Category Archives: Library

Roundup: School Reopening, Seed Exchange, Leadership, More

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Westport’s elementary and middle school open for full in-person on February 1.

A new Westport Public Schools website offers information on the transition. it includes details on schedules, specials, health and safety, lunch and recess, mitigation and hygiene strategies, classroom cohorts, special education, transportation, technology and more.

Click here for the elementary school page. Click here for the middle school page.

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Talented Westport photographer Ted Horowitz posted this photo to his Instagram this morning:

He took the shot years ago at sunrise, in the Lincoln Memorial.

“In the silence of dawn, with golden light reflecting on the statue, the  the sense of gravity and majesty was overwhelming,” he says.

“It was a hopeful moment, as morning light poured in and a  day dawned once again. I felt that this image was appropriate for today, as we seeking relief from the past 4 years, and are hopeful for the new day which is about to begin.”

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Next Thursday (January 28) is National Seed Exchange Day.

Stumped for a celebration? Head to the Westport Farmers’ Market. It’s (no coincidence) their annual seed exchange.

People can bring seeds saved from their gardens — or take home a few saved by others.

WFM farmers will donate seeds from their favorite crops for the community to try at home. All seeds except invasive species are welcome, but the market urges people to bring and take home heirloom or organic varieties. (Click here for a list of invasive plants.)

Heirloom seeds are critical to reclaiming the food system. They’re open-pollinated plants passed down from generation to generation, without human intervention or manipulation. They taste better, are more nutritious, and help protect plant diversity.

“Collecting, sharing, and growing seeds saved by our very own shoppers, farmers and vendors – especially heirloom varieties – involves the community personally in the promotion of local food and flora,” says Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

“This year more than ever we want to seed the year with love and health.”

The seed exchange runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — or until all seeds are shared —  on January 28th at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Avenue.

Experts will be on hand to informally discuss the importance of seed saving.

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Yesterday’s mention of Capuli — the new restaurant in the old Westport Pizzeria location across from Bank of America — may have left the impression that it’s a pizza place.

It’s not.

The California-Mediterranean fusion menu — filled with healthy options — includes appetizers like chimichurri shrimp skewers and grilled octopus, and entrees like eggplant polenta Napoleon, pansotti, classic New York steak and California hamburger.

Click here for the mouth-watering lunch and dinner menus.

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Mike Hayes is a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, with service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He had defense policy and strategy roles in the Bush and Obama administrations.

He’s got a master’s in public policy from Harvard, and is the author of an inspirational book, “Never Enough.”

Hayes is also a Westporter. And on February 4 (7 p.m.), he’ll share his thoughts on leadership with former Westport Library trustee Maggie Mudd.

He’ll talk about how decisions get made, particularly under duress; crisis management, conflict resolution and more. Leadership lessons are applicable to every walk of life, Mudd notes.

Click here to register for the free virtual program.

Mike Hayes

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And finally (and I do mean “finally”) …

Photo Challenge #316

One of the great things about chess is that you can play it anywhere.

Including outside the Westport Library, on the bank of the Saugatuck River.

A chessboard is built into one of the tables outside the lower level, by the Riverwalk.

It’s our answer to Washington Square Park. And Diane Johnson, Fred Cantor, Andrew Colabella, Joelle Malic, Seth Schachter, Susan Iseman and Caroline Sherman all correctly identified last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)

Check, mates!

This week’s Challenge is intriguing. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

And if you know the back story — which I sure don’t — add that too. I’m sure it’s a good one.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

Roundup: Sunrise, Open Space, Super Bowl, More

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It’s not a quiet day in America.

Politicians debate the future of the president — and our democracy. More than 200,000 people will be diagnosed with COVID-19 today. Another 4,000 will die.

But in Westport, we woke up to this scene today.

(Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

There is beauty all around us. We are so fortunate to not look far to find it.

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The property between Clapboard Hill Road and Morningside Drive South is one of the last big pieces of private open space left in Westport.

A new house is under construction there. This week, excavation began in the middle of the field.

No building or subdivision plans have been filed, so this might be work to improve the water table, drain the wetlands or otherwise tend to the fill there.

“06880” will follow up when we find out for sure.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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Before he became CBS News chief homeland security and justice correspondent, a 3-time Emmy Award winner and the author of a book on police and the Black community, Jeff Pegues was an All-FCIAC running back on the Staples High School football team.

