[OPINION] No Fireworks, Please!

Carole Schweid is a longtime Westporter, former Broadway performer, author of “Staged Reading Magic,” artistic director of the popular lunchtime play-reading series Play With Your Food, and a fireworks fan.

However, she writes:

I always loved the closely packed beaches on the 4th of July. I enjoyed the food, the crowds, didn’t even mind the traffic. It was a community celebration, and it felt like everybody showed up.

I look forward to doing it again — but not this year.

We all know that this is not the time to gather large crowds anywhere. And certainly not groups packed together on a beach …  after dark … trying to stay warm.

Pre-fireworks scene at Compo Beach, pre-pandemic.

I can’t think of any good reason why we would want to create such unnecessary risk, even with so many people vaccinated (the state of Connecticut is doing a great job). Even if you limit the number of cars, it’s a mob scene. There wouldn’t even be a way to supervise the basic things we’ve learned about protecting ourselves, like masking and social distancing — especially after dark.

It’s becoming easier to forget that there is still a pandemic going on. We have to pay attention to how we behave. As far as I can see, there are so many good reasons not to have this event. I can’t think of any good reasons in favor of it.

One could also argue that it may not be appropriate – this year, at this time – for our town to be spending our money on fireworks when so many Fairfield County families need food.

We are a generous community.. I’m thinking our time and our money could be better spent.

A timeless scene. Will we see it again this year?


37 responses to “[OPINION] No Fireworks, Please!

  1. Alex Wennberg

    1 – COVID-19 is not more viral after dark.
    2 – Westport PAL and sponsors pay for the fireworks, not the town
    3 – just like any other event, gathering, errand, et al, if you are uncomfortable with the risk, stay home.

  2. Daniel Craig

    If you are worried stay home. Classic westport nefarious selfish person
    Get a vaccine — did you watch the nfl draft thousands of people together based on science 🧬 Maybe you should read up on it …

  3. Only 38% of Connecticut ADULTS are vaccinated. Not teens, not kids. It’s a recipe for a super-spreader event.

    • Jack Whittle

      Really? My kids are both vaccinated – why aren’t yours? And if not, keep them home from Compo Beach for the entire summer if that suits your needs

      • They are vaccinated, wise guy.

        The percent of the state vaccinated does not constitute herd immunity. And having a crowd with a lot of unvaccinated people will cause spreading. Which impacts many others, but most especially the overburdened healthcare workers.

  4. Phyllis Hirschfield

    Thank you, Carole, for your words of wisdom.

  5. Raymond Marra

    D. Woog. Is her negative rant about fear mongering a worthy story? If you are uncomfortable being in public then stay home. After one year of these mandates and restrictions Americans are looking forward to returning to life as normal. Celebrating our country’s founding is something positive to enjoy for all. Especially with all of the negative news we have been bombarded with for months.

    I am vaccinated. As are all of my family and friends. Let’s celebrate this 4th.

    • I’m with you, Raymond. But one of the roles “06880” plays is to allow Westporters to express opinions, and others to chime in. I’ve heard Carole’s views from others, and thought it was important to provide a platform. I’m glad we’re hearing a wide array of voices here.

      • It’s a controversial issue, and yes, we need to hear from all sides. Thank you, Dan, as always for providing the platform for us to do this. Since I personally am sympathetic with both points of view, I’m feeling a little wishy-washy here and am going to keep my mouth shut.

  6. Nancie Rinaldi

    It’s not about whether one feels comfortable or not. It’s not about just staying home if you’re not comfortable it’s about common sense. The virus is out there still. People are still getting sick. People are still dying. Put a large group together and there are bound to be incidences of exposure. Those people then go back into the larger population and you have a spreader situation. And there have been cases where people who are vaccinated still contract the virus so it’s not 100% fail safe.

