Chesprocott: Esposito sees local COVID-19 cases leveling off, more PPE arrives, National Guard visits Elim Park, contact tracing begins
By Dan Nowak
CDTC Communications Staff
CHESHIRE—Although COVID-19-related deaths have risen a little in Cheshire (12 overall), Maura Esposito, director of the Chesprocott Health District, is more upbeat these days and sees a glimmer of light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.
Esposito was especially proud to relay that Elim Park and its officials were paid a huge compliment on Wednesday for their effort to contain and limit COVID-19 cases. Chesprocott also had a large delivery of PPE (personal protective equipment) on Tuesday, Cheshire volunteers are helping sew together protective tie-back suits (similar to the typical blue scrub suits you see at hospitals) for local health providers and Esposito said she is finally starting to see a flattening of the curve among COVID-19 cases in Cheshire.
“In Cheshire, we have 116 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of today (Wednesday) with 77 in the community and 39 in the health community (32 in nursing homes, five in group homes and two in retirement homes). That might look like a big number, but in our community of 29,000 people, in the overall scheme of things the numbers could be a lot worse.
“People shouldn’t panic because locally the numbers are starting to level off now. We’re at the top of the curve and the numbers are plateauing, although unfortunately we’re seeing more deaths now. Overall, in the three towns Chesprocott covers, we’re at 231 confirmed coronavirus cases (116 in Cheshire, 82 in Wolcott and 33 in Prospect). On April 21, we had 199 COVID-19 cases, so the weekly number is coming down."
Esposito was also excited to get a tractor trailer truck full of PPE delivered.
“Everyone is still fighting for PPE,” Esposito said. “But on Tuesday we got a big load of PPE. Every Tuesday John Hilzinger of Heavy Weight, Inc. allows us to use a truck and we go to the North Haven Recreation Center where the National Guard is in charge of handing out PPE. We bring it back to Cheshire and unload it at the high school. This week we had nine piles of PPE with a lot of KN95 masks, surgical masks and lots of gloves.
“There is also a huge shortage of tie-back gowns for health providers, so we put out the call for people who can sew to help put these gowns together for us. There is a company in West Haven (ThermaXX) that manufactures pipe insulation but repurposed their factory to make the fabric for these gowns. They cut out the front piece and make the arm pieces separately. What we have to do is sew the arms to the front piece to complete the gown. We’re passing out 200 of these gowns this week to people medically connected in the area like dentists, doctors and urgent care centers."
Esposito said the biggest concern during this pandemic has been with local nursing homes, group homes and elderly homes. On Wednesday, the National Guard paid Elim Park a visit and paid its officials a huge compliment.
“Elim Park had a total of 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases,” Esposito said. “Compared to the size of Elim Park that is a low number. Early on we were told to only test people with symptoms. But Elim Park did something very different early on in this crisis and tested everyone in their facility regardless if they had symptoms or not. I mean everyone.
“They found out early on that they had a lot of people who tested positive for COVID-19 who had no symptoms. They did such a superb job of aggressively testing people and finding positive cases early, and then quarantining them and instituting social distancing, that it limited the outbreak there.
“The state recognized this and the Connecticut Department of Health sent the National Guard to Elim Park to see what they have been doing so they can take that information to other nursing homes."
While the state’s effort to do contact tracing is still in the development stages, Chesprocott is taking the initiative at the local level.
“What we are doing now is calling everyone in our three towns who had the COVID-19 virus to see how many are recovered,” Esposito said. “We write their names down. Then we do our own contact tracing, write those names down on a piece of paper and then input the information in our computer.
“We know how important contact tracing is, and since the state is still in the process of implementing it, we felt it was important that we start doing it on the local level now to get it going locally.”
CHESHIRE—On Wednesday, Chesprocott Health District director Maura Esposito said contact tracing will be “the hot news topic” during the next two weeks.
Chesprocott Health District covers the towns of Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott.
“The directors of all the health districts in the state were on a Zoom meeting today with officials at the Connecticut Department of Public Health,” Esposito said. “The conversation was about contact tracing and when we are going to get it done.
“Starting on Friday, the state health department is going to go over some tracing initiatives to formalize contact tracing statewide. The focus will be statewide so we are all on the same page.”
Heading into Wednesday, Esposito said Cheshire had 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases, Wolcott had 77 and Prospect had 32. There are six COVID-19-related fatalities in Cheshire and 11 in the three towns combined.
Esposito said that contact tracing is the next big step in mitigating the COVID-19 virus.
