COVID Creeps Back Into Town

A reader writes:

I woke up this morning to an email from Longshore Sailing School. They said they will be closed today, because one of their employees tested positive for the coronavirus. All staff will get tested today.

I am freaking out, because my son was there Monday and Tuesday. I’m not sure if he was exposed or not.

More importantly, this is how the spread happens again. This was the first week we sent my son out to an organized activity since March (we quarantined until last weekend). I will be so upset if he turns out to be positive from this.

I am very worried because my elderly parents live with us.

Many people were partying and not being safe over the July 4th weekend. Now the virus may spike again in our town.

Of course our family will get tested this morning to be safe.

The reader followed up an hour later with this:

I talked to my son’s doctor this morning. She said the problem is if someone got exposed, it may not show up as positive for a week. So if he tests today he could get a false negative.

She said this will be a problem with kids going back to school in the fall. Norwalk summer school opened this week. Then a teacher tested positive, and they have now shut down for the remainder of the week.

If this happens when school opens, what will they do? Will they shut down every time?

This should be a really good discussion. I don’t think anyone has a clear decision at this point about what to do.

32 responses to “COVID Creeps Back Into Town

  1. Erin Loranger

    My son was there this session too. I think it is critical that LSS tell parents what section the instructor taught so that those families can self-quarantine. Likewise, when school opens, the school needs to be much more transparent than they were last Spring and notify the parents in the specific class where the infection occurred (like they already do for Strep and lice) so those families can self-quarantine. And I agree, having the rest of the staff tested today will give nothing but a false sense of security as the transmission will not be identifiable this early.

  2. Alexis Senoski

    While this is unfortunate, haven’t they said all along that until there is a vaccine (and even with a vaccine) there will be cases? We just make sure to respond exactly like this and shut down for a period and quarantine the people who were grouped with the person diagnosed? It’s definitely not ideal, but it’s the world we are in if we want to leave the house. We also continue to reinforce the importance of wearing a mask.

  3. The Westport Public Schools have teams of educators working hard on a plan. They get the best up-to-the minute information and advice possible from a wide variety of professionals inlcuding many residents of Westport. They certainly are paying attention to what parents and students are thinking and feeling. I plan to be patient and wait for our educators to present their plans. Onward!

  4. There is no completely safe way to reopen things, so its all about balancing risk and reward. It will be messy, with schools likely opening and closing multiple times over the next year. We all unfortunately will need to get used to this process.

  5. Melissa Augeri

    First of all, I hope the employee stays as healthy as possible and anyone else who may test positive.
    This is our new reality and unless we plan to stay home indefinitely, we have to expect this – even if it’s uncomfortable and unsettling. Every time we leave the house, there’s a risk. Let’s do the best we can and act with compassion and respect.

  6. I just wanted to show some support for Longshore Sailing School because we received the same email. James is taking Sailing 4 and I kayak/paddle board. We have been there this week too.

    I emailed them right away and they got back to me quickly. The positive case is not a teacher. My guess is it is a cleaning person, office person or handyman. Whoever it is they have limited access to the kids. They have been working on opening since April, I believe and they have done a beautiful job. Every student has a place that is marked for them while they are in class. All the gear is sanitized as it comes off the water with a canister and wand type tool. The life vests are sanitized and hung to dry on the fence. Only 1 person is allowed at a time in the office and they must be masked. The line is marked out the door with tape. There is a big jug of hand sanitizer. All of the teachers and staff wear masks all day. They say they would appreciate if kids would but from what I have seen – no kids are wearing masks. This is what is upsetting.

    The first day James didn’t wear one. Yesterday he wore one. It is just respectful to the teachers and common sense says it will be safer.

    Anyway, they have worked very hard and keeping it safe.

    I am guessing that whoever the staff member is they may sit in the office upstairs or come in at off hours.

  7. Jane Pimentel, Longshore Sailing School

    A member of our Longshore Sailing staff was tested on a Monday the 6th and diagnosed with COVID on Tuesday July 7th. This employee is not an instructor nor do they work inside our office. We notified all current families as soon as we were informed. We are also reaching out to all students that have been at our facility over the last three weeks.

