GMW’s COVID Q & A: Travel Advisory Changes, Impacts to July 4th, Athletic Fields and Other Wilton Faves, and More

We’re now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and, while we’ve gotten used to making sure we have masks with us wherever we go and other “new” adjusted ways of life, we’ve still got questions about where we are now. 

With this new phase, complete with vaccinated groups and talk about “the light at the end of the tunnel,” GOOD Morning Wilton put together a Q&A to find out answers to some things we’ve been curious about and topics that readers have asked us.

If you have a COVID-related question that isn’t asked and answered here, email us at editor@goodmorningwilton.com and we’ll see if we can get them answered too…

Q:  When will Town Hall open to the public?

A:  First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said the answer is complicated, with several factors impacting when–and if–either Town Hall or the Annex will allow the public to enter. She said opening dates for both buildings “have not yet been determined.”

The sole exception is the Town Clerk‘s office for individuals who need to access land records. Currently, people need to make an appointment with the Town Clerk for that. Some records are accessible via the town website, and town employees are working on a project putting the balance of land records online.

As for the Town Hall Annex, Vanderslice said there just isn’t space in the office areas or the meeting room for visitors at present.

“The Annex was overcrowded before the pandemic and is even more so since we have temporarily hired additional personnel in the health department to address the pandemic.  We also have had more equipment and materials inside the building related to the vaccine clinics,” Vanderslice said.

The overcrowded health department is also where records usually searched by realtors are located, but there is no space for realtors to do the searches, nor is there any available empty space within the Annex or Town Hall to relocate either those records or the machine needed to view records. As a result, town personnel are performing searches for realtors instead.

Overcrowding is a long-standing issue in the Annex and one that town officials are focusing on–but they’re prioritizing the overcrowding at police headquarters first, according to Vanderslice.

In the meantime, Vanderslice says the town has begun to move permitting online and is increasing the availability of records online, so the public won’t have to come to the building to search records or file for permits–an effort that began prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately there’s been less time to work on that project with the pandemic’s demand on employee time.

Officials may use the time before fully opening Town Hall and the Annex for some long-needed safety upgrades to make the building more secure. “Previously the buildings were wide open and anyone could access the entire building, include storage areas. The school buildings have been hardened and have restricted access, and Comstock has been hardened. But none of those measures have been done for Town Hall or the Annex,” Vanderslice explained.

Q:  What about town fields?

A:  Vanderslice said Wilton Youth Sports groups will begin using town fields this weekend, and room rentals at Comstock Community Center begin on Monday, April 5. Sector rules, protocols and restrictions are still in effect for group size, mask wearing and social distancing.

Q:  Will Merwin Meadows open this summer and what changes will we see?

A:  Merwin Meadows will be open this summer with lifeguards and for full use. There will be a capacity limit, although officials doubt it will be met except on days like July 4th.

Q:  Will Wilton be holding July 4th celebrations?  

A:  Vanderslice said unfortunately there will not be the traditional fireworks at the Wilton High School stadium. That event typically attracts several thousand people, and right now the sector rules only allow 500 people to gather for fireworks.

Q:  Is the town holding a Town Cleanup this year? It seems like it would be a COVID-friendly, outdoor activity and there’s a clear need around town for it.

A: Here’s what Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin recently said to a SeeClickFix user who asked the same question: “Unfortunately, based on the current COVID pandemic we will not be holding the annual Cleanup day this spring. We have been advised that having Wilton residents forming into groups, collecting trash that could possibly be contaminated, is not a good idea. If we have the ability to reschedule the Cleanup day to the fall we will. Information will be posted on the Town’s website if and when we have a new date. Thank you for your concern.”

Q:  There are two Bd. of Finance Public Budget Hearings next week–Bd. of Education on Monday, March 29, and Bd. of Selectmen on Tuesday, March 30. What are the plans for those?

A:  Vanderslice said the public hearings will generally function the same way they always have, except they’ll be live online via Zoom instead of in person.

