Roundup: Mask Up, No School, Betty White …


As Westport begins a new year — battling a now-old pandemic — the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has a few strong thoughts.

In an email sent to “members and more,” they say:

“We are at a health and workforce crossroads.

“Westport reported 150 new cases since last weekend, and that does not account for all the at-home tests. The state is at 15% positivity. Businesses all across the area and country are closing. with employees falling ill.

“The First Selectwoman mandated that masks must be worn in all town-owned buildings. The business community must fill in the rest.

“Protect your employees. Protect yourselves. Keep our economy moving. MASK UP!”

“Please have your front, public-facing employees wear a mask. Protect them from Omicron and COVID overall.

“Masking could be a policy in your store, office or restaurant to protect everyone working there and who comes in.

“If employees get sick it threatens their health, your customers, your business and the entire economy of our town. Masking makes sense and is easily done. We did it before. We can do it now.

“And get your booster shot. The science is clear: A booster reduces the effect of Omicron.


Meanwhile, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this email yesterday to all Westport Public Schools families:

“As you are all aware, the recent surge of infections has gripped our region. We are experiencing infection rates unlike any time since the start of the pandemic.  We do know that our students are best served being in school and, along with continuing to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff, keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs remains our priority.

“As the conditions rapidly unfold, guidance from our partners at the state Department of Education and Department of Public Health remains delayed.  There are legitimate questions about our ability to staff our schools next week based on recent infection rates, travel cancellations for those out of state, among other complications. With limited guidance from the state level, we will work at our local level to develop approaches in the event conditions warrant further interventions and modifications.

“For this reason, a decision has been made to extend the winter break by one day for all students. Monday, January 3 will not be a school day for students.

“All faculty and staff will report on Monday. This will enable the district to work collaboratively to develop a range of responses to the changing conditions over the coming weeks. The fluid situation requires thoughtful consideration and this additional day on Monday provides a measure of time to continue planning and assessing actual staffing levels to ensure that we can provide a healthy and optimal educational experience for our students.

“Among the many considerations, the district team has been working this entire week to make provisions for:

  • a range of potential Executive Orders or state emergency declarations,

  • additional ways to support a significant increase in the number of students in isolation due to infection

  • optimizing mitigating measures in schools, such as  lunch waves

  • State adoption of new CDC guidance which potentially shortens isolation and quarantine periods, and redefines “fully vaccinated” (all of which could impact staffing levels and student attendance)

  • the high school mid-term exams

“There are obviously other considerations beyond this list, however, this is illustrative of the many challenges we face in successfully returning our students and staff to school next week.

“You can expect further information over the weekend. In the meantime, stay healthy.”


The Senior Center is closed until at least mid-January.

But that did not stop one intrepid group of regulars from working out.

Undeterred by COVID, mist or the end-of-year hubbub, they gathered yesterday in the Compo Beach parking lot near Ned Dimes Marina.

They smiled. They exercised. They could not imagine another way to end the year.

(Photo/Dina Upton)


The burn pile, landfill or Boy Scouts are not the only ways to get rid of your quickly dying Christmas tree.

You can also bring it to the Westport Farmers’ Market this Thursday (January 6, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Lane). There is a suggested fee of $10.

They’ve partnered with Action Waste Solutions. for a recycling program. Each year, they turn hundreds of trees into compost.

Be sure to remove ornaments and garlands. And if you sign up for Action Waste’s home or office composting program, they’ll waive the $25 set-up fee.

The Christmas tree at Wakeman Town Farm will not be recycled. But yours can be.


Fans of all ages are mourning the death yesterday of Betty White. The beloved entertainer was less than 3 weeks shy of her 100th birthday.

Larry Silver — the Westport photographer whose work has been shown internationally — had special reason to remember the star. In the 1990s, he did a commercial shoot with her for Humana of California.

Larry recalls: “It was obvious Betty was paid quite well for this shoot. She arrived with her own hair and make-up person, an assistant to help the hair and makeup people, and her own wardrobe, which was perfect.

