Health District: Advice On Small Gatherings, Doctors’ Calls, Testing And More

An alert — and concerned — “06880” reader emailed: “With kids home, parents have no idea whether or not they (or adults for that matter) should be getting together, going to other people’s homes, etc. Do you know the answer?”

I called Mark Cooper, director of health for the Westport Weston Health District. In between meetings and calls, he took time to reply.

Cooper said, “We need society to keep going. We can’t prohibit everything. 

“Use common sense. If you or your child is sick or has symptoms, you need serious self-isolation. But if someone is healthy, there should be no problem associating with a few others who are healthy.

“COVID-19 is in our community. It can be anywhere. The reality is, most people will be exposed to it. Eat healthy, get enough sleep — and if you feel bad, isolate yourself or your children.”

Cooper also asked me to tell “06880” readers: “If you have symptoms, don’t just visit your doctor. Call ahead first. Make sure they have equipment, like test kits and protective and equipment. The waiting room may be crowded. You need to call first, rather than just show up.”

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper spoke at yesterday’s press conference, in front of Town Hall.

In addition, Cooper passed along this message. It’s also posted on the WWHD website.

Things change quickly. Just a few days ago the community was discussing containment. Today we need to discuss what to do now that it is here.

What began as a private celebratory party of about 40 family and friends became the focal point in the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. As of now, it appears about 14 of the 40 attendees have developed flu-like symptoms. Such cases are to be considered COVID-19, even though there are still active cases of the seasonal flu. Confirmation testing results are needed to be 100% sure.

The private party was held on Thursday evening. The index case developed mild symptoms on Sunday evening, and the first report came to the Health District mid-morning on Wednesday.

This could happen to anyone and anywhere people congregate and interact. This virus will spread unless everyone diligently practices the simple and effective control measures of  washing your hands, covering your cough, keeping sick children home from daycare and school, not touching your face — and doing this every day and everywhere, until the virus runs its course.

The virus has already spread from the initial introduction point in Westport to 14 new points, who then again potentially passed it on to about 14 new points, each. It is beyond trying to track who has been exposed and monitoring them for 2 weeks, to see if they develop symptoms to make sure they don’t pass it on. It would be like trying to determine who knows who and who may have seen whom when. That is no longer an efficient use of resources. Contact tracing usually involves 2 or 3 people with a limited number of cases. This has grown exponentially.

Although the official recommendation is that all gatherings and/or public events where more than 100 participants are expected be delayed, it is now clear that much smaller private events can be a significant contributor to community spread.

Getting together is in our human nature and can still be done, but everyone needs to go above and beyond the normal effort to keep everyone safe, at least until this virus runs its course.

No one is better able to safeguard yourself, loved ones, and friends than you. And each and every one of us. Otherwise, the only other option for anyone who wants to reduce the risk of community exposure, is to just stay home.

Chronic and convalescent nursing homes and rest homes with nursing supervision have been directed to impose restrictions on all visitors except when a current health state (e.g., end-of-life care) is in question.

Daycare centers should also immediately begin to restrict visitors, and strictly enforce employee and child sick policies — with no exceptions. Child daycare services are an essential service for people who have young children and need to go to work, so each daycare needs to carefully consider whether they need to close preemptively. An outbreak of the virus in such a setting will likely result in mandatory closure.

The Westport Weston Health District continues to work to obtain test kits and begin testing those who have COVID-19 symptoms. If you have symptoms and would like to be placed on a list to be screened for testing, call 203-227-9571, ext. 237. Leave you name and telephone number. A nurse will return your call as soon as possible.

Testing needs to be prioritized. The results will not influence recommendations for you to follow, so please be patient. We will get to everyone as efficiently as possible.

If someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is a confirmed case, the recommendation is to stay home, wear protective face covering if contact with other people is at all probable, and get plenty of rest to help the recovery process. If you feel the need to go to the hospital, please contact your healthcare provider or 911.

Patients who are ill, but not critically so, should stay home. If they are at high risk for having contracted coronavirus, they should reach out to their physicians by phone or email. They can then contact the state Department of Public Health, and get advice as to whether they should be tested or just isolate themselves at home.

Anyone experiencing severe symptoms or other respiratory distress should seek medical help. Do not go to your primary health care provider. Call first, or go to the hospital.

