“Covering” COVID In Westport

As we end the first week of our new, hunker-down normal, plenty of people have time on their hands.

Not to mention, Time on their hands.

The newsmagazine — which, honestly, I did not know still existed — has published a special online edition about the pandemic. There are 6 different covers.

The very first one shows a 51-year-old Stamford woman. As the text explains, she was infected at a Westport party.

When photographer Angela Strassheim went recently to visit Cheryl Chutter in Stamford, Conn., she was there not on assignment, but as a friend. Chutter, 51, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 17.

Chutter was on her first day of quarantine, and Strassheim had come by to leave some food for Chutter and her son outside the door. As she approached the house, she saw Chutter in the window wearing a face mask, and was struck by how powerfully the mask seemed to visually convey the frustration, fear and isolation her friend was feeling. Strassheim asked if she could take a quick photo on her iPhone, and came back the next day with her camera. “For me it sums up where we are at right now. We are all imprisoned in our homes and the window is like a mirror to look back at ourselves,” she says. “You are that same person in your own home whether you have the mask on or not.”

Chutter thinks she was infected when she attended a birthday party in Westport, Conn., in early March. About a week after the gathering, she learned that one of the attendees, who had recently traveled abroad, had tested positive for COVID-19. By then, she had already been once to a hospital and once to an urgent care facility due a high fever, chills, body aches and utter exhaustion. But it was only after she discovered she’d been in contact with someone at the party who was diagnosed with COVID-19 that she was able to get a test, since kits were so scarce.

When she finally received her positive test result on March 17—after eight days in quarantine—she said one word: “Relief, I felt relief. I knew now that my dad can get tested. I just want to be safe. I want to take care of my son, be considerate to other people and I don’t want to leave my house till quarantine is over.” Since the party, 20 attendees have tested positive.

Entering her second week of quarantine, Chutter is trying to stay positive, but the social isolation—especially the forced estrangement from her son—is emotionally challenging. “I was told to have as little contact with my son as possible,” she says. “I can’t prepare meals for him. I wear a mask and gloves in the house. I can’t be near him.” —Paul Moakley and Alice Park

(For this, and Time’s other stories on coronavirus victims, click here. Hat tip: A dozen-plus readers.)

6 responses to ““Covering” COVID In Westport

  1. As the continued reports are peering the onion of the now infamous birthday party, I think the residents of our town should send a hearty thank-you note to the gentleman in SouthAfrica whose diagnosis set the town in motion to combat the virus. Think about how much worse it would be if nobody sounded the alarm! While nobody here is serious and everyone is complacent and turned a blind eye to an invisible disaster, at least there is an outside who can get access to test and earned the town!

  2. It’s time to stop blaming the infamous birthday party hosts. The virus would have been well established in Westport by now anyway. No one is at fault. I hope everyone has put away the pitchforks.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with the two previous comments. This isn’t about pointing fingers, its about getting to work to mitigate transmission … and the only effective way so far has been EXTENSIVE TESTING, TRACKING and ISOLATION of confirmed and suspected cases! We can’t let anyone tell us we can’t do the three things required to mitigate spread. Lives depend upon this happening. It is not optional.

    • Russell Gontar

      Right. Exactly what should have happened in January but the President didn’t want to hear about it. As I write, he is refusing to use his powers to require industry to immediate start manufacturing ventilators and masks need at every hospital in the country. This is a job for the federal government.

      God help us all.

  4. Sharon R. Follmer

    If Mr. Gontar wants to lash out at what’s not being done, how about focusing on the Fl beaches that are still open and swarming with college kids who could care less about any of this. The President clearly stated that he has not needed to “require” industry to manufacture ventilators, they are DOING IT VOLUNTARILY. How unique…doing the right thing without being mandated.

    • Russell Gontar

      Maybe the rlorida epublican governor can do his job and order all beaches closed. But he hasn’t. Too bad those kids are going to decampt to grandma’s house. Sure hope she has plently of bud light in the fridge. And no, there is no mass manufacturing of the personal protective equipment going on despite what you suggest. Apple, microsoft, google, Ford, GM, etc are not producing squat. Any other president would have declared war on this virus upon first hearing about it. And this one did not.