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‘We don’t want people to get nervous’: New Haven holds coronavirus workshop as universities pull students from study abroad programs


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven officials hosted a tabletop workshop Wednesday to talk about the steps the Elm City will take in case the coronavirus spreads to Connecticut.

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City leaders discussed actions they can take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This comes as local colleges take action to protect their students.

Fairfield University and the University of New Haven have taken action, pulling their students studying abroad in Florence home as Italy reports the most cases of the virus outside of Asia.

UConn has about 100 students there and they haven’t made a decision, which is also what Quinnipiac University said. News 8 has also reached out to Wesleyan and Sacred Heart but are waiting to hear back.

Yale University said they are advising students and faculty to follow CDC guidelines on travel, which recommends that older adults should consider postponing travel.

RELATED: CT universities bring students studying abroad home, suspend abroad classes amid coronavirus concerns

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Rick Fontana, New Haven’s Emergency Operations Director, explained, right now in New Haven there are three people being monitored after they returned from what the CDC calls Level 3 locations — mostly mainland China.

Officials say none have shown symptoms.

Close to 100 other people have already passed their 14-week isolation without showing symptoms of coronavirus.

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New Haven says it’s ready to react within two minutes if more cases of the virus present themselves.

Rick Fontana, New Haven’s Emergency Operations Director, outlined the meticulous protocol now in place from the moment of that first 9-1-1 call-quick word passed up the chain of command, paramedics going in with protective gear, all the way to isolation in the emergency room.

Director Fontana explained, “We need to make sure we minimize the risk.”

Chief John Alston of New Haven Fire Department explained of the virus, “It’s contagious and it’s killing people. So that’s something that’s going to linger in their minds.”

Despite the danger, Chief Alston says his crews are ready to react if coronavirus comes to the department’s doorstep. His command staff on the ground will take the lead if-and-when the call comes in.

“Our only concern is if we get multiple [incidents]. And that’s when we have to treat it completely differently,” Chief Alston told News 8.

April Alfano of Yale New Haven Hospital Emergency Management explained the stark reality, “We know it’s going to happen at some point. We’re just not sure when it’s going to happen.”

Yale New Haven hospital says they’ve been drilling, working with the city Health Department.

Director Fontana says while national guidelines are changing day-to-day, the city has moved ahead on its own to prepare for all scenarios, including the worst.

“We don’t want people to get nervous. We want people to say ‘hey, New Haven is on top of this.’

– Rick Fontana, New Haven’s Emergency Operations Director

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