Officials declare states of emergencies, take further precautions

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By Andreas Yilma and Elio Gugliotti, Citizen’s News

Beacon Falls, Naugatuck and Prospect joined municipalities across the state this week in declaring states of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The declarations put the towns in position to receive federal and state reimbursements for funds spent related to COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. They also give town leaders broader authority to act immediately to address the spread of COVID-19.

“This order is a formality and should not be interpreted by anyone in a manner to cause alarm,” Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said in a message to residents.

The number of people in the state that tested positive for COVID-19 continues to grow and state officials reported the first two deaths of Connecticut residents from the coronavirus.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District announced in a news release Tuesday that there is at least one laboratory confirmed positive case and a presumed positive case of COVID-19 among residents in the district’s jurisdiction. The Naugatuck Valley Health District, which is based in Seymour, is the health district for Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour and Shelton.

The health district did not provide details about the two residents, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Hess said there were no confirmed cases in Naugatuck as of March 17, but officials were operating under the assumption there are residents with the coronavirus.

Local officials continue to put restrictions and precautionary measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Beacon Falls and Prospect, officials closed all town buildings to the public. Town meetings in Beacon Falls are canceled until further notice. Prospect canceled all town meetings through March.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith said the coronavirus has affected everything in town, but the town is still providing services to residents. He said employees are still working and preparing to work remotely, if it comes to that.

Beacon Falls residents are asked to use online services available on the town’s website, www.beaconfalls-ct.org.

Staff members from both towns are available by phone. The number for Prospect Town Hall is 203-758-4461. The number for Beacon Falls Town Hall is 203-729-4340.

Naugatuck Town Hall is open its normal hours, but operating on an extremely limited basis. Some employees and departments are working remotely. Borough meetings are either canceled are being held through conference calls.

Residents can contact Naugatuck officials with questions about the coronavirus through email at unifiedcommand@naugatuck-ct.gov.

The Naugatuck Senior Center and Howard Whittemore Memorial Library are closed. Naugatuck Senior Center Director Harvey Frydman, who will continue to work at the center, said New Opportunities, a Waterbury-based nonprofit, is working to deliver meals to older adults who regularly ate at the senior center.

Borough officials are planning to keep the recycling center open.

“We’re going to continue to provide all essential services. The town is going to move forward,” Hess said.

Naugatuck and Prospect officials also closed parks.

In Naugatuck, all borough parks and playgrounds are closed until further notice. The closings include activities at the Naugatuck Rec Center, but doesn’t include the Naugatuck Dog Park, walking trails or Hop Brook Golf Course, officials said.

In Prospect, the town closed Hotchkiss Park on Waterbury Road until further notice.

Police, who will still respond to emergency calls, have also taken precautions.

Naugatuck police are temporarily letting officers take reports over the phone in certain cases and asking residents to avoid coming into the lobby of the Naugatuck Police Department.

Officers will temporarily be allowed to take reports over the phone for certain situations, including civil matters, calls for advice, credit card and identity theft, minor vandalism, and animal matters that aren’t a threat to public safety.

People who have a situation that can be resolved over the phone can call the department at 203-729-5221.

Naugatuck police also aren’t accepting in-person records request until further notice. All requests must be made by calling 203-723-4479.

Prospect police are addressing each non-emergency call on an as-needed basis, police said. Police will contact callers to determine if an officer is required to respond to the scene. If an officer isn’t required to a respond, a report will be generated over the phone, police said.

The lobby of the Prospect Police Department is closed to the public until further notice. People who need to come to the department are asked to call ahead of time and wait outside for an officer. The non-emergency number for the department is 203-758-6609.

Police have also suspended fingerprinting service.

Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 in Beacon Falls has canceled all nonessential activity until further notice. The firehouse will remain regularly staffed for EMS calls from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays, the company announced. Night and weekend EMS crews will remain in place from home, as usual.

Non-emergency calls to the firehouse will only be answered during daytime EMS hours.