South Africa Newspaper Reports On Westport Coronavirus

I never thought that “06880” would link to a paper in Johannesburg.

Then again, I never thought our schools would close, our economy would crater, and we’d all practice “social distancing,” because of a virus.

On Sunday, the Times — South Africa’s largest newspaper — published a story headlined “Joburg businessman who tested positive for coronavirus speaks out.”

In it, the “middle-aged” man describes his trip through Dubai to Connecticut; his attendance at a Westport party (called “an international reunion of friends and family”); his return home not realizing he had been infected, and his experience since then.

According to a chart in the paper, there were 38 reported cases in South Africa on Sunday. Here is the story, by reporter Bobby Jordan:

It was supposed to be an international reunion of friends and family. Instead a Johannesburg business person came back from the US with Covid-19 and to an anxious wait to see if he had infected his family.

The middle-aged man, who is in self-quarantine at home, told the Sunday Times yesterday that he had almost fully recovered but would observe the 14-day quarantine rule before being tested again to see if he is virus-free.

His ordeal began during his journey via Dubai to Connecticut, though he only began feeling sick on the return trip.

“I started feeling a little bit otherwise [on the plane] but I thought nothing untoward because I had been travelling,” said the man from his study, where he communicates via WhatsApp video with his family in the rest of the house.

“But in the back of the head there’s the thought that it [Covid-19] is possible.”

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, he alerted his doctor, who advised him to take precautions.

“He said he doubted it was corona – America wasn’t considered a high-risk zone – but his suggestion was not to go near anybody and to stay isolated, so that’s what I did.”

He commandeered his daughter’s room and his study area as a quarantine zone.

(Image courtesy of Nolo Moima/Deepika Naidoo)

 

The following day he felt worse. “I thought it was good old man flu, so I phoned the doctor. He examined me and sent me to the lab for a test.

“Then I went straight back home, back into isolation; 24 hours later the test came back positive. I have remained in isolation ever since.”

The man’s wife has tested negative and his children are showing no signs of ill-health. He said his own symptoms have disappeared to the point that under normal circumstances he would have returned to work.

“My study has a glass window through to the rest of the house – it is a bit like a comedy.”

He said he was still unclear how he had been infected but suspects it could have been during his flight transfer in Dubai.

“There were a lot of people at the party and there’s no way of knowing who gave it or got it or had it – I could speculate till the cows come home. People were coming in from all parts of America.” He said the party had been held in Westport, Connecticut.

US media this week reported on a school shutdown and other emergency health measures in Westport due to a suspected outbreak of Covid-19 stemming from a party in the town on March 5.

“Forty people, including children, were at the party, and 14 are currently experiencing flu-like symptoms,” said the report in WestportNow.com.

It was unclear whether the party mentioned in the report is the same one attended by the Johannesburg man.

“I don’t believe I’m the problem anymore,” he told the Sunday Times.

“It seems that the real problem is now the people who are too scared to say anything. The problem is the ignorance of the public and the ostracism which will ensue because of people being ignorant, and which will cause more people to stay silent about their infection.”

(Click here to read the story on the Sunday Times website.)

30 responses to “South Africa Newspaper Reports On Westport Coronavirus

  1. I’m interested in the responses on this one..

  2. I am interested in what Sam Holt posted in the other thread: the hostess is lying and there weren’t only 40 people at the party – instead 2-300!

    • William Strittmatter

      Oddly, Sam Holt’s comments seem to have disappeared, presumably removed by Dan. Fake news, fake name, or Dan trying to prevent mob from forming?

      • I took down that comment, because of the uproar it caused on other social media. This story (above) is from the biggest newspaper in South Africa, so hopefully it will not cause the same reaction.

        • If Sam Holt is correct. Dan you should follow that story, because the members of this community are in distress over the story and the lack of communication in this town. So I hope the person wrote back and shared more… there is no HiPA when I get emails that kids in our classes have lice or strep throat,.. yet one of the deadliest virus humanity has encountered and we get no information .
          It’s appalling

          • Mark Bachmann

            This virus is serious and must be combated, but it it NOT “one of the deadliest viruses humanity has encountered”! Most people are recovering from it.

      • Michelle Benner

        Thank you Dan for posting this story.

        Yes:
        “It seems that the real problem is now the people who are too scared to say anything. The problem is the ignorance of the public and the ostracism which will ensue because of people being ignorant, and which will cause more people to stay silent about their infection.”

        It seems that has been the problem all along.
        People were and are silent for whatever reason and it has risked and continues to risk the lives of thousands. We should have been told what schools, grades, pods, sports and gyms the exposed party people attended. So much more could have been done last week to help slow the spread. It is such a shame the WWHD chose to irresponsibly withhold this information from the public. Names and identities are not important, but rather where these people were when they were shedding the virus after having been exposed at this party.