Self-isolation is indicated for any person who has had direct contact with any person known to have COVID-19 and/or experiences any flu-like symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms.

This is a very fluid and fast-moving situation. The Health District will continue to work with the town, state Health Department and CDC to reduce the impact to the community.

The Westport Weston Health District continues to have a limited supply of the seasonal flu vaccine for anyone wanting to be vaccinated. Call the Health District office at 203-227-9571, to schedule an appointment.

For COVID-19 questions, the state has partnered with United Way for a hotline. Call 211, or text “CTCOVID” to 898211.

11 responses to “Health District: Advice On Small Gatherings, Doctors’ Calls, Testing And More

  1. michelle benner

    Everyone Please Read this Article, It Can Save Lives: Social Distancing Must Start Now:

    Also, Gov. Ned Lamont has asked all state and private employees to work from home if possible:

  2. I’m trying to remember where I heard these words “if everyone stayed home who had a cold, we could cure it.” I don’t think it’s asking too much to be extra careful and hunker down (like a snow storm) for a couple of weeks to see if we can stem the tide of this thing. So far I think we are doing great! We have to stick together and all do our part!

  3. Joyce Barnhart

    I think the advice is not quite complete – yes, call ahead to your doctor. But don’t just go to the hospital – call ahead to them, too. I was a volunteer in the Emergency Department Waiting Lounge at Norwalk Hospital for many years and I know that if you call ahead the staff can prepare for you, both for your well-being and the safety of others. Martha R., are you out there to add to this comment?

  4. Stacy Prince

    “Use common sense. If you or your child is sick or has symptoms, you need serious self-isolation. But if someone is healthy, there should be no problem associating with a few others who are healthy.”


    Michelle (above) is right: Check out that article. NOW is the time to act.

  5. Sharing the concerns of Stacy and Michelle. Unnerved by aspects of the district’s advice. What about spreading Covid-19 when you are asymptomatic and feel healthy – and potentially to those for whom the virus poses a severe risk? An additional read which feels vital:

  6. I know we don’t WANT to stay home, but in these unprecedented times, please stay home, do a project at home, learn something new, make a different meal…. Resist the urge to be in big gatherings. I know it is hard, not in our nature, but must happen…

  7. Alex Wennberg

    Wow! This is the top public health official we have, and he thinks assuming anyone not visibly showing symptoms is safe to be around? With advice like that he is setting us on a course towards lockdown like Italy. Early action limiting any unnecessary contact is what is going to stop this, not small social gatherings among people not known to be ill. What a fool.

  8. Dan, please update the message from Westport/Weston Health District. They are now advising self-isolation and refraining from gatherings.

    What we have learned so far about COVID19 is that it is highly transmissible even in small groups. One does not have to “hug and kiss” to become infected. Just talking to someone that is infected, in close proximity, even someone without outward symptoms, can get one infected. It is already happening in our community.

    Now that COVID19 is in the community you should assume that it is just about everywhere, because it can, and most likely is.

    Social gatherings, large and small are discouraged until the virus has run its course. Those who continue to congregate without appropriate personal protective equipment and do not diligently practice the simple protective measures of washing hands, etc, – are the ones who will be getting sick.

  9. facts: we dont know a whole lot. testing has not ramped up. borders should have been shut down weeks ago. we do know those that are asymptomatic can transmit. some reports the past couple days indicate this is airborne and can linger in the air for three hours. so its very easily transmissible. if you think you had an exposure, isolate! if you dont feel well, even thinking its a cold, isolate! great advice about calling ahead before going to doctor’s offices or hospital. i believe the hospitals are setting up testing tents/sites. they do not want you to come to the hospital right away unless you are having a life threatening situation.

  10. Mary Beth Murray

    The National Guard will be visiting Westport, CT., shortly.

    Common sense, not many have it!!!

    Please realize that everyone(s) actions can affect others who may have compromised immune systems: (cancer patients, folks with heart conditions, folks with asthma issues, etc.)

    Be part of the solution not adding to pandemic!!!

    Although one may think they are healthy, they may not even show signs for the first two days or can be a carrier.
    Here’s a great site to check out:

    Stay safe and be kind!