Changes to Hartford schools possible as COVID-19 cases rise, mayor says many not cooperating with track-and-trace


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The City of Hartford and its school district have seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases. Now, Mayor Luke Bronin is considering making a big change to schools.

“We continue to see trends that are troubling,” the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday.

At Webster School Tuesday, News 8 observed kids leaving all in-person classes and going home. But that may change over the next couple of weeks.

The superintendent and the mayor are getting together to try to figure out whether they should go back more towards an online hybrid model or stick with all in-person classes.

They say they are trying to stay out ahead of it and let parents know as soon as possible if there are changes. They are set to make an announcement on their decision on Oct. 12. The possible new learning model will start on Oct. 19.

RELATED: University of New Haven residence hall quarantined after 12 new COVID-19 cases in a week

The positivity rate is 2.6% in Hartford. They have 32 current cases: 10 are staff and 22 are students.

One of the biggest problems they’re facing is track-and-trace. When the counselors call, people are not cooperating, so they can’t reach out to other people in the community who might have been exposed.

Mayor Bronin encouraged everyone to cooperate with track-and-trace counselors, reminding residents, “Nobody is trying to get you in trouble. No one is going to give you a hard time. You’re not going to face repercussions. You don’t have to worry about someone saying you did something wrong.”

Also, the mayor says another reason for the increased number of cases could be ‘COVID fatigue’: people are tired of wearing the mask and social distancing, they’re getting worn out.

He says it creeps in on you especially in larger groups and big family gatherings. Mayor Bronin says he hopes with President Donald Trump’s recent positive test shows that anybody can get it.

The mayor encourages people to stay vigilant. With cold weather and flu season coming, there is a likely chance for a further increase in coronavirus cases: “We want to keep our community safe and save lives and keep people out of the hospital.”

Parents tell News 8 it’s difficult not having the resources, not having the devices or the laptops for the computers to move online.

Meddy Kiwanuka, of Hartford, said, “You have to look at the parents that are working without daycare, or do they have enough resources with computers and laptops?”

The school says they have made great improvements and learned from last year and have been stocking up over the summer getting ready for what’s happening now.

Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Leslie Torres-Rodriguez explained Tuesday, “We have available 15,000 devices to students and about 1,000 hotspots. We are also making sure our staff have the technology and resources and the tools that they need.”

In New Haven, schools are also currently fully online. Only 11 schools are open for special needs students and their metrics remain low. Even though they’ve had a few cases in the school system, they are still on target to reopen for in-person learning next month.

Director of the New Haven Health Department Maritza Bond said of the positive coronavirus cases in the Elm City’s school system, “Each of the cases are isolated cases, they were contained, and they are following the necessary protocols. I think it proves how swiftly we were able to do contact tracing.”

An important note about that contact tracing: if you are called by a counselor, they won’t reveal your name to other people that you have made contact with. It is all personal and confidential and will remain with that counselor at city hall.

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