Monday night’s meeting (Zoom Link) will begin at 7 p.m. with comments from BOF Chair Jeff Rutishauser followed by comments from BOE Chair Deborah Low and Superintendent Kevin Smith‘s budget presentation. After that, residents can ask questions and make comments.  Instead of walking down to the mic, residents will use Zoom’s hand raise function to be called on to speak. A person “behind the scenes” will promote residents to speaker when it is their turn. Residents will also be able to email in comments or questions during the meeting, and they’ll be addressed during the meeting.

Tuesday night (Zoom Link), Vanderslice will present the BOS budgets, after which questions and comments will be taken in the same manner on Zoom or through email. The agendas and presentations for both meetings will be available in advance on the Town of Wilton website (BOE) (BOS). 

Q:  The recent changes made by Gov. Lamont included travel advisory changes. What’s different and what does that mean for Wilton?

A:  As of Friday, March 19, the requirements and mandates previously set by Gov. Ned Lamont‘s executive order for the CT Travel Advisory are no longer in effect. Information on the State of CT website details revised travel related guidance from the CDC and the CT Department of Public Health. This guidance is now what the Wilton Health Department follows. 

Residents are still “strongly encouraged” to follow the state guidance regarding testing and quarantines, but it is no longer mandatory. This also applies to Wilton Public Schools, although Superintendent Kevin Smith communicated to the school community that administrators “strongly encourage” travelers to follow this guidance. The district still will require anyone who develops COVID symptoms to remain home and seek testing, and anyone who tests positive for COVID to isolate for the required period of time.

After Travel

The CT Travel Advisory website guidance asks residents who travel to:

  • Review CDC guidance for post-travel quarantine and testing
  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel AND self-quarantine at home for a full 7 days after travel.
    • Continue to stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if the test result is negative.
    • If the test is positive, isolate to protect others from getting infected.
  • If travelers do not get tested, they should stay home and self-quarantine for a full 10 days after travel.
  • Remember to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 while in quarantine. If at any time during quarantine the individual develops signs and symptoms of COVID-19, they should self-isolate (including away from other members of the travel party), contact a healthcare provider, and seek testing.
International Travel
  • All air passengers arriving to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. The test needs to occur no more than three days before air travel the US.
  • More information on the international travel requirement here.
Travel After Vaccination

At this time, the CDC recommends that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 still follow travel-related testing and quarantine recommendations and requirements as summarized above.

Q:  April break is coming–are you concerned about travel, especially with the change in travel advisory guidelines, now ‘recommendations’?

A:  Vanderslice has faith in Wilton residents. “Most Wilton students and parents are highly motivated to maximize in-person learning.  They know that masking wearing and the other basic protocols are the best means to stop the spread of the virus.  And they are mindful of the increasing presence of the more contagious variants.  I expect families will continue to follow the protocols and be cautious over the April break,” she said.

Plus, she added, there are other safeguards:  “Even though students and staff are no longer required to be tested to travel, testing continues as both are now are being surveillance tested by the schools themselves.”

Q:  There are spikes in the age groups that are getting vaccines (45-64). Why are we seeing that?

A:  Vanderslice said there isn’t a particular reason for last week’s increased share of cases for residents aged 45-65, though unusually for five days last week there were not any positive tests reported for school-aged residents. That changed this week.

Q:  There also seem to be correlations between high numbers in the 45-64 year old cohort and high numbers in the children (5-24) groups. Are there patterns or reasons we’re seeing this (e.g. families, gatherings between families, etc…)

A:  Vanderslice said yes:  “Family spread is typical and accounts for similar case numbers in school-aged children and school parent-aged adults.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Having seen statistics on $’s per student educated, it would also be interesting for the Board of Finance to go back 20 years and provide graphs of $/student educated and sq.ft. of school space per student and acres of athletic fields per student. Also, town employees per taxpayer; police officers per taxpayer; fire fighters per taxpayer, Town budget per taxpayer; town employees per taxpayer, etc. Plotting these metrics together on a graph would be informative to our Taxpayers that pay the tax bills. I hear that Wilton’s population is fairly flat, but don’t really know. This information will impress us taxpayers with how frugal the Town leaders have been with our money.

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