        Another problem is the WWHD telling people that if they are sick they can go out. Our communication this afternoon states the following:

        “Those who tested positive for COVID-19 are being advised to practice strict voluntary isolation. They are instructed not to go out, but to stay home. If they require something and must go out, they should do so during times there are fewer people out. Masks and gloves should be worn so as not to spread the virus.”

        If they must go out??? Has the WWHD lost it’s collective mind? Anyone with the virus absolutely MUST NOT go out! Can the WWHD please put in place a protocol for those who test positive? Mandatory self isolate for at least two weeks after the virus runs it’s course and home services set up to bring them necessities if they don’t have other resources, friends or family to help.

        • Agree Michelle . It’s appalling the way this town is dealing with this. And honestly if it was a party of 200 vs 40. Shame on the first selectman.

          Knowing the schools not only helps us protect our direct families, but co-workers, the elderly around us…

  3. This situation is appalling, shameful and utterly unacceptable. This is not a private matter — our entire town has been endangered and lives are at stake. Marpe, the WWHD, and the family who hosted the infamous party must come clean. We are entitled to know, specifically, what schools, sports teams, clubs, businesses, places of worship, restaurants, etc. the party attendees subsequently exposed to the virus. My personal belief is that Marpe’s office should release this information by the close of business
    today. We have a right to know.

    • Larry Weisman

      I don’t think it is the responsibility of Mr. Marpe or the town to reveal names. This is not a time to run the risk of “shaming”. I do think, however, that if those who attended the party in question feel that it would be helpful to the community to know who they are, (and I’m not sure whether or not it would be), they should voluntarily come forward and identify themselves.

      • Michelle Benner

        I disagree, Larry.
        As Paloma said, and I agree: We get emails that kids in our classes have lice or strep throat, yet one of the deadliest virus humanity has encountered and we get no information. It’s appalling.

        With our penchant for secret keeping and with our inability to step up and bravely lead in this state, Westport is endangering the lives of it’s citizens and neighbors. It is a moral and social obligation to isolate and keep each other informed. The WWHD should be ramping up testing, not pulling the plug like it did yesterday. The WWHD should be insisting that those who test positive must stay home for at least two weeks. south korea’s numbers are leveling and decreasing because of extensive contact tracing and extensive testing. The WWHD and the federal government have failed us all on both of these accounts.

        • Bob Stalling

          “yet one of the deadliest virus humanity has encountered”
          The good news (for lack of a better term) is that as of yesterday, the COVID19 related deaths reported in the State of Connecticut is “0” (fingers crossed)
          If we all use common sense and follow guidelines, maybe, just maybe, it can stay that way.
          And don’t forget, these practices should also keep down the spread of influenza in our area, which has killed 68 people in Connecticut as of March 7th.
          Could be more, but for some reason the Connecticut Department of Public Health hasn’t updated their “weekly” report since that date….perhaps they’re waiting on test results to differentiate between influenza and COVID19?

    • Honestly, its too late, won’t matter or help to know where the exposures were. Everyone should be at home isolating and treating everyone else they encounter as positive. I do think if the party really had 200+ people and the hostess lied about it to the authorities / health departments, the hostess should be named, maybe it will leak out.

  4. Larry, I was not suggesting the names of the people should be released. That is irrelevant. I was suggesting we are entitled to know which groups, places, and organizations those people frequent so we can, in turn, know who among us is at greater risk. All health experts around the world have stressed that the single, most effective way to prevent to spread of this virus is to isolate those who have the highest likelihood of having been exposed. The goal is not to shame anyone…the goal is to protect people and save lives.

    • Michelle Benner

      I agree Jim. Names are not important but only the places where exposed people are shedding the virus.
      This story is not about blame but about accountability and social responsibility.

    • Larry Weisman

      Maybe I miss the point and, if so, it will only be the first of many times I’m likely to do that today; it’s still early. But if those who attended the party were to reveal with whom they had contact, wouldn’t that necessarily begin by revealing the names of others who were at the party?

      • Here is what I said and stand by:

        We are entitled to know, specifically, what schools, sports teams, clubs, businesses, places of worship, restaurants, etc. the party attendees subsequently exposed to the virus.

        Not names of people…names of groups, paces, and organizations.

    • Larry Weisman

      Maybe I’m missing the point. If so it is likely to be only the first of several times I will do that today; after all, it’s still early. But if those who attended the party were to reveal those with whom they had contact, would that not necessarily involve naming others who were there as well?

      • Larry, I appreciate what you are saying, but I think that “shaming” is the least of our concerns in the face of a deadly pandemic. This is more of a HIPPA issue, I would think. Within that context…

        What *would* be appropriate and would protect people would be to identify individual streets where the positive testing residents reside and the schools and grades that the positive testing students attend.

        Everyone should act smart, but it is helpful to have an idea as to whether you or a family member has had anything in the way of direct contact (despite WWHD’s kick-the-can approach of “assume you’ve had contact”).

