This week on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to New Canaan Health Director Jenn Eielson about COVID-19 virus—how the town is faring in reducing infection rates and getting residents vaccinated, what are some common misconceptions regarding coronavirus and whether Jenn has enough peanut butter and chocolate to get through these next few months.
[Note: This article has been updated to say the state is discussing prioritizing vaccinations for 65- to 74-year-olds next.]
New Canaan is seeing new positive cases of COVID-19 virus trend down week-by-week, Health Director Jenn Eielson said Thursday, and the state recently doubled the number of vaccinations made available to the town. The town saw a “sustained high” in cases starting in early November, and that’s been changing recently, “so this is good progress,” Eielson told members of the Health & Human Services Commission during their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “But we knew that was going to happen with the holidays and gatherings,” she said. “So this is good news.”
In offering COVID testing with Waveny LifeCare Network, the town is seeing about 92% of open slots filled up, which is “great news,” Eielson said. “People are still testing and wanting to be tested.
New Canaan’s health director estimated Thursday that roughly half of the town’s 75-and-over population had started the process of getting COVID-19 vaccinations. The figure includes those in Waveny LifeCare Network facilities, though it’s not definitive because the state’s management system for administering vaccines doesn’t provide that level of detail, according to Jenn Eielson. “I am hopeful, because we still have a lot of people on our list that have called and want to be on it, so even if we can get 200 doses next week it would be a huge help because a lot of these—especially the 85-and-up—really can’t get to these other sites and have mobility issues,” Eielson told the Board of Selectmen during their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “And we spend so much time at the clinic helping them, not only getting them from the car, then to the booth, filing out their paper work, walking them to the other rooms, [Recreation Director] Steve Benko walking them back to the car. You’re not going to get that personal level at a hospital or anywhere else.
Many New Canaan parents are concerned that some families are undermining efforts to keep the public schools safe by extending their vacations this week instead of learning from home as a post-holiday safeguard against the spread of COVID-19 virus, officials said Thursday. Theoretically, this week of school was designated for district-wide remote learning to give New Canaan families time, after returning from travel, to get tested and for COVID symptoms to surface, according to Health & Human Services Commissioner Alicia Meyer. Yet “unfortunately, a lot of people took it as an opportunity to extend their vacations,” Meyer said during the appointed body’s regular meeting. “At Thanksgiving, New Canaan Public Schools were requiring that kids who travel be tested when they got back to Connecticut, after they travel,” Meyer said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “But now, after Christmas, the requirement is just within the 72 hours of travel, so before they left their destination.”
She continued, “I have been getting a lot of emails from people concerned that kids are still on vacation right now, are going to be tested in Florida or Turks-and-Caicos or wherever they are, another day of vacation, fly home, crowded customs hall, and then roll right back into school, because they were tested before they left the vacation destination.”
“People just are concerned about this,” she added.
Municipal health officials said a New Canaan woman’s complaint last month that a restaurant downtown had been violating COVID-19-related rules was determined to be unfounded. According to a complaint that Tucker Murphy lodged with New Canaan’s highest elected official, the White Buffalo bar and restaurant was “not following the Sector Rules” on the night of Friday, Dec. 11. Murphy phoned First Selectman Kevin Moynihan to say that the popular local business “was overcrowded,” according to email records obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request.
Health Director Jenn Eielson referred to the complaint in emailing White Buffalo owner Dom Valente on Dec. 14.