Town officials say they’re expecting the number of positive COVID-19 virus cases to rise in the next two weeks, based on historical data. New Canaan had a total of 14 reported positive cases in the week prior to Thursday’s Health and Human Services Commission meeting—the same figure as the week before that, according to Health Director Jenn Eielson. “Historically, looking back at old charts, it’s next week and the week after where cases really begin to go up,” Eielson said during the appointed body’s regular meeting, held in a board room at Town Hall. “So we’ll see what happens this year.”
The comments came during Eielson’s regular update to the Commission. Overall, cases of COVID-19 in New Canaan are down significantly from a peak in the first half of 2020, data show.
Though just 55.3% of all New Canaanites have received at least one booster shot for COVID-19 virus, that percentage is still is relatively high compared to the rest of the state, according to Health Director Jenn Eielson. One reason may be that New Canaan is still holding clinics routinely, whereas many towns and even pharmacies have gotten away from the practice, Eielson said during the June 2 meeting of the Health & Human Services Commission, held via videoconference.
“And a lot of people are holding out for the fall and seeing if there’s going to be a different Omicron-specific booster because they don’t want to get it in May and be told in October they can’t get another one,” she said. She spoke in response to Commissioner Jim Lisher, who asked whether there’s anything the town could do to encourage more residents to get at least a third dose of vaccine. “I know a lot of people at all ages that are saying ‘Oh, I don’t need a booster, I didn’t need the first booster let alone the second booster,’ “ Lisher said. “Is there anything we can do or anything anyone is doing around the state to get these people who are rational, educated people, and the reason they don’t want to do it is because they know they’ll have a reaction for a day maybe two days?” He said.
Lisher added, “Is there anything anybody is using as a campaign to get up to 90-plus (percent) on demographic cohorts?”
The discussion came during Eielson’s general report to the Commission.
Members of social media groups in New Canaan are advocating for people to not have their children tested for COVID-19 virus or to withhold positive test results from the schools, officials said last week. The parents in the groups want to avoid the district’s protocols about kids needing to stay out of school for a certain number of days after testing positive and wearing a mask for a period of time upon returning, Health & Human Services Commission member Alicia Meyer said during the appointed body’s May 5 meeting. “There are parents actively advocating for not testing and/or testing but not telling the school,” she said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “So that their kids don’t stay home for the full quarantine and don’t mask upon return.”
The comments came following Health Director Jenn Eielson’s regular update on COVID-19. In it, Eielson said that “cases are clearly on the rise,” adding that “to keep everyone in perceptive,” hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths “are still remaining steady.” She cited a statistic that hospitalizations in the state were up over 2,100 in January and were at 245 as of the governor’s most recent report this month.
Mask-wearing, after serving as the first line of defense during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, now serves as the second line of defense behind vaccines, according to the chair of the New Canaan Health & Human Services Commission.
A topic of much debate in New Canaan, the masks “are still important,” according to Dr. Harrison Pierce, a local pediatrician for more than four decades,
“We know how they function,” Pierce said during the Commission’s regular meeting Thursday, held via videoconference. “They filter the droplets, the aerosol, and they do this with varying degrees of efficiency,” from cloth masks to surgical masks and N-95 masks. “If you are uninfected and you are wearing a mask, you decrease the risk of getting COVID by about 67%, and if you are infected and wearing one you decrease of giving it to others by about 75%,” Pierce said. “And if you are both wearing it there is about a 92% decreased risk of getting sick with COVID.”
The comments came during a a discussion on mask-wearing that Pierce said he added to the appointed body’s agenda after hearing from State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142nd) and Commissioner Jenn Hladick on whether the Commission had a position with respect to masks.
The issue has made headlines recently, as Gov. Ned Lamont has asked the state legislature to extend his executive powers, including with respect to an order in which the governor empowers the Department of Public Health commissioner to set rules about what types of buildings require mask-wearing (including schools). In New Canaan, parents have spoken out at recent Board of Education meetings, and the school board is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. Friday, in part to vote on whether to send a letter to Lamont and others in Hartford requesting “local control” in COVID-related decision-making.
Hours after a staffer in his own office notified municipal workers this week that their holiday party had been canceled due to rising COVID-19 cases, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan denied the report, saying instead that it was “due to lack of response from Town employees who wished to attend.”
“We do NOT have a concern about local increase in COVID cases, which continue to be very modest in size compared to our population and produce very mild illnesses for those who are vaccinated,” Moynihan said in an email sent Tuesday to department heads, the Board of Selectmen and his office staff. “We continue to urge all Town employees who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated unless there is a medical condition due to which an employee’s medical provider advises against vaccination,” he said in the email, obtained by NewCanaanite.com. The party had been planned for Dec. 16 at Waveny House. It was to include appetizers, dinner and dessert, as well as beer and wine, and a $10 “donation” from attendees was due Dec.