we believe we may come.”

As updates on the coronavirus continue throughout the week, Spaulding advised residents to practice social distancing and good hygiene to slow the spread.

“My guidance is simple to the citizens of Weston. If you do not have to go out, don’t,” he said. “The more we hunker down, the faster this will be able to pass so we do not overwhelm the health care system.”