Drive-through COVID-19 testing starts Monday in Ridgefield

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Drive-thru COVID-19 testing will be available in Ridgefiled this coming week, First Selectman Rudy Marconi announced recently.

And the effectiveness of mask wearing to limit the spread of the disease was emphasized by data scientist Rick Lawrence through the example of a situation that mirrored the design of a controlled experiment, but involved the entire population of Kansas — close to 3 million people.

“Town testing — we have made an agreement with DOCS out of Danbury,” Marconi said, adding that the test used will be Quidel, which is about 97% accurate. Testing will take place at the Yannity Gym.

Testing will be available Monday through Friday next week, 8 a.m to noon each day.

“You must go to the DOCS website and sign up and register for a specific time,” Marconi said.


Appoints may be booked at docsmedicalgroup.com.

Test results from their antigen testing should be available by 4 p.m. that day, Marconi said.

But he had a request of townspeople: In view of the difficulties of staffing testing facilities, only get tested if there’s reason to think you have COVID-19.

“If you don’t have symptoms, and you’re not sick, and you haven’t been exposed, please don’t sign up for the tests,” Marconi said.


The announcement about testing was part of a public information webcast Thursday night by Ridgefield’s COVID-19 Task Force. In addition to Marconi and Lawrence it featured Stamford Hospital Dr. Maher Madhoun, Ridgefield Health Director Ed Briggs and Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva. Marconi said 180 people were listening at the start of the hour and 40 minute discussion.


The program is expected to be available for later viewing on the town’s website, www.ridgefieldct.org

Masks, placebo

Lawrence made the case for masks’ effectiveness.

“Absolutely, masks reduce COVID case rates. There’s no doubt whatsoever,” he said.

A recent publication from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlined what was he said was “a very interesting data science experiment” that mimicked the kind of controlled experiment used to test the effectiveness of a new drug against a placebo.

“On July 3rd, the State of Kansas mandated all counties wear masks, except each county had the opportunity to opt out: 24 counties went with masks, 81 counties opted out,” Lawrence said.

“You had two populations. You gave 24 counties the drug — they wore a mask.” The remaining 81 counties without a mask mandate functioned as the control group given a placebo.

“The people who wore the masks saw a reduction of 6% in their new cases per 100,000,” Lawrence said.

“The new case rates for the people who were not masked increased by 100% over the same period.” he said.

“To me, this is very important data science that supports the conclusion that masks work.”

New cases

Focusing on Ridgefield, Lawrence said there were 13 new cases on Tuesday, translating into a new case rate 26.8 per 100,000 residents.

“What we’re seeing here, most recently, we have 13 new cases in Ridgefield, the moving average is six cases a day, the trend is slightly down,” he said.

That was based on the state’s information posted Tuesday, Dec. 1.

People who get the virus don’t show symptoms right away, and then it takes a while to be tested and get results back, so the Dec. 1 information doesn’t reflect all the cases which may result from people socializing — against the recommendations of the medical community and town and state leaders — over the Thanksgiving holilday.

Lawrence said the town and state could be expected to show a “new surge once Thanksgiving data flows in.”

The town’s daily new case rate of 26.8 new cases per 100,000 is based on a seven-day average of new cases per day.

“The trend line is: While cases were going up a couple of weeks ago, for now the seven day moving average is roughly stable,” Lawrence said.

That rate of 28.6 new cases per day per 100,000 residents puts the town above the “red alert level” declared by the state, of 15 new cases per day per 100,000 residents.

Across Fairfield County, there were 375 people hospitalized for COVID-19, according to Lawrence.

“That number peaked in April at 800,” he said.

“Our hospitalization is a fraction of the peak rate.”

Insurance for testing

First Selectmen Marconi said insurance policies would cover the cost of testing — people would give their insurance information to DOCS, which has been doing testing in towns all around the state, and DOCS would bill people’s insurance companies.

“For those who don’t have insurance, you will be tested anyway,” Marconi said, “and that bill will be sent to the federal government.”

