Naugatuck schools close due to coronavirus

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Spread of COVID-19 impacts local towns

Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

From disinfecting door knobs to closing schools, the threat of COVID-19 is making its presence felt locally.

Naugatuck schools will be closed starting Friday and through March 27, the borough Board of Education announced Thursday night.

“An extended closure is not something that we do lightly. It is a burden on our families and our students,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said. “We would much prefer to have them with us, but in order to prevent the spread of this very serious illness, we think it’s a necessary precaution.”

Locke said there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, in the borough or in the school system. Closing schools is a precautionary measure in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, she said.

The district is treating the closure as snow days and the days will be made up at the end of the school year, Locke said.

The closure won’t impact the date for Naugatuck High School’s graduation ceremony, which is June 11, Locke said.

The Naugatuck Board of Education office will remain open during the closure.

“We hope during the time off families do what they can to stay healthy,” Board of Education Chairman Jeff Litke said.

Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, will have school on Friday. The region will close for two weeks from March 16 to March 27, officials announced.

State officials announced Thursday afternoon that six people in Connecticut have tested positive for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. As of Thursday, the Center for Disease Control reported there were 1,215 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 36 confirmed deaths from it in 42 states and Washington D.C.

Gov. Ned Lamont issued a joint declaration of a civil preparedness emergency and a public health emergency on Tuesday to try to limit the spread of coronavirus disease in Connecticut.

The declarations authorize the governor and state commissioner of public health to take certain actions, including ordering people to be quarantined, imposing travel bans, and ordering the closure of schools, government offices and buildings, and private businesses.

Lamont issued an executive order on Thursday that waives the requirement for a 180-day school year, in case districts don’t meet the required number by June 30.

Local town and school officials have been in steady contact with health officials from the Naugatuck Valley and Chesprocott health districts in regards to the spread of coronavirus.

“Our emergency management unified command is working on all issues relating to COVID-19 in conjunction with our health district and the state,” Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

In Beacon Falls, First Selectman Gerard Smith announced Thursday that the town’s senior center and library are closed to the public until further notice.

All non-essential public board, committee and commission meetings are canceled effective immediately, as well, Smith said in a news release. Municipal employees will report to work as usual, the release stated, but residents are urged to conduct town business online when possible.

The town’s mini-bus for senior centers will only run for routine, medical appointments for seniors who aren’t sick.

“While I understand that these precautionary measures may be an inconvenience, the safety of our community is top priority and your patience is appreciated,” Smith said in the release.

In Prospect, Mayor Robert Chatfield said the town will close the library, senior center and community center on Friday until further notice. He said town officials are meeting with health officials next week to discuss how to proceed.

“We’re hoping to keep Prospect as safe as any other community,” he said.

The spread of the disease has impacted organizations and events throughout the state. The Howard Whittemore Memorial Library in Naugatuck is closing on Saturday and will remained closed until further notice.

Officials stressed preventative measures, including washing hands frequently and coughing into clothing, are key to help contain the spread of the virus.

“If the public is sick, please stay home. If you need to go to the doctor, do not just show up,” Chesprocott Health Director Maura Esposito said. “You must call before you go. We need to make sure we protect the health care workers.”

Beacon Hose Firefigher, EMT and public information officer Jeremy Rodorigo said EMS responders will wear sealed masks and garments while disinfecting equipment, stretchers and the inside of vehicles for potential coronavirus calls.

“All of our EMS responders have been trained. They created a standard guideline and protocol for a suspected coronavirus call,” Rodorigo said. “Everyone has been briefed to their responsibilities.”

Officials also said town and school buildings and school buses are being cleaned regularly.

“We started a couple of weeks ago washing every door knob and railings in Town Hall and town buildings in the morning,” Chatfield said.

Elio Gugliotti and the Republican-American contributed to this article.

Editor’s note: This article was updated from the original post to include new information as of 1:30 p.m. on March 13.