Rising COVID-19 cases shut down Ansonia’s Prendergast School, tonight’s Nightmare Alley; rollback to phase 2 considered
ANSONIA — Rising COVID-19 rates have put Ansonia in the red zone and delivered a one-two punch to residents with more changes on the horizon.
Prendergast Elementary School is being shut down for the next two weeks after the spread of COVID-19 infections across the city and state have led to quarantine requirements and staffing shortcomings.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph DiBacco has ordered the entire school to undergo a deep cleaning and has placed its approximately 630 students on remote learning from Nov. 2 to Nov. 13. In-student hybrid learning will resume Nov. 16.
The ongoing deep cleaning will allow the school to open as expected as the Sixth Ward polling place on Tuesday, said David Papcin, the Republican Registrar of Voters who is employed as a primary care nurse.
He said he expects all voters and poll occupants to “exhibit personal responsibility by wearing facial coverings and follow the six-foot minimum distance floor markers. Gloves and hand sanitizer also will be available.”
He said plexiglass barriers have been installed at most workstations.
“We will ask voters who do not wear a mask to utilize curbside voting,” Papcin said.
City-sponsored entertainment planned for the weekend also has been affected. All recreation events have been canceled including Friday’s Nightmare Alley, a drive-through trick or treating event at City Hall, Saturday’s showing of Hocus Pocus at the city’s temporary drive-in theater at Warsaw Park and scheduled soccer and football games..
“With all that’s going on, I don’t think it’s a great idea for any child to go door-to-door trick or treating on Halloween,” said DiBacco, a father of three young girls
Additionally, Corporation Counsel John Marini said all City Hall employees who are not involved in election work have been asked to work from home on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said the ballot counting will extend into Wednesday.
The shutdown, cancellations and work from home orders come at a time when the state has declared Ansonia one of its Red Alert municipalities: 51 people have tested positive in this city of 20,000 during the past two weeks. That translates to 19.5 infections per 100,000 people.
The numbers allow cities in the red zone to roll back phase 3 openings to the more restrictive phase 2. Those guidelines will affect the number of diners allowed inside the more than a dozen eating establishments that make up the downtown Restaurant Row.
“I’ve been in contact with the Naugatuck Valley Health District about our rising infection rate and we both felt it was best to keep everyone safe by canceling the event,” Mayor David Cassetti said of Friday’s Halloween drive-through. “I’m afraid more positive results are coming.”
At this point, there are no plans to roll back to phase 2, he said. However, Cassetti urged all residents to wear masks and gloves and keep a six-foot social distance when going out in public.
DiBacco said the 14-day quarantine requirement along with the possibility that it may take a person six days after contact to experience symptoms forced him to shut down Prendergast for two weeks.
“Any staff or students that came into contact with a positive individual are considered primary contacts by CDC guidelines,” the superintendent said. “The protocols ... state that those individuals need to quarantine for 14 days.
“I just don’t have the staff to keep it open,” DiBacco said of Prendergast. “I’m not risking my students’ or my staff’s safety by bringing substitutes who have worked in other districts.”
He said grab and go pre-packaged lunches will be available at the school’s front entrance from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during those two weeks. Other regular lunch pickups will remain the same.
DiBacco said those individuals who are considered primary contacts have been notified. Those who have not been contacted are not considered impacted.
This marks the third time this month COVID-19 has caused quarantine orders at the school Prendergast.
On Monday, two staffers and 70 students were told to quarantine for 14 days after a person who tested positive for the virus was identified as having come in contact with people in seven classrooms. The entire school was deep-cleaned Wednesday.
A week earlier, another individual who was in two classrooms tested positive, forcing the staff and teachers to quarantine. Those classrooms only reopened this week.
“We wish a speedy recovery to those individuals who tested positive,” DiBacco wrote in a letter to parents. “We will continue to work as a team with the Naugatuck Valley Health District and will provide any updates that we receive. We thank you for your support and understanding at this time. “