The CARES Act passed by Congress to deal with the pandemic calls for the government to pay for testing.

Concern about the cost should not prevent anyone who needs a test from getting one.

“Don’t worry about it. We will cover it,” Marconi said. “DOCS said they will send bills to the CARES Act and they’ll be reimbursed.

“They’ve done over 200,000 tests in Connecticut,” he added.

Schools

In Ridgefield elementary school students are on a normal schedule — everyone going to class five days a week.

The two middle schools and the high school are on “hybrid” schedules with students broken into different cohorts that alternate between in-school and remote learning, to keep down the total number of people in each building at any one time.

“We’ve been able to keep our schools open,” Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva said.

“I’m proud we’ve been able to do that for the benefit of our kids.”

On Friday afternoon, Da Silva announced that the school would be revising the length of what had been 14-day quarantines for students and staff at risk of spreading COVID-19 due to known potential exposures.

“Governor Lamont has given Connecticut schools the go ahead to adopt the new CDC quarantine guidelines that were issued this week,” she said.

“We met with Town of Ridgefield Health Department Director Ed Briggs and RPS Medical Advisor Dr. Ahern today and they are in agreement. Beginning today, for all new COVID-19 exposures at RPS, the quarantine period will be 10 days with the option to reduce it to 7 days if PCR test is done on the 5th day after exposure and comes back negative.

“This change will apply to future exposures,” Da Silva added. “Those who have already been placed in quarantine will continue with 14 day quarantines.”

As of Friday, Dec. 4, the school system’s COVID-19 data tracker said 1,039 students and staff had been put in quarantines since the start of the school year.

In Thursday night’s presentation Da Silva cited school officials’ approach to quarantining as among the reasons schools have been able to say open.

“We have taken the conservative approach,” Da Silva said. “Making the decision to quarantine, we have gone wider.”

She added, “Why our schools have been able to stay open as long as they have, this is in large part because of the partnership we’ve had with our community, our faculty, our kids and our families.”

She thanks town Health Director Ed Briggs in particular for his close work with school officials in tracking the situation.

Da Silva said masks wearing is strictly observed by everyone in all school buildings.

School officials are also urging students to maintain mask-wearing in the times they’re out of school.

“What they need to do is not let their guard down,” Da Silva said.

“The most common mode of transmission is from person to person,” Dr. Maher Madhoun, an infectious disease specialist from Stamford Hospital, told Thursday night’s audience.

“Most people feel they’re infectious if they have a fever. In reality people are infectious for one to two days before they have a fever or cough,” he said.

This is among the reasons people are being asked to limit socializing, even if they don’t feel sick.

Questions

Dr. Madhoun handled many of the questions that had been emailed in by public.

When will vaccinations start?

Health care workers, people in long-term care facilities, first responders, and then people older — probably 75 and up — as well as people with known medical problems will be vaccinated first, probably starting sometime in December.

“There’s talks about March and April as a time frame for general public,” Madhoun said.

What does a ‘probably positive’ test result mean?

“Consider it a positive,” Madhoun said, and get tested again after waiting 7 days.

How long do the antibodies last?

“No one really knows,” Madhoun said.

Can you get COVID-19 again if you’d had COVID before?

“The answer is yes, but it’s very unlikely,” Madhoun said.

Town Health Director Ed Briggs offered some common sense advice for people.

“Avoid parties,” he said. “Wear your mask above your nose. There’s a lot of people walking around with masks below their nose — that does no good.

“Try to distance,” he said. “Don’t be on top of each other in the supermarket. Follow the lane markings.

“You should be fine if you follow all the safety procedures.”

First Selectman Marconi closed by encouraging townspeople to keep vigilant.

“I urge you: Wear a mask,” he said. “Maintain social distancing.

“We can see the end of it,” Marconi said.

“By the second quarter of next year, we’ll have that vaccine, we’ll be able to get back to a normal life.”

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