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Year In Review: Virus Dominated 2020 But Community Hosted Many Safe ‘Healthy’ Activities



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Note: The accompanying images were drawn from The Newtown Bee's health coverage throughout 2020.

The year that was will be remembered by a combination of five letters and two numbers — COVID-19. After The Newtown Bee’s first report on the virus January 30, the novel coronavirus arrived in Connecticut and began spreading like wildfire.

Cases were slow to build in Newtown between March and August, but began escalating as summer turned to fall. And as 2021 arrived, the local Health District had logged nearly 900 residents testing positive, and sadly registered more than 50 related deaths.

Health District Director Donna Culbert was a fixture in most of this year’s community health reporting, as she carried on with her daily work and the crush of added responsibilities that COVID brought. She did so with the support of her dedicated NHD staff, and by year’s end, a number of others providing mostly contact tracing support.

During the year, several residents shared with The Bee their first-person experiences of the virus in the hope of helping their neighbors avoid what they had been through. Others stepped up creating masks and face shields, and still others delivered meals and did warm line check-ins with those who were homebound.

Throughout the year, Newtown also saw many safe and healthy activities happening either outdoors, in properly distanced indoor situations, or virtually. The Borough of Newtown also welcomed its first major health care facility, Church Hill Village, which opened in early 2020.

Nonprofits like Families United in Newtown, Newtown Parent Connection, The Resiliency Center of Newtown, Newtown Community Center, and several residential health care facilities also kept programming and community events going to the best of their abilities while employing safety protocols. And when in-person events simply were not safe, they, too, modified and migrated activities cleverly to platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live.

The year saw The Newtown Bee making the most of simple video projects as well with more than a dozen "COVID-19 Clips" featuring First Selectman Dan Rosenthal along with officials including Culbert, school, police, and emergency management personnel delivering timely updates and information directly to residents who clicked on or tuned in.

In 2020, Newtown said farewell to the Avielle Foundation, which was acquired by the National Mental Health Innovation Center at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, and also saw the closing of its long-time public health clinic, Kevin’s Community Center, which had experienced a significant decline in patients over the past few years.

The year also brought the community’s first organized municipal efforts toward preventing suicide, as a growing coalition of officials and volunteers promised an even more concerted effort in 2021. As the year concluded, the NHD was poised to begin administering its first COVID-19 vaccines, as the community, state, and world looked for sustained relief from the health crisis that gripped and shook the globe — and dwarfed most other news.

Church Hill Village grand opening
Newtown Police Capt Christopher Vanghele promoting the Connecticut "Blue Envelope" program.
Boxing with Parkinson's survivors at Newtown Community Center.
Newtown Senior Center Stress and Anxiety Relief Program
Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps E-Board member and EMT Ryan Horn displays a FirstResponder Sterilizer.
Newtown Health District and Bethel VNA Flu Shot Clinic
Halloween in the COVID-19 era.
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