Trumbull officials answer coronavirus effect questions in online forum

TRUMBULL — The majority of the COVID-19 fatalities in Trumbull have been in the town’s nursing homes, residents have been mostly cooperative with police enforcing social distance protocols, and more takeout dining options will be available soon.

Those were some of the major takeaways from Thursday’s virtual Town Hall meeting.

According to Health Director Luci Bango, 76 percent of the town’s 41 fatal coronavirus cases were in the town’s nursing facilities.

“The reason for this is the age of the residents and their underlying health conditions,” Bango told the panel of town officials and members of the public. “Also, the town has a large number of nursing facilities” for a town its size.

The town has started posting information on its website about the demographics of those diagnosed with coronavirus, including age and gender. The department also has completed a video about proper use of face masks, which are now mandatory for people outside of their homes in situations where social distancing is impossible, she said.

Restaurant workers, in addition, are now required to wear a mask at all times, she said.

“If you go there and see someone not following the protocol, you can call the Health Department,” she said.

Like Bango, the heads of other town departments answered questions from the public and provided updates on their departments’ activities.

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro reported that the Board of Finance had made a series of cuts to the town and school budget proposals for 2020-21 in an effort to reduce the budget to a zero percent tax increase. She called the budget one of “shared sacrifice.”

“I believe most people are in agreement that this is an unprecedented emergency,”she said. “We recognize our residents need all the help they can get.”

The town also is working on a plan to reopen some public spaces once the infection numbers begin dropping, Tesoro said.

“We are looking to consider Twin Brooks and Old Mine parks, with significant restrictions to protect the community and town employees,” she said.

Police Chief Michael Lombardo said officers are patrolling the town’s open spaces, including schools and parks, to prevent people gathering there.

“The goal is to educate people (about the policies) and to deter gatherings as best we can,” he said. “It’s been very trying on many residents, but we are asking people not to congregate and to always maintain six feet of separation.”

Although police have the option of issuing trespassing tickets to people using town parks during the coronavirus emergency, Lombardo said no residents have been ticketed.

“People have been compliant when asked to leave,” he said.

The EMS continues to operate normally, although looking a little different with responders wearing masks and gowns. Director Leigh Goodman urged people not to avoid calling for help if they need it.

“It seems we’re only talking about COVID, but we’re continuing to respond to normal calls for medical attention,” she said.

About 35 percent of the ambulance runs are currently coronavirus-related, but the normal calls for injuries were still coming in, as are more serious calls for things like heart attacks. In the 24 hours before the videoconference, Trumbull EMS workers had made two “cardiac saves” where a responder intervened during a heart attack and saved a life, she said.

“I know people don’t want to go to the hospital due to the virus, but please don’t not call 911 if you need to,” she said.

In addition to EMS, all emergency responders were in continuing need of personal protective equipment, according to Emergency Management Director Megan Murphy. The town is using all possible sources to acquire masks, gloves, face shields and other supplies, but responders remain “in great need,” she said.

Anyone with supplies, including N95 masks, surgical masks, homemade face masks, gloves and gowns can donate them by dropping them off outside of EMS headquarters on Middlebrooks Avenue or the Nichols Fire Department on Shelton Road, she said.

Although the town’s Senior Center at Priscilla Place has been quiet for the past few weeks, workers have been busy distributing meals and helping residents access the Food Pantry. Director Michele Jakab said the staff was also distributing grocery bags filled with pantry staples to homebound seniors, and that the community had stepped up to keep the shelves stocked.

“The amount of food coming in has been amazing,” she said.

For those interested in dining out and supporting local restaurants, Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar reported that several restaurants that had been closed had reopened for takeout or delivery. The list of restaurants and the service options are available is posted here. In addition, the town has posted local businesses offering delivery services here.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is also planning to resume accepting land use applications. Starting May 1, residents can apply for land use permits online; the commission’s hearings will be conducted via Zoom.

Finally, Assistant School Superintendent Jonathan Budd reported that, although the schools have made strides in distance learning, “Nothing can replace live interaction.”

The school system’s 7,000 students faced significant challenges, including varying levels of internet access and a wide range of support available from adults at home. In light of these disparities, the schools are re-examining the grading protocols to take into account that students had varying levels of access to distance learning, he said.

The district also is working to provide students with greater feedback on the school work, especially in the younger grades, Budd said.

“Starting next week, we will be using paraprofessionals to work with individual students and small groups, for those who need more check-ins,” he said.

For students with special needs, PPT conferences also will resume next week online. More information on all of the items will be distributed through a Trumbull Community Television broadcast that can be seen here.

Tesoro closed the meeting with the same concluding statement she has used on the town’s robocalls, urging residents to continue following social distancing guidelines for their own safety and the safety of town responders and employees, and once again requested that people “stay safe, stay well, and stay home.”