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.”
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.