With positive cases of COVID-19 on the rise in Connecticut in recent weeks, Chesprocott’s Health Director Maura Esposito provided an update to the Cheshire Town Council last week as to how the battle against the virus goes in town.
In short, Esposito expressed hope that the end of the pandemic is close at hand.
“A lot has happened since March—in February I was warning you that this was coming—and now we are hopefully near the end,” Esposito told Councilors at the Oct. 13 meeting. “Chesprocott has been (doing) contact tracing since March 26, that's when we received our very first case. We’ve interviewed over 496 cases; 228 of those were here in Cheshire. Our last residential fatality was on May 27. We are working very closely with our two nursing homes—Elim [Park] and Cheshire Rehab. We’ve had 44 cases at Elim with 14 fatalities, and two at Cheshire Rehab.”
Esposito confirmed that there have been three group-home outbreaks, two of which happened in early April, and the third happening last week. Esposito also spent time describing the trend of the infections, which began in March and were seen mostly in elderly and older adults. Now, higher infection rates are being seen among the younger population.
Esposito also explained that, in the past two weeks, her team has contact-traced more than 275 individuals.
“We’ve assisted all walks of life (deal with the illness), from restaurants, salons, and daycares to organized events like fireworks, road races, tennis tournaments, and much much more, such as camps and sporting events,” Esposito explained. “We’ve trained and worked with all the school nurses, both private and public, in preparation for reopening schools. We are currently experiencing positive cases infiltrating our school systems, and we are working very closely with principals, school nurses, and superintendents to help them make informed decisions.”
To highlight the continued threat of spread, Esposito walked Councilors through a scenario that recently played out in Waterbury, where a first responder had tested positive for the virus, which resulted in over 100 people, including school children, needing to be quarantined.The incident, Esposito said, shows that just one first responder or town official who tests positive can potentially come in contact with multitudes of individuals throughout the day, all whom would then need to be notified of their possible exposure.
“Just one case can result in over 140 people being quarantined,” she said. “When we do contact tracing, we call them every single day, checking in on them and (asking) if they need anything. It is our obligation to ask if they need any services or medical assistance. That has been taking a huge chunk of Kate [Glendon’s](Public Health Specialist) time.”
“When someone is quarantined, like the 20 students that are quarantined from Highland, are they obligated to be tested?” asked Councilor Tim Slocum.
“They do not have to be tested,” Esposito responded. “They are quarantined because we know of an exposure, and we know that any time between day one to 14 they can test positive any time. When we talk to them, we are usually, unfortunately, getting them around day seven, and they’ve already done things.”
Esposito acknowledged that, overall, the town is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, but the increase is not abnormal compared to other states and considering there is still no vaccination or cure for the virus.
Esposito also offered the Council her opinion as to what has contributed to the uptick of cases, specifically in Cheshire.
“Unfortunately a lot of our cases come from college students who have come home,” she said. “A lot has to do with how these colleges planned isolation dorms, and parents who made the decision to bring students back home...other cases have come from family gatherings where people didn’t wear masks, there was a T-ball incident where the entire T-ball team needed to be quarantined. One salon worker (tested positive). We’ve had situations in daycares, teachers and nurses, but not as much.”
Ultimately, Esposito cautioned residents to stay vigilant and not get complacent with social distancing and facial coverings in order to try to keep the virus spread down as Cheshire heads into the colder months.