First Selectman Dr. David Bindelglass issued an emergency alert to the Easton community this afternoon to inform residents of a positive Covid-19 case in a Samuel Staples Elementary School fifth-grader.

Contact tracing is underway to allow health officials to identify close contacts, Bindelgass said. Individuals who have been exposed to the student will receive a call from the Easton Health Department. They will need to quarantine and take other advised precautions.

Bindgelglass stressed the importance of providing critical information to the contact tracers to stop the spread of the potentially deadly contagion. All of the students who rode on the school bus with the infected student will be quarantined, he said.

“This is all very concerning,” said Bindelglass, a medical doctor. “It’s happening all around the country and we are not immune. Everyone needs to be as careful as they have been — they need to be more careful — so we can stop it now and not let it progress.”

Bindelglass expects the positive case to elevate Easton to red on the state of Connecticut’s color-coded system. It previously was yellow.

“First and foremost we want to keep the schools open,” he said. “I hope people will give up any thought of Halloween of any kind.”

A letter from Health Director Mark Cooper about Covid-19 and Halloween is on the town website but will be updated, Bindelglass said. He said he will send out more information about Halloween in a day or two.

Staples School Principal Kimberly Fox Santora notified the Tri-District Nurse Coordinator and Central Office, and they began contact tracing in collaboration with the local health director, according to a message Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rydell Harrison sent to the school community.

“A close contact is defined as any individual (student or staff) who spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of a confirmed case or had direct exposure to droplets (e.g., cough, sneeze) of a case in the classroom or on the bus over the course of a 24 hour period,” the message stated. “All close contacts have been notified and quarantining protocols have been put in place in accordance with Department of Public Health guidelines. Additionally, the school will implement the necessary cleaning protocols to ensure our students and staff are safe.”

Harrision urged the community to remain vigilant as more potential cases are identified. He urged the following preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently, but especially after using the restroom and before preparing or consuming food. Using soap and hot water, wash for about 20 seconds.
  • Be sure to also wash your fingertips.
  • When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands or in the air. Always try to cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze inside the elbow of your arm.
  • As much as you can, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • Wear a face covering (mask) whenever there is a likelihood that you or your family members will be in the presence of others.
  • Maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet) between yourself and others when outside of your home.

Additionally, Harrison advised parents to continue to monitor their child’s health and notify the school should they exhibit any of the following COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Fever (temp 100.4 and above)
  • Chills
  • Uncontrolled new cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell

Staff and students exhibiting any of the above symptoms, or feeling ill, should call their medical provider to report their symptoms and ask about testing prior to seeking in-person care at a clinic, physician’s office, or hospital.

“The safety of our communities is our top priority,” Harrison said. “We will continue to monitor our local health data and take the necessary steps to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.” 

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By Nancy Doniger

Nancy Doniger worked as a journalist for three decades and was a founding editor of the nonprofit Easton Courier in partnership with the School of Communications, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart University (SHU). She served two years as executive member and is now a contributing editing of the Easton Courier. She was a former managing editor of Hometown Publications and Hersam Acorn Newspapers covering Connecticut's Fairfield and New Haven counties. She was a correspondent for the Connecticut section of The New York Times from 1995 until the section was discontinued in 2006. Over the years she edited The Easton Courier, The Monroe Courier, The Bridgeport News and other community newspapers. She taught news editing as an adjunct professor at SHU and served as coordinator and member of the Community Assets Network for the Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools. She was a member of the Newtown Community Center Commission, member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), board member of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), and past president and board member of the Barnard Club of Connecticut. She has won awards for her writing from SPJ and NENPA.