    ServPro will be at our facility today doing a full sanitation of our facility and equipment. After speaking with the Westport/Weston Health District, it was concluded that we are going above the requirements of the State of Connecticut OEC Coronavirus Memo #18 regarding Youth Camp Guidance. We will do our very best to continue to provide updates as they come.

    Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

  8. Bill Strittmatter

    I understand there may be HIPAA rules about identifying individuals but under contact tracing rules, one would think it would be mandatory to let the individual kids, if any, that were exposed to the person know (like they did with the rest of the staff) so they could appropriately self quarantine and get tested after incubation period.

    I can only hope they have done the right thing and have already informed those potentially directly exposed which would mean this person’s child should be OK. But you would think that they would have clearly communicated that policy to minimize unnecessary worry and panic.

    • Jane Pimentel, Longshore Sailing School

      Good Morning-

      We have contacted all families of those that may have had contact with our COVID positive staff member. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

      Thank you

    • Robert Harrington

      And so the Westport shaming begins… “why are parents in such a rush to send their kids to sailing school?”.

      Please.

      Longshore Sailing School has been doing an amazing job and takes very good precautions. I have been there multiple times and it’s one person in the office and mask are worn etc. The instructors all wear masks.

      I will continue to sail there and will happily send my kids their for camp in August.

      If you can’t take the very modest risk then stay at home.

  9. Michael Isaacs

    Was it so urgent for parents to send their kids to sailing school? They couldn’t have a quiet summer at home so as to basically guarantee safety from the virus? I go to the Y, which is doing a great job with the indoor facility. It is usually mostly empty. When I leave I see the summer campers. None of them are wearing masks, which is in direct conflict from the CDC’s stating that all children over age 2 should wear masks when interacting with others. The counselors have masks on, and all the kids and counselors interact closely, especially when they are waiting to be picked up. Would it be surprising if there was an outbreak from this? Connecticut residents have basically done a great job wearing masks, social distancing, etc. But when you allow yourself or your kids to interact with others there is a chance for trouble.

    • My guess is the same reason you are going to the gym right now, for mental and physical health. Kids need it now more then ever. Indoor facilities are a larger problem regardless of measures in place.

    • Janette Kinnally

      Urgent- really? Did you have to urgently go back to the Y and potentially get exposed and then expose someone else in your family or in the community?
      So please don’t be so quick to judge everyone else.
      Longshore is an outside activity and the risk for exposure is very low, and obviously the town felt it was safe enough to open that up and not the pool for instance. So please don’t talk about it being urgent for parents to send their kids to a camp that is very low risk and outdoors. And many adults are renting boats and kayaks too. It is not about urgently doing those activities instead of having a quiet summer at home. It is about still living life with this very new virus.
      I am happy that Longshore Sailing School contacted the state and the town health department yesterday right after they had been informed. That is the way you will stop the spread of it quickly.
      The same will happen when school opens in the Fall. There will probably be a lot of opening and closing schools if kids do go back. Will it be too urgent of us as parents to send our kids back to school if they open it?
      This is the new norm until they get a vaccine into the community. In the meantime, wear a mask and stay distant from each other and quarantine as much as you can, but still live your life and let others live theirs!!

      • Michael Isaacs

        No, I did not urgently have to go back to the Y. I chose to check it out, see their precautions and make the call. I was satisfied with what I saw. I’m almost always one of maybe 5 people in the huge fitness room, when in the ‘old days’ there could be 50-plus people. When it comes to my child it’s another story. I admit I’m likely overreacting but I’d rather be safe than sorry for at least these summer months. I want my eyes on him 24/7. Once school starts then things will change. Everyone has the best of intentions. And yes, everyone makes their own choices.

  10. I believe there have been some studies showing that adolescents and younger do not seem to easily contract the virus, and very rarely show symptoms. More importantly, I thought there was some evidence that they are unable to spread it. I recall reading something about schools in Scandinavia and another test somewhere else.

  11. Gabriela Bockhaus

    Dan Hysteria is REALLY not needed right now. Perhaps you could have WAITED to post this until you had some information from Longshore. Some people are ok taking this risk. We get in a car every day. Similar risk. Please don’t fan the flames of hysteria. It hurts everyone else. We live with my 79 year old mom but we did send our children to camp. We still have to live some sort of life. Please be thoughtful that you’re very popular, heavily read and what you do either increases hysteria or can at least be BALANCED with facts. Like the fact that it wasn’t an instructor etc. Thanks Gabriela

    • Herbert van Wijngaarden

      Gabriella, I do not see hysteria. I see Dan giving out information as it becomes available. Nobody is fanning hysteria here.