“When we identify someone with COVID-19, by doing contact tracing it will put together larger information and tell us who is at risk,” Esposito said. “We are really trying to identify people who have had contact with the disease who need to be quarantined, and then get them quarantined.
“People are out there who are asymptomatic. We need to find them and contact them.”
Esposito said Chesprocott Health District also received another shipment of PPE (personal protective equipment) on Tuesday. The PPE is being distributed to health providers who work with the vulnerable population at places like local nursing homes, group homes and elderly housing.
The Chesprocott Health District office continues to get calls with questions from residents who are urged to contact the facility any time they have a question. The phones rang a little more than usual on Tuesday.
“When Gov. Lamont said it was mandatory to wear masks in public, we started getting a lot of calls on Tuesday,” Esposito said. “It seems whenever the governor makes an announcement, we get an increase of calls from residents.
“People have a lot of questions about masks. But when it comes to getting everyone to wear masks, it’s been a real challenge because a lot of people out there are not wearing masks. People call us because they see people aren’t wearing masks. But it’s not something we (Chesprocott) can enforce. It’s law enforcement’s responsibility to enforce.”
Esposito said Chesprocott has also been fielding calls regarding concerns and complaints from residents about local establishments not adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.
“For the most part establishments are adhering to guidelines,” Esposito said. “I think what this represents is simply a heightened alert among our residents, that they are taking the guidleines and social distancing seriously. And that’s a good thing.”
One area of concern for Esposito is Elim Park.
“We are trying to control an increase in cases at Elim Park on the nursing home side,” Esposito said.
Chesprocott gets needed PPE; residents urged to wear masks, Gaylord offers virtual lecture to relieve stress of COVID-19
CHESHIRE—Chesprocott Health District’s task to protect, promote and improve the health and safety of all residents in its three-town district of Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott has taken on greater meaning since the COVID-19 pandemic came to the area.
While the ups and downs associated with the virus continue, on Tuesday, Chesprocott director Maura Esposito, who is now urging all residents to wear cloth masks, was inspired with a community effort to help get much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) for area health providers. Chesprocott also is supporting an effort by Gaylord Hospital to alleviate some mental stress associated with the virus.
Chesprocott received PPE supplies from the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Strategic National Stockpile. The PPE consists of surgical masks, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields that were distributed to public health and healthcare partners.
“When we learned we were getting the PPE, we were excited,” Esposito said. “But the problem was we don’t have trucks at Chesprocot,t or any way to get to the National Guard distribution center in North Haven. Heavy Weight, Inc. owner John Hilzinger stepped up and donated a truck to pick up the PPE. Ray Sima (member of the Chesprocott Board of Directors) offered to drive the truck.
“He went to North Haven and got our 13 pallets of PPE. (Cheshire Superintendent) Jeffrey Solan allowed us to store the PPE at Cheshire High, Cheshire Board of Education people unloaded it and the Cheshire Police helped with security. It was an incredible community effort with so many people stepping up.”
The PPE was distributed to 11 other health departments in the region. Each local health department distributed the PPE to their community organizations and healthcare centers.
While Esposito was inspired by the community effort and happy to get the PPE, there were some mixed emotions.
“We were excited to get the PPE,” Esposito said. “There were a lot of gloves and gowns. But I hoped to get a lot more N95 masks and surgical masks. There is certainly the need for gowns and gloves, but we really need the masks for our health providers. We got four boxes of N95 masks, about 30 N95 masks. It’s not a lot.
“We are told there will be another batch of PPE coming. We’re hopeful we’ll get more N95 and surgical masks at some point.”
On Friday, there were 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cheshire involving residents aged 16-95 with five fatalities. There are 27 in Prospect and 60 in Wolcott.
“There are 43 households with residents who have tested positive,” Esposito said. “Confirmed cases are still coming in. We have also been getting a lot of questions on cloth masks. Everyone should be wearing a mask or something to cover their mouth and nose.
“The whole idea is that someone who may be asymptomatic may go to a grocery store and they don’t know they are infecting others. If you cough, that mask will protect people. As a double precaution some medical people are even using a cloth mask with their surgical mask.”
Chesprocott Public Health Specialist Kate Glendon said many people in the community have stepped up to make homemade cloth masks and donated them to Chesprocott. They are being distributed to home health aids who visit the elderly and other medical providers.
Glendon also said Chesprocott is supporting a free Zoom (virtual) wellness lecture in conjunction with Gaylord Hospital on April 23 from 11 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. The lecture will be presented by Laura Liistro, LCSW and will offer how to keep a positive mindset during the COVID-19 pandemic. Go to www.gaylord.org for more information.
