COVID Testing At Bedford: Health District Provides Details

Drive-through COVID-19 testing took place yesterday outside Bedford Middle School. The line of cars sparked rumors throughout town.

This morning, I spoke with Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper. He explained what happened.

Initial testing was done last week, the day after the WWHD learned of a party the prior weekend. The protocol followed any infectious disease outbreak — virus, food-borne illness, sexually transmitted disease — the WWHD becomes aware of. It includes both testing (to confirm a disease) and contact tracing (to notify anyone who might have been exposed).

“Over the next few days, we found that substantially more people had been at that party,” Cooper says. “And they went to other functions afterward.” The initial 40 people “quickly blossomed. Those numbers overwhelmed our ability to do contact tracing.”

Meanwhile, anxious Westporters kept calling the WWHD office on Bayberry Lane.

Yesterday’s tests at Bedford represented “the final efforts of the first part of our investigation.” The WWHD tested 72 people, though more had been notified of the testing.

Cooper surmises that some did not show up for testing because they had been tested elsewhere, while others may not have felt sick.

The tests were overnighted to a lab. Results will be available in 3 to 5 days.

In any infectious disease outbreak, the health district not only traces the illness; it monitors those who are infected. That includes daily calls by nurses to check on patients’ temperature.

The WWHD has brought in extra nurses to do that monitoring. There is, Cooper notes, a nurse shortage throughout the area.

“I know the community needs and wants more testing,” Cooper says. “We are talking with a private company about testing for symptomatic people, over the next 3 Tuesdays.”

When plans are finalized, he will announce the times, locations and more details.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right), with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

31 responses to “COVID Testing At Bedford: Health District Provides Details

  1. William Strittmatter

    Is “making false statements” to a health official investigating highly contagious virus a crime?

    Asking for a [not] friend.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Why do you think that someone made a false statement?

      The wording sounds like the additional contacts at the first party were 40, but then the exposure number “quickly blossomed,” as some of those 40 went to additional events and galas.

      • Elizabeth Thibault

        Ah I re-read and see “substantially more people had been at that party.”
        I guess we have to parse every statement now.

  2. Joyce Barnhart

    Dan, you’re doing a superb job keeping us up-to-date. Thank you.

  3. Amy Schneider

    I read that the WWHD was no longer doing testing. Was yesterday’s testing for the original group?

  4. Mark Samuels

    Is that photo of Jim Marpe and Mark Cooper recent? And if so, why are they not practicing social distancing? Also, every day or so we see the President and his experts all standing together telling the American people the importance of keeping 6 feet away from one another. Even our respected infectious disease guru, Anthony Fauci, is mingling with the others. Is it just me? Doesn’t anyone else find this strange?

  5. Sooo-z A. Mastropietro

    How can retired medical professionals (Certified Surgical Technologists) help out? In Gov. Lamont’s press release the other day, he made a plea for retired nurses to come back to work but there was no contact information. Here to help and practice sterile technique.

  6. Dermot Meuchner

    “ Substantially more people at that party”. That sound truthful to you?

  7. Werner Liepolt

    This is the World Health Organization’s definition of “contact tracing.”

    “Contact tracing

    Online Q&A
    May 2017

    What is contact tracing and why is it important?

    People in close contact with someone who is infected with a virus, such as the Ebola virus, are at higher risk of becoming infected themselves, and of potentially further infecting others.

    “Closely watching these contacts after exposure to an infected person will help the contacts to get care and treatment, and will prevent further transmission of the virus.

    “This monitoring process is called contact tracing, which can be broken down into 3 basic steps:

    “Contact identification: Once someone is confirmed as infected with a virus, contacts are identified by asking about the person’s activities and the activities and roles of the people around them since onset of illness. Contacts can be anyone who has been in contact with an infected person: family members, work colleagues, friends, or health care providers.

    “Contact listing: All persons considered to have contact with the infected person should be listed as contacts. Efforts should be made to identify every listed contact and to inform them of their contact status, what it means, the actions that will follow, and the importance of receiving early care if they develop symptoms. Contacts should also be provided with information about prevention of the disease. In some cases, quarantine or isolation is required for high risk contacts, either at home, or in hospital.

    “Contact follow-up: Regular follow-up should be conducted with all contacts to monitor for symptoms and test for signs of infection.”

    Roughly 70 people overwhelmed the WWHD?

  8. Werner, I can understand that. Think of how many people each of us interacts with every day: at work, school, the gym, the store, the post office, the bank, every other facet of daily life. Then add in that after that first party, some people went straight to other large functions (galas, art shows, I have heard other events too). The number of potential contacts seems amazingly high. I have no idea how many people work at WWHD, but I imagine it’s not a lot. Add to that all the other things they were doing — around the virus, and everything else — and I can see the problems.

    • Werner Liepolt

      Fair enough, Dan.

      I wonder if there aren’t many Westporters expert in marketing, statistics, computer software and the like who could help the WWHD set up a database that would un-overwhelm them. Though I don’t have the skills, I imagine there are Westporters who could even build as app that would facilitate medical personnel recording relevant contact information.

      • GREAT idea!

      • Carole Chinn

        I have hoped for coder solutions, too. Surely, some people in the US are working on it but we haven’t seen anything tangible yet.

        South Korea has many apps related to coronavirus efforts. I think for us, here, data would depend on “crowsdsourcing” the contact tracing (1st contacts need to enroll and tell 2nd contacts they’ve been exposed and should enroll, etc.). There are many issues to be resolved – e.g., privacy, data security, screening out fakes without divulging too much personal detail, feedback loops for who got tested and symptoms. Here we have a MoodMeter app which I think can go by location that fits with the what the public schools are doing for emotional intelligence, so why not an app for coronavirus status.

