Yesterday, April 23, was the one-month anniversary of our closure of Town buildings in response to the public health emergency. Within two days of that closure, Lyme experienced its first case of COVID-19. Today, we still have only that one confirmed case, although it’s important to keep in mind there could always be unconfirmed cases where people were unable to get tested or exhibited only minor symptoms.
The good news is that total cases in New London County remain relatively low compared to original expectations and to other parts of Connecticut. Social distancing is working to limit the spread. Thank you for your part in making that happen.
However, cases in New London County continue to grow and at an accelerating rate. We have not yet reached the peak of our local curve. The county was adding an average of 2.9 cases per day on April 1; 16.6 cases on April 15; and is averaging 23.4 cases a day today. Total numbers are not extreme, but they are accumulating – with 419 total cases now in the county, including 17 deaths.
In the towns surrounding Lyme, the picture is mostly the same. Old Lyme has 10 positive cases; East Lyme, 35; Salem, 3; and East Haddam, 10. The bigger towns in our county have much greater numbers.
The Town remains prepared should this accelerating trend continue. Our first responders have prepared; supplies have been stockpiled; our most at-risk residents have support; and our government is again operating, with most commissions holding their regular meeting schedules virtually. The Board of Finance has approved next year’s budget without a property tax increase and the Board of Selectmen has approved a Low Interest Rate Program for taxpayers who may have difficulty making timely payments on their next property tax bill which comes due July 1. The Town’s website has more information on these developments.
Inevitably, we will be looking forward to a return to some level of normal operations after the number of new cases falls to a more reasonable level. As with other parts of the state and country, we look forward to reopening the Town when we believe it will be safe. The Board of Selectmen and the COVID-19 Response Team are already planning for this eventuality. We will return slowly with a watchful eye for any potential spikes.
The question the Board of Selectmen has received most frequently during the pandemic is, “Why aren’t the transfer station and recycling center open?” We recognize the inconvenience of having these facilities closed. While residents may be able to drop items off without much social contact, we must also consider the employees who maintain these facilities. These employees must interact at some level to assist residents and, after residents leave, process the materials left. These materials can hold the virus for extended periods of time and we cannot expose our town staff, many of whom are over 60 years of age, to this level of risk. Please be patient as we try and protect everyone. And remember, Jansky will pick up your recyclables on an every-other-Thursday basis for the fee of $10 a month.
In closing, thank you for your efforts at staying home and staying safe. We cannot get complacent with our social-distancing efforts. Please continue to show your support for our community by supporting events like the first-responder parade, displaying “hearts” for our front-line workers and engaging in other similar activities being held by our school system. Let’s use this time to celebrate our wonderful town and the people who live here. We will get through this … together.
Please take care, stay safe and stay home.