WATERTOWN — In response to the recent outbreak of coronavirus, Covid-19, towns are preparing their residents with resources to best prevent the spread of the virus and ensure safety. 

According to a press release from Gov. Ned Lamont, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, they have announced a regional approach to combatting the coronavirus throughout the tri-state area.

They created uniform standards to limit crowd capacity for social and recreational gatherings to 50 people, effective 8 p.m. Monday, March 16.

This follows updated guidance that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Sunday, March 15, recommending the cancellation or postponement of in-person events consisting of 50 people or more.

The three governors also announced that restaurants and bars that serve food will be temporarily required to shift to take-out and delivery services only. Bars that do not serve food will be required to temporarily close.

These measures also took effect at 8 p.m. Monday.

Movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers and similar public workout facilities and studios will be closed. 

New York and New Jersey were to close commercial casinos effective at 8 p.m. Monday. Gov. Lamont will do the same for the state’s physical off-track betting facilities, noting their willingness to voluntarily close. Gov. Lamont and Gov. Cuomo are urging their tribal partners to close tribal casinos.

This uniform approach of social distancing is meant to slow the spread of the virus. “We must do everything we can as a community to slow the spread of this virus so that we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system and we protect the most vulnerable,” said Gov. Lamont.

Many town services and events are temporarily closed or canceled, including public school systems, the Watertown Library Association, Parks and Recreation activities, community center and senior services, the Gridiron Wing Competition and the Music For Awhile concert at Taft School. 

According to a message released by superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison, “while we still do not have any confirmed or active cases in the district, we are following the guidance of our local health department and taking the precautionary measures to keep students and staff safe.”

He said beginning Friday, March 13 to Friday, March 27, all Watertown Public Schools will be closed. 

Currently, students and staff are scheduled to return on Monday, March 30. However, if the local health department feels it is unsafe, families should be prepared for the potential of an extended school closing, said Dr. Harrison. 

There is currently a section on the Watertown public school system’s website regarding the virus and updates and resources. 

Those seeking additional information for the public school system’s virus updates and resources may visit https://pes.watertownps.org/o/watertown-public-schools/page/covid-19-updates--14.

The Watertown High School theater group’s musical production of “Grease” has been postponed and will possibly reschedule sometime in May. 

The Watertown High School Football’s third annual Gridiron Wing Competition has been postponed to Monday, August 10.

The Watertown Library at 470 Main St. in Watertown and the Oakville Branch Library at 55 Davis St. in Oakville are both closed. 

All programs, reading groups and other gatherings are canceled.

Fines on all library materials stopped accruing as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. 

Staff will reply to patrons’ emails to provide information and assist with remote services and eBooks. Those seeking additional information about the library may email reference@watertownlibrary.org

The library said they will continue to evaluate the situation and reopen when safety is assured. 

On Friday, March 13, the Parks and Recreation Department announced that all parks and recreation activities are canceled. 

“We regret the inconvenience these cancellations will cause but we always have to go on the side of public safety,” they said. 

These events include the Shamrock Shuffle, which is currently postponed and being rescheduled. 

Ongoing programs will resume as soon as facilities are accessible. The department said they can prorate refunds to anyone who does not choose to continue with their programs.

Those seeking additional information about the Parks and Recreation Department may call 860-945-5246.

The Falls Avenue Community Center and Senior Services announced that it was temporarily closed as a precautionary measure. The center said it will reopen when the public schools reopen.

The senior bus will run as usual with reservations being taken from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

The Meals-on-Wheels program at the center has been suspended during this time.

Those seeking additional information regarding Meals-on-Wheels may call New Opportunities, Inc. at 203-757-7738.

Those seeking additional information about the senior center may call 860-945-5250.

According to Bruce Fifer, head of the Arts Department at Taft School, the Music For Awhile concert, Art from the Heart, which was scheduled for Friday, March 27, has been canceled.

Those seeking additional information about Taft School may visit the school’s website at www.taftschool.org.

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