    • Alex Wennberg

      It will never be 100% safe and you’ll never get 100% of the population to get vaccinated. Just like with the flu shot, plenty of people still get the flu, yet that does not stop us from living our lives. Get vaccinated, put on a mask or two, and keep yourself safe, or just stay home. Stop projecting your insecurity on to the rest of us and stop trying to encroach on our freedoms.

  7. Cristina Negrin

    It is a spreader event, period.

  8. Scott Brodows

    We should do exactly the opposite: have the biggest, wildest 4th of July party ever at Compo to celebrate life and freedom!

    Since many Americans don’t believe in science and will never get vaccinated do we cancel large gatherings forever?

  9. I, along with the overwhelming majority of the folks here in town are eagerly looking forward to enjoying the fireworks and everything else that goes with them. Stop being so fearful…Leave it to these types and you won’t be able to leave your basement!!!

  10. Has the Westport/Weston Health District made any recommendations or provided guidance of any kind as of yet? Or are they waiting to see what transpires in the coming month or so?

  11. James Waldron

    Fred, this was the Opinion/Commentary piece that appeared in the WSJ on 4/25/21 submitted by none other than Westport’s own Dr. Scott Gottlieb. If you can’t trust Dr. Gottlieb, then who can you trust?

    Time to End Outdoor Mask Edicts
    The CDC is moving too slowly in updating its advice to comport with the scientific evidence.

  12. Jill Greenberg

    Although I understand that thanks to Dan we have a community platform, and regardless of my personal opinion about Carole’s statement, I am struggling to understand the hostility in the tone of many of the above responses. I do not hear Carole as RANTING, I read it as a plea, based on her observations, informed opinion, and feelings. Why attack her message with vitriol, when a simple disagreement would do?
    I am, though, saddened by the overall sentiment behind this anger and have been thinking a lot about our society’s response to a social emergency. Sure, the town can open the beach to a traditional celebratory gathering, and only those who care to should show up, but why are we more focused on our own desires and “needs” than the common good? What has happened to the notion that we are no stronger than the weakest among us? Would it be so terrible to reduce risk just for one more year? What would be lost by keeping this year’s festivities quiet, with families and friends gathering in smaller groups? And most importantly, with all passions removed, what will we have learned by Memorial Day gatherings and parades (Data-wise) that can provide us with the opportunity to make a rational decision about community spread?
    So, in the end, of course “If you are not comfortable stay home.”, is one response to Carole’s open letter, though it could be said in a way that does not project so much hostility towards her opinion, but another option might be to consider the spirit of her message in the context of a greater good. I would hope we will all follow the data gathered post Memorial Day and Post Graduation celebrations before July 4 is upon us.

    • Stacy Prince

      Thanks for this, Jill Greenberg. You saved me the trouble of trying to say the same thing. 🙂

    • Thank you, Jill, for this thoughtful reply. Even though things are opening up, we need to do so safely and continue to not have huge gatherings. Its not such a hardship until we get this pandemic under better control, achieve herd immunity, etc.

  13. Sadly, it will be a super spreader. There will many be kids who do not qualify for the vaccine who will be put a risk. It’s the most crowded event of the year. And telling people who don’t feel safe is ridiculous because those people will leave the beach a spread the virus throughout the town and further. We have come so far- I think we can celebrate our country with back yard BBQ’s and keep people safe.

  14. Sharon Miller

    Thank you Carole for your well thought out opinion. I do not feel that there was fear mongering going on in your comments. To me continuing to be cautious is what should be done for the common good. If others want to throw caution to the wind they can do it in their own bubble. Jill Greenberg – thank you as well.