“She was adamant that I photograph her from what she said was her best side. She was very cooperative, but became a little agitated when a much younger photographer than me — the director — would tell her what to do.

“A lot of our conversation was about her pets, and her love for animals.”

Some of the images — including this one — have never been published before:

Betty White (Photo/Larry Silver)


Before we greet whatever 2022 brings, let’s chill with a serene “Westport … Naturally” scene.

It’s Compo Beach, naturally …

(Photo/Susan Leone)


And finally … this year, “Holiday Inn” is 80 years old. But Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin were right:


6 responses to “Roundup: Mask Up, No School, Betty White …

  1. Arthene Hammerman

    Have a safe, healthy, Happy New Year, everyone

  2. I feel it’s past time for our new first selectman to reinstate a mask mandate for our town. It shouldn’t be left to individual businesses to be our line of defense. If municipal workers are protected, why not all of us? I hate to think that public health and safety is merely political in Westport . But it appears to be the case. The infection rate is soaring. We need our elected officials to respond accordingly.

    • I agree! A mask is required in the library and Town Hall but not Stop and Shop and Trader Joe’s! Makes zero sense.

      • Bruce G Schneider

        Totally agree. The virus does not only affect municipal buildings. I voted for our new Selectwoman and do not regret it, but I think this was a lost leadership moment.

        No one likes mandates, but after having COVID, I can honestly say requiring everyone to wear masks is a small inconvenience versus getting COVID.

        Let’s update the Westport guidance and bring our numbers down!!

  3. Sounds like Betty was channeling Sue Ann Nivens. Seriously, I think stars sometimes get a bad rap when they get testy during a commercial shoot, They’re pros at knowing what makes them look good and sound believable, and sometimes the director — or client — makes dumb, nitpicking requests. There’s a William Shatner audio clip to this effect that went viral. Of course, sometimes the celeb is at fault, as in the famous Orson Welles Paul Masson outtakes:

  4. Larry Weisman

    Suggested answer to question why there are so many dead end streets in Westport.
    Fairfield was among the first towns to be settled and homes tended to cluster long the shore of the Sound. Settlers needed a lot of wood to heat their homes and for woking so there developed a system whereby each home on the Sound had a wood lot or long lot extending north to the West Parish (now Weston and parts of Wilton), the width of which (expressed in rods) was determined by the frontage on the Sound.. These lots, maps of which can be found in the Fairfield land records, were identified by the family name of the owner (Sturges’ long lot, Cabot’s long lot, etc.), and conveyances were made by drawing lines along the entire width of a particular long lot to create a parcel of land described thusly: “Commencing at the Northerly end of so-and-so’s holdings in Cabot’s long lot, a parcel of land comprising 10 acres”.
    In time, due to these conveyances which prevented passage to the wood lots to the north without trespass over private property, it became necessary to create public highways. To address the problem, the king of England created a Board of Surveyors to lay out “upright” highways and “cross” highways at prescribed distances from one another.
    Cross Highway, Long Lots Road and Easton Road are cross (i.e. east-west) highways, while Compo Road and Wilton Road are upright (i.e. north-south) highways, all in the locations originally designated by the king’s surveyors.
    Note the distance between these roads, almost always a mile plus because of a desire not to encroach on the width of the already established long lots.
    So you can readily see that development of residential subdivisions necessitated termination of subdivision roads at the boundary of the adjacent long lot which might be more than a mile from the nearest public road.
    This history also helps to explain why we have such an intransigent and potentially unsolvable traffic problem. With Was-west routes so few and far apart, all traffic must use one of four street – Green’s Farms Road, Post Road, Long Lots Road, and Cross Highway – all a mile or more apart, and then, for north-south
    passage, Wilton Road, Compo Road, Hillspoint Road or Maple and Bulkely Avenues.
    Add to that the fact that Westport lies between two state highways and has only three vehicular river crossings, and you can understand those who say that traffic is a problem that can be eased but not eliminated.