CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont said he is worried about Danbury's 7 percent coronavirus positivity rate, but that's just one of the reasons the state Department of Public Health issued a COVID-19 alert for the city on Friday.
The spike in COVID-19 cases in the Hat City — and the state's response to it — were Topic A at the governor's daily coronavirus news conference on Monday.
Connecticut Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe called issuing the alert, which later triggered the closure of on-site learning at public schools and a local college, a judgement call based on discussions with the state Department of Public Health, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and the Danbury Health Department. Statewide, the COVID-19 positivity rate is below 1 percent.
"It's evaluating a wide variety of factors," Geballe said. "Certainly it's the metrics and the case counts, and the trend lines, but other ... factors as well. Working with our partners in Danbury at the municipal level, it was the judgement of the Department of Health on Friday that we were seeing enough, that we wanted to get the word out more aggressively and the actions we wanted to see the community nip it in the bud."
Geballe described the measures taken in Danbury as a good example of what the state would expect from any municipality that receives a COVID-19 alert:
"Closing down some activities that have been viewed as contributing to the community spread, such as sports events, or parks, or boat launches; looking at curtailing some religious gatherings in the short term; but mostly flooding the community with additional testing, which is what we've done extensively over the last week."
Lamont said every nursing home in the city will retest staff and disinfect extensively: "We are bringing in the bucket brigade."
The DPH is now watching Danbury's neighboring communities "very closely," according to the governor, and "so far their infection rates have stayed very low, and that's why their schools continue to reopen on a regular basis."
Danbury Public Schools, which had committed to a hybrid reopening model for the fall, announced on Monday the only option available to students will be remote learning in light of the COVID-19 spike. Western Connecticut State University delayed students' return to their residence halls for two weeks and Naugatuck Valley Community College will not open its Danbury campus for the next two weeks, moving to online courses exclusively.
The primary factor contributing to the virus warning had to do with travel, both domestic and international, "bringing cases in, introducing them at parties or family gatherings where people are not wearing masks or social distancing, " Geballe said. "That needs to stop."
The state issues an updated travel advisory weekly, and those entering Connecticut must self-quarantine for 14 days or risk a fine.
Paul Mounds, the governor's chief of staff, quashed what he called a rumor that officials were targeting Danbury's Brazilian community as an epicenter of the virus spike, following the publication of an advisory printed in Portuguese and published in a local newspaper. "We are not targeting one specific community, but rather a whole town to make sure every person understands the risk," Mounds said.
The governor also commented on the weekend police-involved shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying he was "shocked," coming so soon after the death of George Floyd, which Lamont termed a "wake-up call."
In Connecticut, "We love our police, but we also hold people accountable" Lamont said, which is why the legislature recently passed a police accountability bill.