Director tells Trumbull housing authority Stern Village is COVID-free

The Trumbull Housing Authority reports that Stern Village's 186 independent living apartments and the 36-unit congregate building have had no coronavirus cases.

The Trumbull Housing Authority reports that Stern Village’s 186 independent living apartments and the 36-unit congregate building have had no coronavirus cases.

Donald Eng / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — Stern Village, the 62-and-older housing complex that includes 186 independent living units and a 36-unit congregate building, has had no coronavirus cases so far, according to Director Harriett Polansky.

“That’s very important for people to know, we’ve had no COVID cases,” Polansky told the Trumbull Housing Authority at a special meeting April 7. “We’ve had many, many Zoom meetings with the town’s health director, the emergency management people and the CDC, and we’re following all the precautions.”

The congregate building, which includes 36 assisted living efficiency apartments, is the greatest concern because the residents live under the same roof. Polansky said the staff is enforcing a strict no-gathering policy.

“The dining room is closed, and there is no congregating in the foyer or the upstairs den, and the arts and crafts room is closed,” she said. Residents wanting to talk with each other are encouraged to meet outside the building while maintaining social distance protocols, she said.

In addition, she said all meals were being delivered to residents’ rooms in styrofoam containers, and the only visitors being allowed into the building were nurses, health aides, or family members serving in either capacity. Anyone entering the building is greeted by a staff member and required to wash their hands, Polansky said.

The building itself also is subject to a rigorous cleaning process, she said.

Public areas and any surface that is subject to being touched, from doorknobs to elevator buttons to the knobs on the laundry room’s washing machines, are being continually sanitized, she said.

The situation in the village section, the 186 independent living apartments arranged in huts with up to four apartments with separate entrances per building, is also more controlled than usual, she said. Staff members are checking in with residents by phone once a week, and any resident who has left the state is requested to quarantine themselves for two weeks once they return.

The village’s 20-seat van is still making a weekly run to Stop and Shop each Wednesday but within the vehicle, passengers are able to observe social distancing, she said.

“The bus has a capacity of 20 people, but typically there are only six or eight people riding,” she said.

With warmer weather on the way, Polansky said workers would be placing lawn furniture at carefully managed distances around the complex.

Housing Authority member Laurel Anderson wanted to know the plan if a resident were to contract the virus. Polansky said the resident would be quarantined, as would anyone who had been in contact with them. Their meals would be brought to their door.

“So, they would stay in their apartment?” Anderson asked.

Polansky confirmed the sick resident would remain at the village unless they required hospitalization.

The THA also voted to authorize Polansky to apply for paycheck protection under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Ecomomic Security Act. The act set aside $350 billion to provide federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and some non-profits to maintain their workforce. The loans would be forgivable if employers maintained workers at pay rates comparable to before the crisis.

Currently, the four-man maintenance crew at Stern Village is operating in staggered shifts, with two men on the job each week and the other two furloughed. The workers not working can use their vacation or personal time to receive pay during the week they aren’t working, though THA members said they hoped the paycheck protection program would allow staffers to maintain their pay without using up their vacation and personal days.

The catch, though, is that the Trumbull Housing Authority is a municipal program, and state and municipal agencies are ineligible for the program.

THA is a self-funding non-profit that does not receive financial support from the town, members pointed out.

“We could try, and if we get it, we get it,” Polansky said. “But then the issue is if we get it, and then they decide we shouldn’t have...we might have to pay a percentage of it back.”

Consensus among the panel was that there was no downside to applying for the program.

“Even if we were to have to repay it, it would be 1 percent annual interest,” said THA Chairman Paul Niebuhr.

Authority member Jean Rabinow agreed, but was not optimistic about the THA’s chances of securing federal funds.

“We are a municipal entity, I don’t see any way around it,” she said.