      • Bill Strittmatter

        Well, to be fair, Dan did sort of toss a proverbial t*** into the punch bowl with the initial post and no obvious attempt to contact Longshore for comment. And a bunch of us, in retrospect, unnecessarily reacted to it.

        Was there really a need to provide this information “as it became available”? Arguably not. The school was closed, relevant parties were told it was closed and why. There was no pressing need to warn the general public. And, it turns out, Longshore seems to have generally done the right things.

        On the other hand, it did seem to result in clearer communication from Longshore which I assume was not in the initial communication to parents or the note to Dan presumably wouldn’t have been sent. So there’s that.

        • Janette Kinnally

          Why has this become about Dan and not really about the bigger issue – We woke up to an email this morning that Longshore was closed due to a staff member testing positive and will be closed today. When we called the director said they would hope to be open by tomorrow afternoon. Then we are told that Mark the director of health services told the director of another camp that our families should get tested or quarantine for 14 days.
          The discussion should be what is the protocol (it should not change from business to business that operates in town) procedures and processes that will take place every time this happens now that the towns have opened up their facilities and school will be opening in less then two months. We are trying to figure everything out as individuals and for those of us that are parents with their kids. There is no clear indication until the end of July/beginning of August on whether school will be In person full time, hybrid or distance learning. But the town needs to have a clear decision on how they will handle these matters.

      • I agree with Herbert’s remark. Also, if I lived in Westport, with a young child, I doubt I’d send my child to Longshore. I really don’t see the rush.

  12. Gabby Bockhaus

    Many of us take risks every day. In fact, getting into a car every day is the most unsafe thing we can do. However, we have learned to live with calculated risks. If someone sends their child to camp, they recognize there is a risk. And that is a risk they have accepted. My kids were at Longshore this week. We live with my 79 year old mom. We discussed the risks and were ok with them. Longshore has done an amazing job. We’d like them to be able to continue and our kids would really like to continue. I think we should be wary of hysteria and aware that risks are all around us and that we all make different decisions based on what we’re comfortable with, but that we shouldn’t dictate for others or create unnecessary hysteria.

  13. Debbie O'Malley

    This is unfortunate and as another said, will continue to happen all over the place until a vaccine is formulated.
    As such, the reasons for the recommendations for hand-washing/sanitizing, social distancing, and masks are more glaring than ever. I think the majority of parents want kids to return to school in the fall – for their mental well-being, for their academic advancement, for schedule consistency. In this scenario, it’s not realistic for school to be closed for a week every time someone tests positive, or else the year should just be started in distance learning mode. We have to learn to live and adapt – and that will be achievable with the distancing and mask use. We will be able to effectively isolate positive cases through tracing and keep as many people as possible on track.

    • Michael Pettee

      “…not realistic for school to be closed for a week every time someone tests positive,”
      If that is the case, it seems we might run out of teachers.
      Longshore Sailing School has done well. On a larger scale I think we need a more logical path, more clearly stated processes, procedures, protocols and systems in place to guide our way out of this mess.

      • Janette Kinnally

        I agree – we do need better leadership and better protocol and better processes for everyone.
        I have a call into Mark the director at Westport/Weston health district because I was told that anyone that went to Longshore Sailing School this week should get tested or quarantine for the next 14 days. I want to get that confirmation from him. I was also told that my family should get tested or quarantine for the 14 days as well.
        The other thing I heard was you cannot get tested immediately if our kids got exposure Monday to the virus because it incubates so we should wait and take the test after 5 days. Anyone know the answer to that. Hopefully Mark will get back to me or someone can give more clarity to this.

  14. Michelle Benner

    I will start by saying I’m not surprised at all about any of this. I will also say our family is a big fan of Longshore Sailing School. My children have been taking kayak and sailing courses there for 6 summers in a row and this would have been the 7th, but I felt it was just too risky given what they told me over the phone: that all instructors were wearing masks but the children were not required to, and that they would be social distancing “when possible”.