“We still have a way to go with this virus, we’re still in a holding pattern,” Esposito said. “Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you have full range to go out and do anything you want to do. You still need to do the social distancing and be mindful of those around you.”
Connecticut Democratic town committees throughout the state have been using online web meetings to conduct membership business the past three weeks and the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee is no exception.
CDTC Secretary and Communications Committee member Therese Bradley has been producing the web meetings for the CDTC and CDTC Chairperson Courtney Cullinan conducted the meetings. While the CDTC meetings have gone on with a few minor bugs, it certainly has been a unique experience conducting the virtual CDTC meetings.
Here are some observations of some of the CDTC members and Democratic town officials who have participated in the web meetings.
From Rich Gusenburg, who sees a huge difference between listening by phone and going online and seeing video shots of members:
From Cheshire Democratic Town Councilor Peter Talbot: "As someone who spends waaaay too much time on conference calls, webinars and video conferencing, I was pleased to see how well our web meeting went. Kudos to Courtney and Therese for running such a smooth meeting. To the participants, I’d say, great job listening and responding and keeping chatter to a minimum. Not sure this is what we’d do all the time, but in a pinch we know we have this in our back pocket."
From Hap Jordan: "I thought the Monday meeting (March 30) worked pretty well. Muting one’s phone is a MUST! A few times in the past I have used “GoTo Meeting” for these types of events. A video component is nice for a small group, but obviously not ours. I look forward to the time when there is a component for queuing up for questions, like if you press a key (like raising your hand) the moderator is signaled. It looks like I will have a chance to compare this experience with using ‘Zoom’ which seems popular now. I enrolled in the webinar on Ranked Choice. Now I have to figure out how to get Zoom and make it work. I believe it’s what many schools are now using for their new ‘distance learning’ environment. Should be interesting."
From Breina Schain (submitted after our first virtual meeting March 30):
1. I felt that Courtney and Therese did an outstanding job in researching and setting up the meeting while providing instructions to all. We all owe them a large debt of gratitude. Last Saturday, I did partake in a Zoom meeting from Hamden and even though several of us practiced the day before with a professional computer person, I had a problem with no audio input. So, I missed the first 1/2 hour and only heard the last hour of the meeting. Probably, most people like myself, do not have a webcam or microphone so my personal photo was dark with only my name printed in the box. However, I like the fact that I could use a simple phone with our CDTC meeting with only a number to enter and no password necessary.
2. We need to establish a few rules at the outset. One is that we need to state our name before we speak always, except for roll call of course, when Therese calls our names. I realized that in the beginning before the meeting started so I gave my name before I spoke. We should state our name and then Courtney should give verbal permission to, "go ahead" so we don't speak all at once. That could help with the awkwardness. Some people may have wanted to speak, but were hesitant to do so due to the fear of interrupting, etc.
3. I called Courtney right after the meeting ended since she didn't ask for the meeting to be "adjourned" and have a second. She acknowledged this very nicely. This is minor since we did reach our two goals of our meeting; acquiring information on the virus while allowing the time for questions and having the convention delegates approved.
4. As I said last night, I hope that we could find a way to record these meetings for our records and to make it easier for Therese to write the notes. Therese always needs to know who is speaking and this is another reason to identify ourselves clearly prior to speaking. It will be hard for her without the recording since people spoke out differently then usual (raising their hands, etc.) The meeting lecturer I had Saturday is researching how to record the meeting and he used Zoom. I heard that Zoom is more complicated than Webex but I'm not sure if this is the case. I feel strongly that we should investigate having an official recording of the meeting if it is in any way possible.
As to your comment that this method may be used in the future, it does have some good points. People who can't attend due to illness, weather conditions, working on their jobs, or on vacation can have a way to attend our meetings via phone or computer. It should expand the number of participants. If we could refine how we run the meetings by giving our names first for Courtney to acknowledge, it will slow the meeting down and make it more organized (again, for Therese to take notes and for people to comprehend what is happening). Courtney's role is most essential in keeping the flow of the meeting. However, once this virus ends, I do hope that we still have meetings in person when possible so we can see each other and congregate both formally and informally. That is very valuable, especially when we bring in new people to meet us and have a speaker. Perhaps we can still use the virtual method for inclement weather or for when many people are on summer vacation, etc.
