COVID-19 cases spike in Norwalk departments

Norwalk+City+Hall+houses+most+city+departments+including+public+safety+and+community+development.+The+city+has+reported+18+employees+have+tested+positive+for+COVID-19.+Photo+credit%3A+Vincent+Medina

Norwalk City Hall houses most city departments including public safety and community development. The city has reported 18 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina

On Jan. 4, Norwalk reported that 18 case of COVID-19 had been found in a city department.

Coronavirus cases began to spike on Dec. 17. The city has reported three cases in the Social Services department, eight in Transit, two in Community Development, two in Public Service, three in Public Safety and one case in the Recreation department.

“The COVID cases are the result of separate, off-site exposures, not one positive case transmitting it to other departments,” said Public Safety Lieutenant Eric Wosic, acting Emergency Manager for Norwalk.

During the week of Dec. 28 – Jan. 1, non-essential city services were shut down to stop the virus’ spread.

This proved ineffective as six cases were reported that week.

“My plea to our residents is that they stay home if possible,” says Councilwoman Margarita Rios. “They should practice safety, wear a mask, do not risk exposure to anyone who may have COVID, schedule an appointment with your doctor if you don’t feel well.”

Three cases are reported in the Social Services department, with at least one case confirmed at the Norwalk Senior Senter at 14040 San Antonio Drive.

The Coronavirus case was confirmed by an employee in the Social Services department who wished to remain anonymous.

They stated that Senior Center employees continue to obey CDC guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing.

The anonymous source also stated that their superiors are being transparent with their employees when somebody tests positive.

“Employees were notified via text message,” they continued. “The public has not been made aware of the cases within the social services department.”

The Norwalk Senior Center has been closed to the public since Mar. 13, 2020. Still, they continue to prepare and deliver meals to seniors who would otherwise have no means of food.

“We have essential services we have to meet, services that residents rely on,” Rios said.

Norwalk Mayor Jennifer Perez expressed that the city is doing everything to protect its employees.

“City hall is open by appointment only,” Perez said. “Offices and workstations have been prepped for social distancing.”

“PPEs are available and distributed to both staff and visitors to City facilities, as needed. We have also issued multiple rounds of reusable face coverings to all employees,” said Wosick.

On Jan. 6, Norwalk provided their fifth round of free Coronavirus testing to city employees. 146 employees participated in the testing.

If a department reports a Coronavirus case, it receives additional cleaning and is sanitized. Still, the department is not shut down, according to Wosick.

“The City has implemented a telecommuting policy as part of our COVID-19 social distancing efforts. Qualified employees can work from home for a portion of their schedule,” Wosick said.

The city has practiced transparency with its employees via text and email when a department reports a positive case. Norwalk residents have received no notice when a city employee tests positive.

“The City does not anticipate publishing employee medical results in any public format,” Wosick stated.

The Coronavirus vaccine was given to the Norwalk community hospital for first responders. It is undetermined when the vaccine will be given to the general public.

“It’s my understanding of the vaccine that it’s in tiers. Some specific responders will be able to receive the vaccine first,” Rios said. “I have not received the vaccine yet. If it is made available to me, I will take it.”

Norwalk has not experienced any city employee deaths from the virus.