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Breaking: West Hartford Declares State of Emergency

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mayor Shari Cantor declared a State of Emergency in the Town of West Hartford amid the spread of COVID-19.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford, as of Sunday night, is now operating under a State of Emergency in response to the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and will remain so until further notice following a declaration issued by Mayor Shari Cantor.

“Our public health and safety officials are already fully mobilized and taking the necessary steps to protect West Hartford residents from the effects of COVID-19,” Cantor said in a statement Sunday night, following Gov. Ned Lamont’s press conference where he provided updates and issued another executive order to mitigate the spread of the disease. 

“This additional step is intended to reinforce the seriousness of the public health crisis, and to make sure town government has maximum flexibility and the authority to quickly respond as conditions change,” Cantor said.

“The reason these measures need to be followed is so we can flatten the curve of the spread of the virus,” Aimee Krauss, acting director of West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District said in a statement. “This means taking precautions even by people who are not sick or at high-risk to help mitigate a surge in cases that could overwhelm the hospital system.”

“Flattening the curve” will spread out the inevitable infections, not just keep it from spreading from person-to-person, but also avoid overwhelming the healthcare system with a sudden and dramatic spike in cases.

Under the State of Emergency, Cantor is asking West Hartford residents and businesses to take the following steps to prevent community spread of COVID-19:

  • Young children and students should be kept at home to the extent feasible
  • Religious organizations are encouraged to conduct services in a virtual mode. If in-person services are held, occupancy should be reduced by 50% to create adequate spacing between seating, in accordance with CDC recommendations
  • Businesses should require their employees to work from home, wherever feasible
  • Businesses that do remain open should consider staggering or reducing hours of operation
  • Food service establishments, including restaurants, should reduce occupancy by 50% to create adequate spacing between seating, in accordance with CDC recommendations
  • Restaurants and other food service patrons should use take-out service instead of dining-in
  • Grocery stores should discontinue offering samples and providing self-service stations such as soup and salad bars
  • Gatherings, including special events and celebrations, scheduled for the next few weeks should be canceled by restaurants and other establishments
  • Official and unofficial sports activities, including games and practices, should be canceled

West Hartford’s response is being closely coordinated by the town’s public safety officials and the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District with state and federal authorities.

The State of Emergency authorizes Town Manager Matt Hart “to impose and lift curfews, to summon, marshal, deputize or otherwise employ other persons, to obligate the town in an amount of money not to exceed $100,000 to cope with such emergency, and to do whatever he may deem necessary for the purpose of meeting the emergency.”

Lamont has already issued several executive orders to limit large gatherings, and added to and clarified those Sunday.

Later Sunday, Lamont revised his executive order to indicate that gatherings should be capped at 50 in accordance with Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.

The governor also required that all schools in the state must close after Monday, March 16. West Hartford announced Thursday that schools would close at the end of the day Friday, and many, but not all, districts in the state have also closed.

Statewide, schools will remain closed until at least March 31, Lamont said Sunday.

The school closings are “really important to mitigate” the spread of the germs.

“This is a historic and unprecedented public health crisis, the likes of which the world has not faced in more than a century,” Cantor said. “But West Hartford is a resilient community that has properly invested in public safety infrastructure, and we have planned and drilled for the most serious contingencies. With the cooperation of our residents, we will endure and emerge stronger.”

Cantor also issued a message Sunday night via West Hartford’s Community Advisory Notification Everbridge system. The text is below:

Good evening. This is Mayor Shari Cantor.

I am calling you tonight to announce that earlier this evening, in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19, I declared a State of Emergency for the Town of West Hartford.

Our public health and safety officials are already fully mobilized and taking the necessary steps to protect West Hartford residents from the effects of COVID-19. This additional step is intended to reinforce the seriousness of the public health crisis, and to make sure Town government has maximum flexibility and the authority to quickly respond as conditions change.

In making this emergency declaration, we are asking residents and businesses to abide by certain restrictions, available on the Town website, www.westhartfordct.gov, that will help flatten the curve of the spread of the virus. This means taking precautions even by people who are not sick or at high-risk to help mitigate a surge in cases that could overwhelm the hospital system. These restrictions are in addition to those already mandated by President and the Governor. The most important thing you can do is avoid groups and stay home. 

The goal is no longer to prevent the virus from spreading freely from person to person. Instead, the objective is to spread out the inevitable infections so that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed with patients.

This is an historic and unprecedented public health crisis, the likes of which the world has not faced in more than a century. However, West Hartford is a resilient community that has properly invested in public safety infrastructure, and we have planned and drilled for the most serious contingencies. With the cooperation of our residents, we will endure this crisis and emerge stronger.

For more information, visit our web site: www.westhartfordct.gov/covid19.

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