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Norwich Public Schools to move to remote learning following jump in COVID-19 cases

New London

NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — In Norwich, city, health, and school officials are urging residents to be more vigilant during this pandemic.

Late Thursday, the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a COVID alert after a 6.7 percent spike in cases — that’s more than three times the state rate of 1.8 percent. 

“This is a significant increase in cases in Norwich we need to focus everyone’s attention on,” said acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford, MD MPH. “We appreciate the partnership with municipal leaders in Norwich and the Uncas Health District, as well as those health care providers that have testing sites available for members of the community. We are urging anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to get tested as soon as possible and isolate if you test positive, and stay at home for 14 days if you have been exposed. If you are over the age of 60 or have a chronic disease and live in Norwich, you should stay home as much as possible.”

Norwich Public Schools will move to all remote learning starting Friday, Oct. 2, for the next two weeks out of caution.

So far, there have been three students, and staff from two elementary schools and one preschool program, who have tested positive for COVID-19 but school officials don’t believe there was any transmission within the schools.

Norwich Free Academy will also go to remote learning starting Friday.

Read the full letter from the Superintendent of Norwich Public Schools below:

“Friday and up through the 16th and then on Oct. 19. If the health metrics improve, then we plan to return to hybrid,” said Kristen Stringfellow, Superintendent of Schools.

“That information will allow us to do that contact tracing we need to do to make sure nobody else gets sick,” said Patrick McCormack, Director, Uncas Health District.

Health officials say the rise in cases doesn’t trace back to any one event or gathering. But more that it is community-wide. They are urging people to social distance, wear masks, and even get tested for COVID-19.

“Right now at Backus Hospital we’re actually dealing with patients admitted with COVID-19 at similar rates if not higher than what we were dealing with when the pandemic first started,” said Dr. William Horgan, Director of Quality & Safety, Backus Hospital.

“Almost a hundred new cases within the last 8 to 9 days. You know you get one or two a day, that’s one thing. When you’re getting 12, when we get 26 which was yesterday alone, you got to raise the red flag. And say we’ve got to all contribute and be part of a solution,” said Mayor Peter Nystrom, (R) Norwich.

The governor did reach out to the mayor and Thursday spoke about sending the cavalry right down to Norwich, which could include the track and trace assistance which the state provided to Danbury back in August. 

“Doing everything to track where this is coming from and see how we can quarantine it and hold it at bay,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.

The state aid could also mean more resources for testing. Health officials want to remind people even if they don’t have symptoms they can still spread the virus.

“That’s definitely a misconception as people feel like I haven’t had any symptoms I’m not going to make other people ill,” said McCormack.

The city announced 9 testing sites will be open around Norwich this weekend. People don’t need to pay anything and they don’t need insurance. They just need to provide a name and address.

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