Vanderslice: Wilton Food Pantry Reopens at Comstock as Unemployment Spikes, and COVID-Positive Cases Hit 150

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice offered her nightly update on the town’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis. She led off with the news that the Wilton Food Pantry has reopened in the full-time pantry space in the lower level of Comstock Community Center, and that the Wilton community has been generous with donations and support.

“In the last several weeks since the coronavirus pandemic began, several efforts to raise money and donations to the pantry have been organized; the most recent one was a fundraiser that collected $20,000 in food gift cards via the Village Market.

“The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing. As the numbers of individuals needing assistance from Social Services and the food pantry goes up, Social Services appreciates the support of the community during these difficult times.  If you have any questions or you need help, please email Social Services Director Sarah Heath,” she wrote.

Vanderslice noted that the increasing need for community assistance is supported by Wednesday’s release of what she identified as “very preliminary” data by the CT Department of Labor on initial unemployment claims filed by town, by industry, by gender and by age.

“During the period from Feb. 24, 2020, to March 22, 2020, 378 Wilton residents filed new claims for unemployment. Based on the incomplete information for March 23, 2020, to April 12, 2020, another 269 Wilton residents filed for a total of 647 new claims by Wilton residents. This represents 7.7% of February’s labor force, of which 3.6% was unemployed. If those residents remained unemployed, the total incomplete unemployment rate for Wilton as of April 12 was 11.3%. Sobering numbers,” she wrote.

Vanderslice added that the information is considered preliminary because initial claims reported after March 22 are incomplete. The report also does not include on-going claims.

The Department of Labor released the numbers after first selectwomen/men and mayors around the state requested it in order to help towns finalize budgets for FY 2021.

COVID-19 Case Numbers and Contact Tracing

Vanderslice echoed the governor’s report about downward-trending numbers. “Declines in hospitalizations continued, both statewide and in Fairfield County. Statewide hospitalizations–meaning the number of Coronavirus patients hospitalized–are down by 41 to 1,691. In Fairfield County, the number is down by 41 to 591.”

She reported that the CT Department of Public Health counts 26,767 laboratory-confirmed statewide cases with 10,985 or 41% in Fairfield County and 150 in Wilton, with 507 cases  that have not yet been assigned to a municipality.

Deaths rose to 2,189 statewide and to 774 in Fairfield County. She did not release the number of fatalities due to COVID-19 for Wilton–which DPH has reported as 29 deaths as of Wednesday, April 29. Vanderslice explained that she has not listed information on deaths because it “has been inconsistent,” but on Thursday she will provide much more detailed information for Wilton.

With hospitalizations declining and case numbers slowing the state is preparing for how to reopen. One critical element of that plan will be contact tracing. Vanderslice wrote that earlier this week, Gov. Lamont announced a partnership with Microsoft to develop ContaCT, an online contact tracing tool.

“Representatives from the State said one of the reasons Microsoft was chosen is because they are known for their security. Contact tracing, as is currently being done by the Wilton Health Department, is extremely labor-intensive, yet critical to a successful reopening of the State and the country. The State is planning to augment our paid municipal and state employees with 400 to 500 volunteers. While other states are augmenting staff with compensated workers, state officials expect students in health-related fields will fill the need.  ContaCT is expected to be available in the third week of May,” she wrote.

She also reminded residents about the need to continue wearing masks.

“Also critical to the success of any reopening will be wearing face-coverings. They are here to stay for some time, so please wear them when in public. The rate of transmission has slowed through social distancing, staying home and behaving as if you have the virus and as if those around you do as well, but the virus is still present,” she said.