Good Morning Wilton reported earlier today about five new confirmed coronavirus cases in Wilton over the past week. By this afternoon, when the CT Department of Public Health‘s daily update was released, today’s numbers included two additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wilton, bringing the total to 214.
GMW reached out to Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice for her perspective on the new numbers.
“We are definitely concerned,” she said. “It appears the reopening has given residents a false sense of security.”
In fact, based on very recent “self-reporting” from Wilton residents and other directional information Vanderslice is receiving, “We are expecting numbers to go up,” she said.
What’s more, the first selectwoman is keeping an eye on data when it comes to younger residents.
If it’s any indication just how much concern the rise in case numbers is causing town officials, the town’s Emergency Operations Committee met twice Monday to discuss the latest information from the state. “We are watching it closely. At this point our focus is to be proactive to contain any further spread,” said Vanderslice.
At least one retail store, Signature Style, is temporarily closing its store in Wilton center, citing the rising number of cases. The announcement on the store’s Facebook page said, “Due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases locally we have made the difficult decision to discontinue in-store shopping for the week. Beginning Monday, June 29 thru Friday, July 3, Signature Style will be open for phone orders and online shopping only. This decision has been made in order to keep our staff safe and help stop the spread of the illness. We are hopeful that with appropriate contact tracing and testing we can move through this quickly.”
Signature Style’s post included a statement that the decision to close the store was “strictly precautionary” after seeing the local bump in cases, and that, “Everyone at Signature Style is healthy and not affected by COVID.”
Signature Style may be an isolated case of a retail business deciding to close after being allowed to reopen under the state’s phased reopening plans. Vanderslice wasn’t aware of any other Wilton businesses making the decision to close again. “Wilton businesses, to my knowledge, have all worked hard to have safeguards in place to allow employees to work safely and residents to shop safely.”
GMW reached out to Signature Style for comment. Store co-owner Cara Calabrese said she had welcomed the state’s Phase 2 reopening plans. “We were thrilled to reopen,” she said but went on to explain that circumstances can change. “Every small, local business needs to weigh the pros and cons for their establishment to maintain their own level of comfort. We made our decision based on our comfort level at this time.”
Calabrese emphasized, “Our goal is to maintain the health and safety of our staff and do our part in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Vanderslice believes that a decision such as Signature Style’s is an example of the realization that some Wilton residents are now making: that the virus is not gone yet.
Vanderslice had been concerned that the reopening of businesses and restaurants would give residents a perception that the virus is no longer a danger. “We need to reinforce that the virus is still here,” she said.
Focusing on Behavior of Wilton’s Younger Residents
Vanderslice also talked about taking steps to protect town employees, such as those at Town Hall and Camp Looper counselors who interact with the public. For example, she reported that safety protocols were reviewed again today with camp counselors, including their behavior and safety practices outside of camp.
Vanderslice does not have specific demographic information on Wilton’s newest coronavirus cases, but she did express significant concern about people under the age of 30. She plans to discuss the issue in tonight’s coronavirus update to the town.
Citing state data, Vanderslice said, “20-29-year-olds are now the largest age segment in positive cases. Before the Phase 1 reopening, 20-29-year-olds made up 11.8% of cases. Since Phase 2 began, they are now almost 24%* of cases.”
She also believes “gatherings” are likely contributing to the spread. “We know social gatherings in Connecticut and across the country were the source of the surge [in positive cases]” being seen in many areas.
Rising positive cases among young people and the role of social gatherings raise questions about recent graduation events. Chappaqua, NY, for example, saw a significant spike in COVID-19 cases traced to high school graduation festivities. Unconfirmed reports (some circulating on Wilton social media) of some younger residents in Wilton recently testing positive is fueling speculation about more community spread in the coming days.
Vanderslice would not confirm whether Wilton’s new cases could be attributed to any particular events, but did say, “[We] were worried about graduation and the social gatherings that go with that.”
Noting the lagtime between test data being reported from the state to the town, Vanderslice urges residents who get a confirmed or presumptive positive test result to contact the Wilton Health Department immediately. The sooner it is reported, the better, she says, “in light of the new buildup of cases, so we can get on [with] contact tracing.”
Wilton has hired a team of professionals from the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Fairfield County, the same organization that provides nurses in Wilton public schools, to do contact tracing. “People should have no concerns about privacy. Their confidentiality will be respected,” Vanderslice noted.
Whether these latest cases are an insignificant blip or the leading edge of an upward trajectory is not yet known, but they do represent a distinct reversal from the previous week when there were at least six consecutive days without any positive cases, suggesting the potential for further spread and the need for continued vigilance with safety precautions.