5. The other way Courtney can slow it down is by announcing which part of the agenda we are in. For example, "New business" etc. If she has the agenda in print in front of her, it will help and she can ask other people to have the printed agenda in front of them or on their computer. I did have the agenda open in front of me on my computer and it did help me. Courtney can also ask for votes on items and can announce how many people voted for or against to clarify. It will be easy for Therese to write the times down on when the meeting started and ended too via computer. In other words, subjects have to be stated clearly so there is no mass confusion resulting in turning away our members. I also think that Courtney has to be sure to find out if people are not holding back comments on topics. For example, she can say, "are there any of you who want to comment?" and again say, "does anyone else want to make a comment?" before closing the topic. I'd hate for anyone to have to hold back their ideas just because they are on computer and can't see everyone. What I am saying in essence is we have to find ways to get around the awkwardness of the forum and learn to adapt. We should document our rules for everyone including the chair to follow.
6. So, once again, I think we have to send out a memo (with protocol) on how we plan to run the meetings virtually, after compiling all these comments and reviewing them with analysis. We should all be on the same page. Also, if people come in late like last night, for instance, when someone came in later, do we let them interrupt or should Courtney ask if there are new people at certain points, such as fifteen minutes into the meeting, etc. I wonder how many people used phones like me, or were on camera, or just had access on their computer with a darkened space with their name, like I experienced in Zoom. I'd be very interested in learning these statistics. Should the CDTC subsidize the purchase of cameras or microphones for those on the CDTC to help us out financially? I wonder about this so we can all be equal. Perhaps we can vote on this. Please note that these are my ideas.
7. Finally, we need practice this new virtual method as it will take a few sessions to work out the flaws, etc. I do know someone who didn't get involved because they were nervous about it and reticent. This person thought it would just be "mass confusion". I gave the name to Courtney after the meeting so she could work with this person and help them by giving confidence, etc. This person NEVER misses any meetings and I feel so badly about the problem. I do hope that Courtney will call the person and tell them that it is so simple to dial the number and give the code (no password needed) and there is NO cost involved. It is too bad the number we call is not an 1-800 number so we are assured there is no cost. I do not want to lose any of our valued members due to issues that can be worked out. Please take the time to call and encourage the person, who never misses any of our meetings.
In summary, I feel most of our members stepped up to the plate and bravely joined the meeting. They were largely respectful about not interrupting the speakers (Courtney or Representative Liz Linehan). Incidentally, Liz did a phenomenal job in bringing us up to date with valuable information and answered questions exhibiting her excellent knowledge. I heard she has a new TV show on public TV and maybe she will let everyone know about this so we can follow-up. We need to show respect and at the same time voice our concerns appropriately. Courtney could say for instance, that Liz will now speak about the Corona Virus and at the end of her talk will take questions or comments to make it flow better. This is just my thoughts. If people know it is organized (and not mass confusion) they will feel better about this, knowing that they will be given ample time to give their thoughts. Courtney, of course, can cut off comments when she thinks it is appropriate as our Chair. But the main thing is I hope everyone can speak out and get used to this new virtual forum.
covid-19 in cheshire: Chesprocott health district director esposito cautiously optimistic moving forward
By Dan Nowak
CDTC Communication staff
CHESHIRE—Chesprocott Health District director Maura Esposito continues to be cautiously optimistic when it comes to the COVID-19 virus in Cheshire, the state and nation and she offers some words of encouragement.
“In Cheshire, we’re doing okay,” Esposito said. “We’re doing much, much better now because people are staying home. Social distancing and working from home, it’s all working. My job tends to take me out on the road and these days when I’m driving on Route 10 it’s just me and members of the police department driving around. And that’s a good thing because it shows people in Cheshire are taking this seriously and staying home.
“I’m optimistic but I am cautiously optimistic because it’s still a wait and see situation with this virus.”
The cases continue to grow in Cheshire going to 38 confirmed cases on Wednesday with three people hospitalized compared to 23 confirmed cases on April 2. Esposito said the hardest hit age group in Cheshire is the 31-40 year old age group with the highest number of cases with nine. The next highest number of cases in Cheshire is seven in the 61-70 age group.
Esposito also said most of the COVID-19 cases in Cheshire are people in the health care industry including nurses who work in rehab facilities and nursing homes.
“Tuesday was a slow day for cases in Cheshire for some reason,” Esposito said. “But that doesn’t really mean much because we have a lot of people being tested. The difference now compared to a couple weeks ago is the quick reporting we are getting when people are tested. St. Mary’s Hospital has been excellent in reporting numbers quickly to us for the three towns we cover."
Chesprocott Health District covers Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott.
“I see a lot of people, more people than usual, walking on sidewalks and around their neighborhoods,” Esposito said. That’s good because people should get out and get some fresh air, as long they practice social distancing. I’ve been encouraged because when I see a lot of these people walking around they are 8-10 feet apart when they talk to each other.