    After months of staying home, I went to Longshore on Monday July 5th with my two children to rent kayaks (which we signed up & paid for for online). We wore masks from the time we left our car until we were in our boats well away from the shore (passing many people not wearing masks).

    Yes: all staff wore face coverings (most just bandanas), only one person is allowed in the office at a time, and some kids are wearing masks and sitting apart in the open air classrooms.

    But here is what isn’t being said and what we observed, and what I’ve been struggling with since our experience on Monday. After the classroom, NOT ONE CHILD we saw was wearing a mask. Kids were eating lunch outside together in big groups with no distancing at all. Kids are walking around with instructors with instructors in close, tight groups to and from the life jacket area and to the dock and beach. The most upsetting part of all is the situation on the dock. Our launch and return from our kayak trip coincided with the beginning and end of sailing courses. Kids were crowded on the dock and swimming in the water together like is was a regular summer day. There was no distancing going on or even an attempt to try. It looked like a party on the docks. At least 50 kids.

    This is unacceptable and upsetting. Parents who send their kids to LSS should know their kids are being exposed to this blatant disregard for basic rules regarding COVID safety measures. It’s one thing for LSS to say they are social distancing when possible, but completely another to ignore this measure entirely.

    Also, why such caginess from LSS regarding who tested positive? We now know it’s not an instructor or office worker, but, WHO IS IT? I’m not asking for the individual’s identity, but where were they working, what were they doing?? We were there on Monday, we have digital records showing our boat rentals and WE WERE NOT CONTACTED. This is the fault of our health department, who continually allows for soft interpretation of rules and safety measures. How are we to feel safe in our community when our own health dept. refuses to demand and provide adequate and detailed contact tracing. How are we to feel safe sending our children back to school when we don’t even have this basic necessity in place?

    Everyone should be wearing masks in public at this point. Not matter your age, activity or location. Period. In public, whether on a quiet road or in a busy scenario like Longshore, you are bound to pass by someone within 6 feet. Let’s please protect each other, it’s the only way out of this.

    Follow up: I left a message with LLS this morning after reading this post, communicating my dismay at having not been contacted. While writing this, I received a call from Jane at LLS who was very polite and patient. She told me the crowded dock was due to a large group swim test and that in the future they will perform these in smaller groups. She said that since we were on the rental list, were were last in line for being contacted and would receive info later today. Our health dept. Is not proving LLS with contact tracing support since the employee is not a Westport resident, even though this occurred in Westport. She also said this employee worked Saturday – Monday, started showing symptoms Monday around noon, and left LLS around that time.

  15. aemril14@gmail.com

    Per the state of CT guidelines children taking part in outdoor camps do not have to wear masks. Councilors are required to.

  16. I find this virtual conversation amazing and enlightening. I am astonished by the aggressive and over-the-top judgmental approach many commenters took. The last time I checked, LSS, a fantastic organization that has been a gem of the Westport Community for decades and decades, is a place people go to voluntarily. If you don’t like the environment, or have people in your household who are high risk, you should stay at home. Stop complaining to the rest of the community and make your own choice – you are all adults. LSS appears to be complying with all of the privacy rights as well as the contact tracing protocols. This is a very tough balance, especially in the uber-litigious society that we have all created. LLS is an example of how an organization should conduct themselves and I applaud them. I am not surprised because LSS has been an extremely high quality organization since their founding.

    Schools will be more complicated. There will be big challenges for teachers and administrators that are high risk individuals. Some students may be in that boat as well. However, the vast majority of students are very low risk. Let’s not forget, the schools exist for the students’ benefit. We need to take precautions but anyone who thinks virtual learning is nearly as good as in person learning, they should be advocating to shut down our schools altogether and move eduction to professional virtual platforms. That is an entirely separate conversation.

    The concept that during a global pandemic there will be no risk of contact with infected people is a fantasy. If you want to have that certainty, you will need to shelter in place and disconnect from the rest of the community at large. That has real costs but it is your decision.

