Coronavirus: Fairfield Health Department works to keep community safe, informed
FAIRFIELD — The Health Department has been an an invaluable component of the Town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick.
“The professional staff in the department led by Sands Cleary provides regular advice and updates to the Emergency Management Team, works with the business community to educate grocery stores and restaurants on best practices, and has created some invaluable resources online and through videos to help educate the public,” Kupchick said.
The town is in the acceleration phase of the pandemic, according to Kupchick, who said officials are expecting a sharp increase in cases. As of Wednesday evening, officials reported 48 cases in the town, including two deaths.
Cleary said the department is working on a variety of tasks in conjunction with the town’s leadership and Emergency Management Team, participating in meetings of the EMT.
Health Department employees participate in the teams’ logistics, planning and public information subcommittees.
“Our staff are serving on those committees townwide, and working on various issues (such as) supply chain for different products,” Cleary said.
One of the more visible aspects of the department’s work is the production of videos and written materials from the First Selectwoman’s office and the school board to keep residents informed.
“It’s one of our most important roles — trying to keep the public up to date on what’s going on,” Cleary said.
The director added that one of the most watched videos they have produced explains the goals and strategies of the town while fighting a pandemic. The office has also produced videos on hand washing, how to cover a cough properly and how playing sports can spread germs.
“We’ve done a whole bunch of videos,” said Cleary on Tuesday. “I know our health educator is working on a few of them today. We continue to try and put out new content.”
The Health Department also tracks the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in town, according to Cleary. He said when the state gives the town information about the cases, the health department has school nurses, which fall under the department’s umbrella, call the people to ensure they are following best practices and to see if they need any assistance from the town.
“We think that’s one of the more critical things that we do,” Cleary said. “Reaching out to all those cases and understanding where they are, what’s going on with them (and) if they need anything from the town. We just want to be there to support them in case they have any needs that are beyond what they can do locally.”
Cleary said the health department is also in charge of acquiring and stockpiling medical supplies. In the coronavirus pandemic, that mostly means personal protective equipment. He said the department is not only working to ensure that first responders have what they need, but also people at grocery stores, long-term care facilities and funeral homes.
“We’re just trying to ensure that, if they have needs that can’t be met through their regular supply chains, that we can be of assistance,” Cleary said. “Either by being aware of alternate suppliers for them or, in some cases, directly providing personal protective equipment for them. To get them through a period when they’re low.”
There are about 60 employees that work for the Health Department, according to Cleary. He said the biggest portion of them are school nurses who were brought in to help track cases.
To prevent employees from getting overworked, Cleary said keeping up communication within the department and making sure everyone has a defined task is critical.
Cleary said the town’s approach to addressing coronavirus has been very collaborative.
“Fire Chief Dennis McCarthy, as the emergency manager, has assembled the team and we are all participating,” Cleary said. “We are meeting on a regular basis. The different committees are looking ahead... We are working well together and it’s going well.”