‘I feel like Déjà vu’: Kupchick says coronavirus cases linked to weekend gatherings, Ludlowe closes

Photo of Josh LaBella
Teacher Lauren Marchello, left, teaches Modern Global Studies during the first day of school at Fairfield Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, Conn., on Tuesday Sept. 8, 2020. Also working with Marchello is secondary teacher Aaryn Signorile.

Teacher Lauren Marchello, left, teaches Modern Global Studies during the first day of school at Fairfield Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, Conn., on Tuesday Sept. 8, 2020. Also working with Marchello is secondary teacher Aaryn Signorile.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Ludlowe High School will be closed for the rest of the week after more individuals tested positive for coronavirus, according to town officials.

In a press conference Wednesday evening, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said there were six positive cases in town high schools — five at Fairfield Ludelow and one at Fairfield College Preparatory School. She said four of the Ludlowe cases may have been the result of approximately six gatherings of high school students over the weekend.

“This also could result in over a hundred people having to be quarantined for 14 days, which is a big deal,” Kupchick said. “I get repeated reports from individuals across our community, complete with pictures, of our middle school and high school students gathering in large groups.”

Kupchick said these gatherings have been reported in various places around town, noting the young people are not wearing masks. She said there is a civic responsibility not just for adults, but for children, to follow health guidelines.

Kupchick later said that one party had to be broken up by police because of the number of people there. She noted some of the parties were taking place at homes — with parents’ consent. She said the gatherings could set the town back in a significant way.

“We have worked extraordinarily hard since March to make sure that our community is safe and that our numbers were kept low,” Kupchick said. “Our school district has gone above and beyond to try to bring back normalcy and have school for our children, and these types of things could really spiral out of control.”

“I feel like déjà vu,” she said. “We were doing this in March — talking about our civic responsibility as a community to make sure that we keep our numbers down, so that we could have our students go back to school, our business reopen.”

Kupchick urged parents to remind their children to follow health guidelines.

Superintendent Mike Cummings, who also spoke at the press conference, announced the four new cases at Ludlowe earlier in the afternoon. The new cases come a day after one student enrolled at Ludlowe tested positive.

“As a result, Fairfield Ludlowe High School will be closed on Thursday, September 24 and Friday, September 25 to allow for cleaning and contract tracing,” he said in a message to the community, adding students would follow the remote schedule published last week.

Even with the new cases, Cummings said the protocols the district put in place are working, noting they were followed in consultation with Health Department Director Sands Cleary and Nursing Supervisor Jill Mitchell.

Cummings said the health department received notification of the positive test from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and immediately reached out to the individuals to begin contact tracing.

“Anyone who has been in close contact with these individuals is being contacted by a member of the Fairfield Health Department Contact Tracing Team,” Cummings said.

The district would not be releasing specific information about the individuals involved, Cummings said, in order to comply with laws and regulations regarding student and employee privacy.

In the press conference, Health Department Director Sands Cleary said all positive cases are in self-isolation, and all contacts are being notified of their exposure with instructions to quarantine.

“Many of these contacts are seeking testing, and so there is a real potential that more cases and contacts will be identified over the next few days,” he said. “We will continue our work until all cases are identified and isolated and all those close contacts are in quarantine.”

Cleary said there was no epidemiological link between the positive case identified yesterday at Ludlowe and the four new ones. He said four of the gatherings attended by high school students over the weekend were attended by students who have since tested positive.

“In initial reports of those gatherings, is that there were no mask use or social distancing occurring at these events,” Cleary said.

“Early in this pandemic, I had stated that it is likely that hundreds will die and thousands will become ill in Fairfield,” he said. “We have already experienced 144 COVID-associated deaths, nearly 800 confirmed cases and serial prevalence studies have indicated that over 3,000 people in Fairfield have already had COVID-19.”

Noting that those are the numbers from the first wave of the pandemic, Cleary said the town must focus on the things residents and their children can do to prevent a second wave. He noted those strategies included wearing a face mask outside of the household, staying home if sick or awaiting test results, and limiting contact with people outside of the household as much as possible.

“If we wish to keep our schools and our businesses open, we cannot view where we are as ‘We have done everything we need to do, and now we can go back to the way it was before,’ ” Cleary said. “We have to keep these preventative measures in place and be vigilant in our efforts as we go forward.”