Letter to Residents from WWHD Clinical Director

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Dear Weston and Westport Residents,

It has been, and is, a pleasure serving my community as the Director of Clinical Care at the Westport Weston Health District. I am appreciative of those who are following the advice of medical providers, local politicians, and scientists regarding isolation precautions and limiting social activities. I truly empathize with the hardships our communities face. I have noticed more social distancing and fewer gatherings and have appreciated numerous calls from you all wishing health and safety to us healthcare providers. Being in the medical field since 2007 I have noticed one thing: healthcare providers put patients first. In my current role at the Health District, that philosophy stays the same, but now I have a larger panel of patients – the residents of Westport and Weston. I would like to stress to our serviced towns that we have a dedicated, strong, and empathetic team at the health district, all working long days in order to help our community.

When our department was notified of a presumptive positive COVID-19 case in one of the towns we serve, we sprang into action without hesitation. We knew that we needed to test and isolate, early and promptly. At the time of our first suspected case, the State’s Department of Public Health could not support us with testing kits, as they were being saved for hospitalized patients. I immediately contacted Quest Diagnostics, after learning of their plan to perform SARS-CoV2 testing (the test for the virus causing COVID-19). I was able to speak with the extremely helpful Vice President of Infectious Disease at Quest and was given test kits. On March 12, 2020, we became the first and only local health department testing for COVID-19 while the general media narrative was about the lack of testing available throughout the country. We started our testing by having a drive though test site at the Health District, and started with those thought to have had direct exposure or symptomatic individuals thought to have indirect exposure to our presumptive positiveCOVID-19 case. We completed another, much larger, testing service at Bedford Middle School on March 18th with great support from local EMS, Fire, and Police Department volunteers. We had tremendous support from numerous volunteers that dedicated many hours calling and scheduling patients that met our testing criteria.

We now come across another problem. We are discovering we have way too many people that need to be tested and not enough staff or resources to test everyone. The Director of Health, Mark Cooper, has been working with the local first selectmen to strategize new ideas to test more people. At the Health District, we understand the importance of testing, as this allows us to identify viral spread in order to help containment and to slow down transmission. We will continue to support our town in any way possible, which includes figuring ways to introduce more testing options. In the meantime, people can and should be tested at local hospitals. Local hospitals are performing testing and their schedules and scheduling contact information can be found on their websites.

We continue to stress social distancing, hand hygiene, covering coughs, and self-isolation for those suspected to have been exposed. We are at a weird point in American history, by asking people to work together to avoid each other. On my street in Westport we started an email group where all our neighbors can communicate and perhaps help each other as things unfold over the coming days.

I would like to conclude by informing you all about the “bright side” of this entire ordeal. We all will be saving lives by staying home and watching movies. We will be able to spend more precious time with our children. The Knicks will not have a losing season, as they can’t lose if the season technically is not over. We get to experience and experiment with new foods, as local supermarket shelves may not carry our typical go-to staples. There is less traffic around town. We can enjoy outdoor walks around town, whilst maintaining social distancing. Together, we will get through this.

Louis D’Onofrio, DNP, MSN, FNP-C, PCCN
Director of Clinical Care
Westport Weston Health District
180 Bayberry Lane, Westport, CT 06880