  15. Colin Walker

    I agree that there is a need for discourse. I do wish that we could remove all of the hostility that has come to seem the norm in online disagreements.
    I personally disagree with the sentiment that we should cancel the fireworks. I think Westport has done a very good job from the beginning being cautious and although there is still the risk of spread I do wonder when will be “safe enough”?
    The only other fact I haven’t seen shared here which seems quite relevant is the statistics of the numbers of people IN WESTPORT who have been vaccinated. ( 65+ – 93%/ 45-64 – 83%/15-44- 50%). So while other parts of the world may still be struggling with outbreaks I feel like we’ve been responsible and can offer the opportunity to gather responsibly for those who choose.
    And regardless of which side of this debate you fall on I hope that we can all try to find more civility in our discourse. (Because over the last year I’ve heard plenty of negative and “shaming” from both sides online)

  16. Edward Bonaham

    Leave the fireworks on. Leave the Memorial Day parade on. Leave it up to yourself whether or not you want to take part in. Majority of CT residents are vaccinated and increasing everyday from one shot to the full two shots.

    Feel safe? Feel fine and healthy? Then go. Don’t feel well? Stay home. Don’t feel safe? Then locate somewhere else or don’t go at all.

  17. Cheryl McKenna

    Certainly we are better than this and care about each other. Thank you Carol for caring and I for one appreciate your common sense. My family often says common sense is in fact not common. The virus is changing so common sense says to me be careful a while longer until we reach herd immunity.

  18. Priscilla A Long

    Thanks, Carole, for sticking your neck out and offering your plea (not your rant) about the potential risks inherent in a large, community-wide event. Frankly, I am no longer a fireworks attendee, so the event would not apply necessarily to me. However, I understand the concern of many that this event could possibly be a spreader for Covid. And as others have said, “don’t attend”. But people WILL attend, and then go back to their communities and around town, and possibly spread the virus. All concerns – worthy of note. It has been my experience that some people don’t think beyond their own situation – and throughout the whole pandemic have carried on with only their best interests at heart. But, what is most upsetting to me about ALL of these comments is the nasty tone of many of them. Carole expressed her concern for her whole community – not herself. In return, readers lashed out at her with their words. Shame on them. We are all members of the same community – and as such, let’s treat other’s opinions with respect. It is really very easy to do.

  19. Steve MacDonald

    As a former Westport resident I enjoy reading the 06880 stories to keep my connection to my old hometown. What a terrific site it is. With Westport being almost “ground zero” of the term, “Super-spreader event”, I understand calls for caution in gatherings. However, canceling the Independence Day festivities for 2021 would be making a decision that was based on us having gained no more knowledge then we had 14 months ago about COVID-19. That just isn’t the case. 3 effective vaccines, personal safety guidelines, early detection regimes and successful treatments if you become sick have all been game changers, thank goodness. As others have opined if you have concerns stay home, if you have chronic health challenges, stay home but don’t cancel the event for the rest of the town because of your personal concern. We have all been impacted by this virus, no one has been immune to its affects. Some much more than others and my heart breaks for them all. The way I see it is that little old Westport played a role in the war for independence that created our Independent nation, Westport must continue to play a role in the maintaining of our Independence as citizens that are able to make reasonable decisions of the risks and rewards we are willing to take and receive to live our life to the fullest. Have a happy Independence Day 2021 Westport and since I’m no longer a resident can someone with a sticker give me a ride to Compo Beach? I’m vaccinated and I’ll bring snacks.

  20. S. Richardson

    You have just got to love this town and all the wonderful folks that lose their sh-t when they don’t like someone’s opinion.
    Most common answer back to the first commenter? “Stay at home then!”
    But in fairness, even if she stays home, attendees at the fireworks “could” end up sick from that event and asymptomatically pass it to her, or many others, at some point around town. Don’t say it can’t happen.

    More importantly, how about just trying to being civil to one another.
    Westport’s most entitled at its finest…..oops, I mean at its worst.

  21. There are a lot of data out there and they all argue strongly for holding the fireworks and letting people make their own risk management decisions.

    The 38% vaccination rate cited by Mr. Garvey hides a lot. Based on Connecticut Dept of Public Health data as of April 28, 62% of the state’s population over 16 (under 16 are not eligible and, data suggest, are at substantially less risk) have received at least one dose, and 44% are fully vaccinated. Even for the two-dose vaccines, the first dose conveys the lion’s share of immunity. Among the most vulnerable population, 82% of those aged 55+ have received one dose and 71% are fully vaccinated.