    • Agree with you Jim (and Michelle) and for the record, nobody is planning to shame anyone. Shame on those who think that way.
      This is a moment to collaborate and communicate. And we are not the only ones in westport who need to be careful, most of the workers on stores, supermarkets, schools, do not live in town. And they also need to be aware of the hot spots. We have teachers who may have vulnerable immune systems or taking care of elderly.
      Transparency does not mean a list of names, it means sharing locations, critical classes (grades impacted).
      Thank you

  5. So grateful that man was tested!!
    Can you imagine if he hadn’t?
    There is no shame. There is no blame. The virus was already here. He probably got it here in Westport! Or on MetroNorth!

  6. Dick Lowenstein

    Here’s a lesson from Tom Lehrer on the subject:


    ,
    A little needed levity.
    ,

  7. What was going on at Bedford school with the police, tents, and hazmat suits? I thought testing in Westport was discontinued?

  8. Nancy Ippolito

    Hi Dan, We are new to your blog. We have been following this story from other news sources including: the WWHD, local representatives, several local newspapers and our Selectman. All towns are reporting their local numbers but Westport is refusing to provide its residents with specific Westport numbers and the extent of community spread. The only response we received was from the Selectman who made a generic statement that “numbers do not matter and they do not receive the numbers from the state on the town”. This seems unbelievable to us. Fairfield County has 71% of Connecticut cases and we to believe that Westport represents over 70% of these. The news sources also seem to evade the question. Is there a cover up? I am not asking for the identity of the individuals involved, only the numbers. We are very suspicious that we are the next New Rochelle. It seems half the town is informed of a party where there was a specific and serious incident but the other residents are kept in the dark? A Dr. Choi a Westport resident a Yale University Associate Dean says Westport is the ground zero of Connecticut but we don’t need to be informed?

    • Thanks, Nancy. There seem to be continued rumors about the number of people at the original party — though it also seems COVID-19 was here before that. People were sick for a couple of weeks before that, and may have had mild cases of the virus. There continue to be many unknowns.

      • Nancy Ippolito

        Thanks Dan, but why the secrecy of the positive numbers in Westport ? They only released the updated numbers this evening to 42. It seems that they had to know about the number of positives before this. Seems reactionary because all of the articles now exposing the problem we have here. Dr Choi from Yale calls Westport “ ground zero of Connecticut “

      • Nancy Ippolito

        WESTPORT, CT — Hundreds of Westporters were likely infected with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in early March before local health officials learned that there was a potential outbreak of the virus in town, according to Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper.

        Health officials first learned on March 11 of the potential that 40 people from a March 5 private party in town may have exposed to the virus, but soon discovered that significantly more people were at the event and potentially exposed.

        “As the situation unfolded, it quickly became clear that there were more than only 40 people involved,” Cooper wrote on the health district’s website. “The initial round of testing on March 12th did not capture everyone on the initial list of people, so, in an effort to get ahead of the virus, WWHD scheduled a second round of testing. This round was completed on March 18, 2020. Those tested will be contacted by WWHD clinical staff once results are back from the lab.”

        As of Thursday, 42 people in Westport have tested positive for COVID-19, according to First Selectman Jim Marpe, and he expects the number to rise. It more than doubled from March 16 to March 19.

        Added Cooper, “Potential exposures were many hundreds before it was even reported to the WWHD. Although our efforts could not contain the virus, the information obtained (20 initial positive test results from March 12th testing) was important because it demonstrated that the virus was, in fact, in our community.”

        Subscribe
        Because more testing is still needed, local officials have arranged for additional community testing exclusively for residents of Westport and Weston.

        Murphy Medical Associates, a private company, will offer drive-thru test collection on the following dates/times:

        Tuesday, March 24, 2000
        8:30AM – 12:00PM
        Bedford Middle School
        88 North Ave.
        Westport, CT

        Tuesday March 31, 2020
        8:30AM to 12:00PM
        Bedford Middle School
        88 North Ave.
        Westport, CT

        Tuesday, April 7, 2020
        8:30AM – 12:00PM
        Bedford Middle School
        88 North Ave.
        Westport, CT

        “These will be in car testing,” officials said. “Everyone must stay in their cars. Pre-registration is required. Visit http://www.coronatestct.com or call 203-658-6051 to learn more and begin the screening process.”

        Additionally, there are also other testing opportunities around the state, some of which are listed

        This was just posted by The Westport Patch and is disclosing more of what has transpired in this Town. It was and is unacceptable for this information to have been kept secret since March 11. We are only being informed because the information is now getting out. I passed by the WWHD and saw and took photo’s of the outdoor testing held several weeks ago. I checked with the WHHD who did not respond. Well, now we are ground zero and we Could have provided more protection for those inside and outside of our community.