Santina Jaronko is a Newtown Mom of two who also works full time for the Fairfield Health Department. She contacted me over Instagram and generously offered to help provide some clarity & insight into what has been going on with COVID-19 in our state.

 

Santina, before we get started, I want to thank you for taking the time to share these insights with us. I can imagine how swamped you are between work & home. Before we talk about COVID-19 and the challenges we’re facing across CT, I’d love for our readers to get to know you a bit more…

 

Where are you originally from and how long have you lived in Newtown?

I grew up in Westport, CT and have lived in Newtown for 4 years now. 

Child(ren) and Age(s)? 

I have two little boys. Thomas, who just turned 3 years old, and Nicholas, who is 5 months. 

 

Favorite spot in our area?

We love going to Dickinson Park. 

 

Best thing about being a mom…

The best thing about being a mom is watching how much my two little guys love each other. They are always holding hands and laughing at one another it really is the best feeling. 

 

Let’s switch gears and talk about your professional life & all that’s been going on with COVID-19. Please share your educational background and your role within the Fairfield Health Department.

I have a Doctorate degree in Public Health (DrPH) and am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). I’ve been in the field of Public Health for about 9 years now. I currently work for the Fairfield Health Department where I’m the Health Educator and I’ve been there for about 5.5 years.

 

Information is changing hour by hour when it comes to COVID-19. How is your office handling this & how is the state as a whole handling this?

In Fairfield, we’ve been preparing for COVID-19 since end of January by participating in regular phone call updates with the CDC and the State Department of Public Health. This is something we’re still actively doing. The local Health Departments receive almost daily email updates from the State Department of Public Health and we’ve been able to maintain good contact with them. Without a vaccine or medication, I think the local governments along with the State have done what they can by adopting the Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI’s) such as closing schools and public places, cancelling or postponing mass gathering, etc. and promoting social distancing to help fight the spread of the virus. 

 

I think we can all agree turning on the TV, opening Facebook, etc. guarantees a firestorm of information on COVID-19. In your opinion, what are the best sources for the general public to use when it comes to keeping up to date?

I think the best way to keep up to date with what’s going on is to follow the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s social media and webpage as well as the CDC, because they are very reliable. Locally, I think the Newtown Bee, the Newtown Health Department, and the Town of Newtown pages have been great in providing residents with accurate information. If you haven’t done so, I would suggest signing up for the CodeRed Alerts, I received one the other night with an update from our First Selectman. 

 

Late last week, “social distancing” really became a buzz word we started seeing everywhere. Can you elaborate on what it means? What are the best things for the general public to practice? If people fully embrace the notion of social distancing, what kind of impact will this have on the spread? What about if they ignore it? 

Social distancing means putting a distance between yourself and others. Adults and children should be avoiding crowds and any social gatherings, limiting close contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet), and avoiding any non-essential travel. Basically, staying home as much as possible. Instead of going to public places, take a walk around town, go for a hike or a bike ride, explore virtual museum tours, anything that doesn’t involve interacting with others. If everyone practiced social distancing, it would help reduce the spread of the virus, thus limit the number of people who are infected. This helps to keep our healthcare system intact. If social distancing is ignored and too many people will get infected, which will overwhelm our healthcare system as it happened in China and what we’re seeing in Italy. It’s so hard to practice social distancing especially when you have young children, but this is a community wide effort and one of the best defenses we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  

Can you talk a bit about how hospitals, urgent care facilities, and doctors’ offices are ramping up for diagnosing & treating potential COVID-19 patients?

Testing has been a big topic for awhile now and let me see if I can example the process as it is in this moment. The State only received a limited number of test kits from the CDC. Due to the limited number, they are only testing patients who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are sick enough to be hospitalized. Now that private labs like Quest and LabCorp have signed on to do the testing privately, I think we’ll see more hospitals having the ability to take samples. As I’m answering this right now, I believe 3 hospitals in the State have the ability to do drive thru sample collection, with a Doctors order, and there’s talks of other hospitals doing the same. 

 

Spring Break is next month and I know many families (ours included) have trips planned. What should we be keeping in mind? 

Right now, the CDC’s recommendation is to avoid any non-essential travel if possible as this contributes to the practice of social distancing. This is only a recommendation and if you choose to travel just make sure you are well and not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath). I would also make sure that you’re washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (an alcohol based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol is OK) and I would bring disinfectant wipes with me to clean any public surfaces. 

 

Finally as a working mom, how has COVID-19 affected you personally? What is your advice to other moms & dads who may be facing daycare closures or deciding whether or not to send their child to daycare?

Being a mom of two young boys, especially an infant, I’m concerned and I obviously don’t want them to get sick. In our household we’ve really ramped up the preventative measures, making sure sing our “ABC’s” as we wash our hands, which we’re doing more frequently, and changing our clothes as soon as we come home. We’ve also practiced social distancing, by going for hikes in our backyard and playing family games, only really going out to go to work and grab essentials at the grocery store. As far as daycare/school closures and what to do, it’s hard because every family is different. I would just ask from a Public Health perspective to keep social distancing in mind and try to achieve it as best as you can. If you or your children seem to be experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) please stay home. 

 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Keep in mind that about 80-90% of people who are infected can recover fully at home and healthy children seem to get a mild version. We are urging social distancing not only to slow the spread but to protect those most vulnerable to the virus our elders, individuals with chronic conditions, and those who are immune-compromised. I know this is a difficult time, but please don’t panic. Listen to our State, Town, and Public Health Officials, practice social distancing as much as possible and we will get through this. 

 

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. You’ve provided a ton of great information and I hope others fully embrace the takeaway – keep calm, wash your hands, & limit socialization. 

If you are looking to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and its effect on Newtown, consider using the following sites:

The Newtown Bee
Town of Newtown Website
Newtown Public School District

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