Wilton COVID-19 Update, April 9: All Signs Point to Extended Closures & Distancing; Tri-Board Talks Budget

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice posted her nightly update on the town’s response to the coronavirus health crisis for Thursday, April 9. In it, she said that Wilton now has 90 positive cases, and she continued to urge caution–and to have a cautious outlook for how long Wilton may be facing its current state of alert.

Things didn’t sound optimistic regarding the remainder of the school year. While Gov. Lamont on Thursday announced that he was extending school closures until May 20, he told statewide leaders on a call that he did not anticipate schools actually would open on May 20, promising another update in early May. Vanderslice said the Governor added it would be “hopeful” to think schools would reopen this academic year.

The state testing and case data also continue to paint a difficult picture. Vanderslice said that Connecticut has one of the highest, if not the highest, hospitalization rates per capita in the country.

  • there have been approximately 3,000 hospital admissions and 1,250 discharges.
  • Thursday’s hospitalizations were reported as 1,464, with Fairfield County at 664 or one hospitalization less than yesterday. “I caution against making any assumptions based on one day,” Vanderslice said.
  • As of April 9, CT Dept. of Public Health reports 9,784 laboratory-confirmed statewide cases with 4,882 or 50 % in Fairfield County.
  • There are 90 positive cases in Wilton.
  • Yesterday’s drop in the Fairfield County share of cases was short lived.  Sadly, deaths have risen to 380.
  • The average daily growth in new cases continues to be high within Southern Connecticut, as Vanderslice showed in the chart below, which compares the average daily growth during five days, April 1-5, and the average daily growth during four days, April 6-9.
    • GOOD:  Wilton, which began the month with an average 10% daily growth, dropped to a 6% average daily growth. “Hopefully this trend remains as a result of our actions,” Vanderslice said.
    • NOT SO GOOD:  Stamford, on the other hand, increased from 13% to 18%, as its cases per capita are rapidly approaching 1%.
  • Vanderslice said “testing for each municipality would be helpful in understanding the numbers, but unfortunately, the data isn’t available.”
       AVERAGE DAILY GROWTH IN CASES
Apr 1-5th Apr 6-9th
Darien 9% 7%
New Canaan 12% 6%
Norwalk 13% 8%
Ridgefield 6% 4%
Westport 3% 4%
Weston 2% 5%
Wilton  10% 6%
Stamford 13% 18%

 

Again she urged residents to continue to “stay at home as much as possible, practice social distancing and behave as if you have the virus and as if those around you do as well.”

Tri-Board Meeting to Discuss Setting FY2021 Budget

Earlier Thursday evening, a tri-board meeting was held by the Board of Selectmen (BOS), Board of Finance (BOF) and Board of Education (BOE), beginning the revised process of setting the town budget for FY2021. [Note:  GOOD Morning Wilton will have a longer article on the meeting later today.]

Vanderslice said, “Residents can feel confident knowing the three boards are communicating and collaborating.”

With the governor’s earlier order suspending the usual process of setting the budget by town meeting and vote, the Board of Finance will be responsible for setting the budget and mill rate. Vanderslice said all three boards agreed at the meeting to take the extra 30 days added by the governor to the budget-setting deadline, and that “it is premature to make decisions [now] about the FY2021 budget.”

The schedule for setting the budget is as follows:

  • The BOS and BOE will reconsider the budgets they previously submitted (before the coronavirus crisis) and the BOF will provide the two boards with feedback by May 1.
  • The BOS and BOE will resubmit revised budgets by May 12, when the BOF will meet. At that meeting, the BOF expects to settle on a preliminary budget and mill rate. That proposal would then be made available to the public for comment before the BOF deliberates.
  • There will likely be one or more tri-board meetings before June.
  • The BOF will meet during the first week in June to deliberate and decide on the budget and mill rate. That meeting will likely be June 1 or June 2, as Wilton’s budget must be set by June 4, the last possible day in the governor’s 30-day extension.

Vanderslice urged residents to contact the BOF (or any/all of the three boards) before mid-May. “We are anxious to understand the impact on residents. We had hoped the State would provide weekly unemployment claims by municipality, but today we learned they could not do so.” Email the Board of Selectmen,  Board of Finance and Board of Education with feedback.

For residents who have experienced a job loss, Vanderslice said there has been an enormous backlog because of the number of claims that have been filed, and she tried to provide an explanation of the delay.

“The Department of Labor has received more than 18 months of claims in three weeks. Outside support has been added and staff has been redeployed, but there is a five- to six-week backlog to work through. Unfortunately, the computer systems are old, running on a 40-year old mainframe and need to be reprogrammed to accommodate the new Federal CARES Act. Not helpful if you are waiting for your claim to process, but at least it provides an understanding of the delays. A modernization of the system is a year away and has been put on hold to allow for the required reprogramming,” she wrote.

She also reminded residents that the Transfer Station is not open on Fridays and is closed this Saturday for the holiday weekend.

As always, Vanderslice said residents who have questions can email the appropriate town department or her directly. With most employees working from home, email is the preferred means of communication. Vanderslice has immediate access to email and tries to respond promptly. If residents contact her on Facebook, she notes that her response will be delayed, as she only checks her F S Lynne Vanderslice Facebook account a few times a day, and she doesn’t use Facebook’s Messenger platform.