Stamford reached a tough milestone Tuesday as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the city reached 1,000, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Public Health. The city has more positive cases than anywhere else in the state of Connecticut.
The city has some unique challenges, including its population size (third highest in the state) and its proximity to New York, the hotbed of infection in the country.
Its location close to New York is generally an asset, for both its residents and businesses, but in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, it also leads to concern.
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"I think the proximity to New York -- which is very important, there's no question about it -- has been much of the source for issues in lower Fairfield County," said David Martin, Stamford's mayor. "I think it makes people here more heightened."
Martin said Stamford compares to other Fairfield County cities like Danbury and Norwalk in terms of cases per capita.
"I'm pushing testing because to me testing is the real key to helping to slow this disease and stop this disease," Martin said. "I'm doing everything I possibly can to get our testing capacity up here. If you test more, you will find more cases. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that. So I am not afraid of those numbers. If we are identifying the people who are ill, that helps us all better."
Mayor Martin said the peak of the virus in Stamford is likely only a couple weeks away.
"In three weeks it will be the most serious in terms of the number of cases we have and shortly after that, it will be the most serious in terms of hospital demand," Martin said.
But he said that means now is the most serious for concerns over transmission during what he calls the "maximum vulnerability time."
"What that means is right now we are reaching the point -- where I'll call it the maximum risk of transmission -- there are people walking around who have the disease, that are spreading the disease and they don't know it because they're not spreading any symptoms," Martin said. "It's not like they're evil or terrible but nonetheless they're vectors for the disease and we're probably getting close to the maximum point of that."
Martin hopes that Stamford's residents will see the progress being made against the disease across the border in New York and continue to follow mitigation practices.
Stamford continues to step up its efforts to enforce social distancing guidelines.
On Tuesday, the mayor announced all tennis courts in the city would be closed immediately. Golf courses will close beginning Friday, April 10.
Martin has increased patrols in city parks five-fold to help ensure social distancing.
"The reality is 98, 99 percent of the people are observing the basic rules," Martin said.
Basketball hoops in parks came down several weeks ago. Playground use was also banned.
The city's medical facilities are working hard on the frontlines of this crisis.
Stamford Hospital recently completed a new hospital and is now recommissioning the old hospital wing to add additional beds, Martin said. He said the hospital does have sufficient ventilators at this time.
"I think we're prepared. We don't have lots of slack in the system because this is a pretty devastating virus that is coming through, but I think we are as prepared as one can be given the circumstance," the mayor said.
The mayor said he and his staff are taking the disease seriously.
No one in Martin's office has come down with the disease, he said.
"I'm taking it very seriously, but the key thing is to keep away from other individuals, whether they are showing symptoms or not," Martin said.
He said he hasn't come into any contact with anyone outside his girlfriend in the last month. He is still working long days out of his office but many employees in the city's offices are now working remotely.
Martin said as he walks around the city, he feels hope.
"Yes, we are hunkered down as this disease hits us as it has others, but I see a positive spirit out there," Martin said.
The city has a special website set up to get the latest information on Stamford's response to the coronavirus pandemic: http://www.stamfordct.gov/covid19
"I'm really proud of the community and I think we're going to get through this," the mayor said.