“I also see a lot of people walking around town with masks and that is good. But the only thing I ask is that people don’t use 0he N95 masks and surgical masks that our health providers need to do their work. Make a homemade cloth mask or use a scarf or bandana. Be creative and wear a turtleneck shirt."
On Tuesday, Chesprocott donated several boxes of masks to the correctional facility in Cheshire to help with their supply. Esposito said we will likely be dealing with the virus for a while.
“We likely have more COVID-19 cases in town than the confirmed cases reported,” Esposito said. “If people have symptoms of the virus, have no underlying issues and are doing okay, they are asked to stay home and aren’t being asked to be tested.
“But we can still expect to have many more confirmed cases. The thing is, the numbers continue to fluctuate and go up a little one day and down a little the next day. It’s still inconsistent. We are still in a wait-and-see situation with this virus. We still need to stay home and do social distancing until we see that curve stay flat.”
For more information, go to http://www.chesprocott.org/
Chesprocott Director Esposito: COVID-19 cases doubling on daily basis in cheshire; First cheshire death reported, 27 confirmed cases
By Dan Nowak
CDTC Communications staff
CHESHIRE—Early last week when I first talked to Maura Esposito, director of Chesprocott Health District, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cheshire.
On Wednesday (April 1) at 11:30 a.m., the state of Connecticut reported that there were 18 confirmed cases in Cheshire. Through no fault of the state’s reporting, Esposito said that number was low and offered a reason for the increase of cases in Cheshire – an increase in testing.
Chesprocott covers the towns of Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott.
“While the state is reporting 18 cases, the number of confirmed cases in Cheshire we have right now is actually 27,” Esposito said. “Since we had our first case reported in Cheshire last week, the past five days the number of cases has nearly doubled every day. We also reported our first death in Cheshire today (April 1), an elderly women with underlying health issues
“This is spreading through the whole Cheshire community and it is impacting people of all ages, including young people. We have a 26-year-old male in the hospital and a 21-year-old female has tested positive as well. We anticipate it to hit our teenager population too.”
Esposito said the main reason for the increase of confirmed cases in Cheshire is an increase of testing and testing sites. Esposito also reported 11 confirmed cases in Wolcott and seven in Prospect.
“When we talked early last week, we had no confirmed cases,” Esposito said. “But there were actually positive tests out there. It just took a while for those test results to get to us. Now, we are getting test results that are recorded faster with all the mechanisms in place. That is why the state-announced cases lags a bit. We (Health Districts) are constantly getting updates so when the state announces an updated number of cases they don’t reflect immediate, new cases being reported.
“The reason for Cheshire’s increase of confirmed cases is due to so many different labs reporting results now. Our numbers in Cheshire really jumped up Tuesday night when St. Mary’s Hospital (Waterbury) added 12 confirmed cases in Cheshire. Some results still come in slow with places like Griffin Hospital reporting cases by snail mail. The bottom line is we are continually seeing this doubling of cases on a daily basis."
Confirmed cases in Connecticut will continue to rise.
“We’re following what the Feds are telling us and stressing social distancing," Esposito said. "They tell us the predicted peak of this virus will be the second week of April. It is spreading fast through Connecticut. New Haven County’s confirmed cases are right up there with Fairfield County and soon the whole state will have that high level of cases.”
Esposito said the town governments in Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott are “doing a great job” when it comes to combating the disease. She thought it was a great move by Cheshire and the other towns to close public playgrounds and outdoor courts (basketball, tennis, etc.) to the public.
Non-essential businesses are also doing their part and asking employees to take proper steps to stay safe like working at home. While all the nursing homes in Cheshire are doing okay, Esposito said the highest cases have been in group homes.
Esposito also wanted to give residents a reality check and for them to understand the worse is yet to come. They should still adhere to safety protocols.
“There is no question this virus is spreading throughout Cheshire,” Esposito said. “Once a family member gets it, the virus spreads fast in that family. For every case confirmed they say you can expect 100 more cases. In Cheshire, that could be as many as 10,000 cases. The coronavirus cases aren’t going to peak for another two weeks.
“We don’t want anyone to be complacent with this virus because it knows no boundaries. Stay at home and keep practicing social distancing. We’ve been getting calls from people who see other people who aren’t adhering to those protocols. If you see some people in a group and talking close to one another, say something and ask them in a nice sort of way to do the social distance thing."
For more information, go to www.Chesprocott.org.
Dan Nowak is chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee's Communication Relations/IT Committee, a volunteer position. He is a Cheshire Parks and Recreation Commissioner and has been a sportswriter at the New Haven Register for 36 years.