Former Westporter’s Early Infection Spread Rapidly

With so many stories — and news sources — about COVID-19, “06880” is trying to limit coverage to stories with a direct connection to Westport. So why am I reprinting this Los Angeles Times story?

Because the subject of the story — a man in his 50s — is a former Westporter. The ominous headline is “How One Man’s Coronavirus Infection Created a Web of Potential Infection Around the World.” Here’s Noah Bierman’s report:

Contracting the new strain of coronavirus was stressful enough for one Washington, D.C., aerospace consultant. But tracking down and calling the people he came into contact with may have been just as bad.

“Are you sitting down? I got bad news,” he told people at least a dozen times.

The consultant was diagnosed Friday (March 13) with the illness, one among the early waves of known cases in the United States. And his efforts to call people around the country and around the world — including some within the highest reaches of government — illustrate how far a single individual can potentially spread the virus.

His calls caused factories to shut down, airlines and a ski van service to contact everyone on their manifests, a hotel to draft a letter sent to their guests, and congressional advisors and officials in the Israeli government to consider who they might need to call.

In a phone interview Sunday (March 15), he said he was suffering from painful coughing and shortness of breath. His wife has been feverish.

The consultant asked that his name not be used to protect the privacy of his clients. But he agreed to tell his story as a warning for others to listen to government admonitions and follow social distancing guidelines.

The story talks about his attendance at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, then going to a pro hockey game followed by a 5-day ski vacation in Vail. Then he got on a plane, and started coughing….

This is not the former Westporter.

When he got the news, he had to tell people: Israeli officials, congressional offices, his hotel and van service in Vail …

The hotel sent a letter to their guests. The van service said it had expected a call like his and was prepared to make calls to the 10 people or so from around the country who rode through the mountains with the contagious consultant. The company that gave him the hockey tickets had to shut down their factory to test employees, as did other businesses he interacted with.

 

When he reached people, after an initial silence, they were understanding, much to his relief.

“Politics didn’t matter when I spoke with these people,” he said. “We get it. We’re going to try to do the right thing.”

The hospital told him to call ahead if he needed to return, so they could set up an isolation room with respiratory equipment.

“I think a lot of people have it and don’t know it, people who have been turned away,” he said. “The symptoms are flu-like, and you don’t have to be that sick.

“They only tested me because of the fact that I went to a big conference and I pushed the issue with them,” he added.

Like many Americans, he is already weary of the isolation.

“I feel like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining.’ I’m about to snap with this cabin fever.”

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

6 responses to “Former Westporter’s Early Infection Spread Rapidly

  1. Well, what do you know, someone doing the right thing and alerting those he had contact with. Maybe he was “looking at this all wrong” and should have instead “moved on” like our local officials do in Westport.

  2. Wendy Cusick

    Dan, this is your blog. You post what you want.
    I appreciate this information you post. Don’t limit if you think it’s informative then post it.
    It’s rare some stories (over the past 11 years) don’t catch my interest or whatever. Guess what I do, I just glance at it and scroll by.
    If others complain about a post. They can hold they’re tongue or fingers in this case and just scroll on by.

  3. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    Dan, thanks for posting an example of EXACTLY what should have taken place IMMEDIATELY after that now infamous and nationally admonished Westport “party”.
    No stigmatization when the correct responsible thing is done. The failure of those party attendees to immediately come forward, and Westport leadership’s active enabling of that silence should be addressed by Town residents, including at the ballot box. Epidemiologic contact tracing which is of paramount importance becomes severely compromised the more time that passes, to the point of becoming impossible.

    Can anyone say with definity that the Mary Roman death in Norwalk did not stem from that party, or even might not have been prevented with meticulous tracing and comprehensive public notification?

    There are real consequences for irresponsible action that go beyond statistics.

    However that virus has left the petri dish so to speak. At this point Westport must focus on comprehensive public information and implenting preventative actions. I wrote about the importance of not relying upon 6 feet of distancing as being sufficiently protective and taking surface transmission seriously. Other measures have been implemented elsewhere to mitigate contact inside supermarkets including limitation of patrons and one way isles.

    Taking appropriate comprehensive personal protection and holding Town officials responsible are not mutually exclusive. However at this time the former is more important than the latter.

    • Wendy Cusick

      Woah…. Mary Roman died!
      She’s the senior Olympian and former city clerk of Norwalk City Hall.
      Let me go look that up…

  4. We know the man about whom this article was written. So proud of his hugely responsible reaction! But, no surprise. Always was a good kid!
    He is in our thoughts and prayers,