        Also, maybe there are those who speak/read Korean who could identify the apps that South Korea has and take the code and translate them where possible or adapt them to the US (or a small local area if the US is too daunting,)

        • Werner Liepolt

          Excellent reasoning and identification of possible strategies…. Sure hope some knowledgable folks are tuning in.

  9. Christian Hunter

    Why didn’t the Fed’s reverse course and ask the WHO for the same tests they had previously rejected once it was determined that we desperately need them, as well as gloves, masks etc…?
    Since so many positive patients are asymptomatic (such as some of the otherwise healthy NBA players, young people), how is it possible for us to to plan intelligently as society or as individuals without knowing if we have it, if we don’t or if we had it and recovered? Without comprehensive testing we are flying blind in the mountains at night. Come election day, the verdicts will be rendered, and this crosses the aisle: you don’t play politics with the health of the American people.

    • Bob Stalling

      The Fed did not “previously reject” test kits as you stated:

      And if you have any faith or confidence in Dr. Birx, here is what she said about it:
      “Because quality testing for our American people is paramount to us,” Birx said before suggesting that other tests have been inaccurate. “It doesn’t help to put out a test where 50% or 47% are false positives”
      “Imagine what that would mean to the American people,” she added. “Imagine their level of concern now in telling people that they’re false positive.”

      If you have any faith or confidence in DR. Fauci, here is what he said:
      “If you look back and Monday morning quarterback it would have been nice to have had a backup,” said Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “But what the CDC has done over many, many years when we have things like this is to develop their own test, which is always really a good test, and to roll it out in a way … where they give it to departments of public health.”

  10. A big shout out to Sam Holt (or whoever is behind that alias) that whistle blew there may have been 200+ at the party and the hostess was apparently lying to officials that there were only 40. I immediately forwarded to CT Dept of Health and WWHD. I am hoping someone let them know before me because I just happened to read it online. Part of me was thinking it might not be true but sounds like it was confirmed that there were “substantially more than” [40]!

  11. Dan, please continue your essential Corona virus coverage and keeping us up to date with phone #s ec. about where TESTiNG IS/ AND/ WILL TAKE PLACE IN WESTPORT. THANK YOU.

    • As soon as I hear something, I will let you know. Be sure to check the Westport Weston Health District website ( for updates too.

  12. Addison Armstrong

    While I understand and sympathize that people want to be tested, perhaps you might consider this: don’t change your behavior to avoid being infected. Assume you are infected, and change your behavior to avoid transmitting.

    • Testing is pointless for the average person

      You can have it but test can’t show it yet

      you can get it one minute after leaving the test site

      Pretend you have it and pretend everyone else has it

      Getting tested is probably a waste of time for 99%

  13. Michelle Benner

    “Contact listing: All persons considered to have contact with the infected person should be listed as contacts. Efforts should be made to identify every listed contact and to inform them of their contact status, what it means, the actions that will follow, and the importance of receiving early care if they develop symptoms. Contacts should also be provided with information about prevention of the disease. In some cases, quarantine or isolation is required for high risk contacts, either at home, or in hospital.”

    It bears repeating that there were children at this party we’re all talking about, students who are in Westport Public Schools. From what I’ve heard, every public school in Westport. The WWHD apparently did not release names and the schools did not send out notifications to parents that someone in our children’s classroom or school was exposed to the corona virus. As Paloma mentioned in a previous article, we get notifications when kids have lice or strep in the classroom, but when someone has been exposed to one of the most contagious viruses of the century, we’re left in the dark? It’s criminal. I’ve also heard that some people from this party went to Tavern on Main that following weekend, 3/7-3/8, so if you were there then, now you know. An SHS 10th grader’s father was at the party and tested positive. This student recently came down with symptoms and called friends just 2 days ago to let them know they might have been exposed. It’s no one’s fault that anyone gets this virus, but when we do, please PLEASE be socially responsible and broadcast wide and far where you’ve been and who you’ve been with. If these party people and the WWHD had let everyone know where they had been early on, more people could have isolated earlier and slowed this spread. Why was the WWHD complicit with this tight lipped group of people and their friends? I just don’t understand how people living in a community could be so silent about this. It feels creepy and morally bankrupt to me.

    Here’s what’s also bothering me: Why was this testing done on the down low for just this party and those who were found to be additional contacts? There are probably 100’s of other people in Westport who have this virus & its symptoms now, either from somewhere else or as a direct result from people who were exposed at this original party. It just feels like certain people are receiving preferential treatment. I feel the WWHD should make up for its failure to extensively contact trace and failure to publicly notify all of us of potential hotspots: the WWHD should open up testing to anyone with symptoms, not just a select 72.

  14. I assume this means that the number of cases in this country is much higher than we know, since people with symptoms can’t get tested…

    • Yes, that has been the assumption since the beginning. Chinas numbers could be 10-100x off. I am going to guess we have hundreds of thousands infected in the USA. Many will never feel a single symptom but can still spread it.

  15. Pamela J. Gray

    Why is/was there secrecy about the real numbers at this party? The throwing of the party after large gathering warnings were announced is a case of bad judgement, but somewhat forgivable – concealing numbers to save face/reputation at the risk of many lives is unconscionable and smacks of horrific entitlement. It seems probable that public officials or the like were present at this party – what would be being said if it was a gathering in Bridgeport or south Norwalk – there were be outrage and endless finger pointing – but somehow the narrative around this intentional mistruth of these privileged hosts and guests is never about the selfishness of the behavior.