About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Conn., to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.
Then they scattered.
The Westport soirée — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers — more than half of whom are now infected — left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.
Westport, a town of 28,000 on the Long Island Sound, did not have a single known case of the coronavirus on the day of the party. It had 85 on Monday, up more than 40-fold in 11 days.
That’s the start. The story ends …
The first partygoer to be diagnosed passed word from Johannesburg to Westport that he had fully recovered and even planned to go for a jog.
“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.”
(To read the story on the New York Times website, click here.)