    The Connecticut Dept of Public Health gives first dose coverage in Westport at 79% of the population over 15 years old, and fully vaccinated coverage at 56% of that population.

    Nationally, according to the CDC, we have administered 240 million doses of vaccine, with 145mm people having at least one dose and 101mm fully vaccinated. These data understate the level of immunity in the population at large because there have been 32 mm diagnosed infections, and in all epidemics the number of known infections substantially understates the actual count. Though some of these people have subsequently been vaccinated, many have not, yet they have still acquired a degree of immunity.

    All these numbers will increase materially over the next two months. Those who are concerned, for any reason, can of course skip the event, but the data do not support the argument that a large gathering two months from now will materially adversely affect the health of the town.

  22. Allen Cravens

    Evidently the CDC and Dr. Fauci should be reading comments by I. Bruce?
    I think not.
    How about we wait until the first week of June, right after Memorial Day to see what the numbers look like around Westport?
    Is there a problem doing that?

    • Bill Strittmatter

      I would guess the issue would be finding the fireworks and someone to launch them with only a months notice after every other town has already booked the fireworks guys.

  23. Jalna Jaeger

    I agree, it is too soon to be in crowded spaces, even outside when not even half of Westport is vaccinated! Besides it is BAD for the birds nesting on the south beach! Next year fireworks, this year NO.

  24. Adrian J Little

    CTDPH Releases Data on Covid-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Cases, Highlighting the Vaccine’s Effectiveness Against the Virus
    Cases of fully vaccinated residents contracting virus “very rare”
    As Connecticut surpasses the 50% mark for Connecticut residents ages 16 and over who are now fully vaccinated, the Department of Public Health today released data on vaccine breakthrough cases, which clearly show that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at fighting the virus. So-called “vaccine breakthrough cases” occur when a person who has completed their vaccine series becomes infected with the COVID virus. The data show that cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals are rare, with less than 0.1 percent of Connecticut’s fully vaccinated persons reported to DPH as having contracted the virus.

    Of the 1,467,189 persons who have completed their vaccine series, 242 have been confirmed as contracting COVID-19. Of those, 109 (45%) had no symptoms of the disease.
    Three deaths have occurred among the 242 vaccine breakthrough cases. All three individuals were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions and were in the following age groups: 55-64 (1), 65-74 (1), and 75+ (1). Nationally, the CDC has reported a total of 132 vaccine breakthrough deaths.

    “The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare. The best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is vaccination, and I strongly urge all eligible Connecticut residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford.

    In addition to the overall number of breakthrough cases, DPH also announced that of the 242 breakthrough cases:

    159 (65.7%) cases were among women
    58 (24%) cases occurred among persons living in congregate settings (i.e. – nursing homes, assisted living facilities)
    32 (13.2%) cases have been hospitalized
    “The vaccine is our most powerful tool against COVID-19, but these rare instances of infection after vaccination are a reminder that no vaccine is 100% effective. As long as we continue to see cases of COVID in Connecticut, it is important to continue the use of the other tools at our disposal: masking when indoors and in large outdoor crowds, hand washing, social distancing, and limiting gathering sizes when vaccination status is unknown,” added Acting Commissioner Gifford.

    Maybe this will give those that think that COVID is over and group settings – like fireworks – are OK, pause to re-consider….

  25. James Waldron

    Interesting comments yesterday from Dr. Gottlieb made yesterday, he lives in Westport….just a few months ago you couldn’t go a week without this blog mentioning the good Dr., now, not so much. Time to live life people, time to get outside; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/scott-gottlieb-indoor-gatherings-covid-19-face-the-nation/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab8f&linkId=118285469

  26. James Waldron

    You’re the best Dan! Thank you for all you do!