  17. Michelle Benner

    Millie Rae’s posted this 4 hours ago on Instagram, a fine example of community responsibility and transparency:
    millie_raes
    We are closed today. Due to a child of one of our employees testing positive for Covid 19. Please email or call if you need anything. While we were open we all wore our masks all day while the store was open and working with clients. We have also been cleaning tirelessly as instructed by the CT guidelines. We have been operating with a limited staff and I have been out of the store for 7 days so we are hoping and praying for the best. We will keep you posted. #millieraes
    ……………

    As far as masks are concerned, the general guidelines per the CT Office of Early Childhood (which is the guidance for youth camp) are if kids can’t stay 6 feet apart, they should wear masks unless they’re under 2 years old. Groups of children should be no more than 14 kids per group (LSS max class size is10) and groups of children should be prevented from coming in contact with other groups of children. I agree we are all learning here, but let’s not fall into complacency and magical thinking that the minimum standards and will keep our kids and community safe from this highly transmissible and deadly disease. At some point, we will all be wearing masks, so why not start now before another terrible outbreak and community lockdown. We know masks work. Let’s learn form the data and spare ourselves another round of disease.

    https://www.ctoec.org/covid-19/youth-camps-covid-19-faq/

    Also, Longshore Sailing School’s email arrived and I’m thankful for their follow up. And very thankful we were there in the afternoon! I forgot to mention that when I spoke with Jane earlier, she said she had been up since midnight contacting families in the LSS programs + renters, with the help from just a few other people. Again, this is because our health department has offered no contact tracing support.

    “I am writing to let you know that a Longshore Sailing employee has tested positive for COVID-19. We are contacting all students and renters that may have come in contact with this staff member.

    You rented with us on Monday, July 6th. Our staff member became symptomatic on Monday morning. They were tested on Monday and it resulted in a positive result on Tuesday. The staff member was last here at our facility Monday from 9am-12pm.

    Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

    ServPro will be at our facility this afternoon for a professional sanitizing service for our facility and our equipment.

    Thank you,
    LSS Staff
    203-226-4646”

  18. Michelle Benner

    Questions:
    Did mark at our health dept contact the health dept of the town of residence of this positively confirmed employee of Lonsgshore? And if he did, did he work with longshore sailing school or this other health dept to collect the names of the dozens of families and staff members who were exposed to this employee? Did those families and employees receive follow up contact tracing calls from this other town’s health department?

    Say in the fall if schools open, and a westport public school teacher tests positive but the teacher is not a resident of westport. will our own health dept not perform contact tracing for all of the teachers and students exposed because that teacher is not a resident?

    It seems to me that if an employee of a business in Westport tests positive and thereby exposes dozens of people In Westport, our health dept should at the bare minimum offer contact tracing support to that business or institution. Or at least work closely with the other health dept. to ensure all residents of Westport have been propeely identified for contact tracing.
    Informing other towns via software just doesn’t seem like a thorough enough job at this stage of this pandemic.

    When I spoke with Jane at Longshore sailing school earlier this week, she said that mark cooper at the health dept told her that she was going “above and beyond” what LSS needed to do. That is, LSS by law was not required to contact all of the families who were exposed to their employee who tested positive since that person was not a westport resident. Thank goodness LSS did the right thing and took responsibility for this despite the lack of support from our health dept! I am deeply concerned that our town does not provide a better structure for contact tracing. This was one of the big problems we faced in march when students of the westport public schools tested positive. The schools punted the problem to the health dept, and it fell dead in the water. Not one family or staff member who may have been exposed via school was informed or contacted. When asked as a recent School Reopening Committee meeting about what the plan is for the fall if schools reopen and a positive case is reported, Sue Levasseur’s best answer is that she will “contact the health dept”. She has provided no other detail even when asked, she has provided no sample scenarios or any assurance whatsoever that families and staff will be contacted. How is anyone supposed to feel confident with complete lack of thorough contact tracing in this era of covid?

  19. Janette Kinnally

    I don’t think any of us do feel confident about sending our kids back to school this Fall – that is 7 weeks for those of you who are counting the days! This is going to be a tough year!!! Ugh 😩

    • Michelle Benner

      True Janette, good point! I should have said “hypothetically”. 🙂 We are certainly choosing distance learning for our children this fall and am deeply thankful we are in a position to easily make that choice. I just think of other families who may have different needs and the obligation of the schools to serve everyone as best as possible. And the teachers and staff (hopefully few) who may have to return to the buildings this fall.

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