So he’s got some skin in the game when he interviews James Brown, host of  CBS’ “The NFL Today” and Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” on January 27 (7 p.m.).

The free virtual program — sponsored by the Westport Library — will preview the Super Bowl, with intriguing insights and analysis. Click here to register.

James Brown and Jeff Pegues.

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And finally … on this date in 1968, Johnny Cash performed his now-famous concert at Folsom Prisom.

Roundup: Teardowns, Trees, Tony La Russa, More


Yesterday’s Roundup noted the upcoming demolition of 14 Hillandale Road — writer A.E. Hotchner’s longtime home — as part of the construction of Authors Way, a new 4-house subdivision.

Developer Rick Benson says that while the Historic District Commission permit allows teardown any time after Monday (January 11), the final Planning & Zoning Commission hearing is next Thursday (January 14). It’s unlikely, he says, that demolition work will start for a few weeks.

He notes that the house lacks a satisfactory foundation; has no full cellar, first floor bathroom, insulation or central HV/AC system, and has rusted 1920 iron windows.

In addition, Benson says, it lands in the setbacks of the new lot layouts.

14 Hillandale Road


Also slated to be torn down: 27 Gorham Avenue. The home was built in 1933.

27 Gorham Avenue (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)


David Meth writes:

“On Wednesday night, to take a break from the dull routine of daily life and obscene anxiety of politics and pandemic, and actually run away from the assault of the news, a friend and I decided to go out for a delicious pizza at Ignazio’s next to the Sherwood Diner.

“It made the day, because it reminded us of the importance of a pizza and conversation, a glass of beer or wine, a burger at the diner, cup of coffee at the local café … just getting together and talking to one another without devices and electronic interruptions is so wonderfully refreshing and important—and how much we miss the tradition and sense of community of just being with friends, even strangers, to remember who we are as people.”

Remember normal life?


Residents of the Punch Bowl/Gault Park area have noticed a number of trees cut down recently — and others marked with the tape that means their end is near too.

Town tree warden Bruce Lindsay says it’s part of Eversource’s effort to target high-risk trees that could topple in a storm. Many are slender white pines.

The neighborhood bordered by Cross Highway and Weston Road suffered severe damage — including extended power outages — during August’s Tropical Storm Isaias.

Eversource analyzes circuit by circuit performance, then targets the circuits or portions with the most tree-related outages. They then identify trees needing trimming or removal.

Trees account for up to 90% of all outages in Eversource’s system.

(Photo/Joyce Backman)

Tony La Russa is coming to the Westport Library

Well, not really. It’s a livestream, and it’s not likely the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer will be talking from the Westport Library studio.

But he’ll be joined by a good friend — longtime Westporter Steve Parrish — and the Library is sponsoring the event. So — even thought fans can join from anywhere in the world — it does count as “ours.”

The event is set for Tuesday, January 26 (7 p.m.). La Russa will chat about his World Series victories, tell classic baseball stories, and describe his role as new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Click here to register for the free program.

Tony La Russa


And finally … the War of 1812 roared back in the news this week. That’s the last time — until Wednesday — that the US Capitol suffered a significant breach from opponents of democracy.

On this day in 1815, the last major engagement of that war ended. American forces defeated the British in the bloody Battle of New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson and a ragtag group of frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and pirates held off, then inflicted tremendous damage on a much larger and better trained British force intent on capturing the important port.

In just over 30 minutes, the Americans suffered 60 casualties — and killed 2,000 British.

Jackson became a national hero, and set out on a path to the presidency. However, the battle was for naught. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed 18 days earlier. Word had not yet reached the US from Europe.

WestportREADS About Racism

Community reading programs have been around for a couple of decades.

A local organization — usually the library — picks a book. The entire town is encouraged to read it. Book clubs and other groups discuss it. The result is dialogue, awareness around a particular idea, community spirit.

We do things differently here.

For years, WestportREADS has centered not around one book, but a theme. Last year it was the 19th Amendment, and the centennial of women gaining the vote. Before that, it was immigration.

In 2019 folks of all ages read, discussed, thought about and grew through “Exit West,” Moshin Hamid’s novel about two refugees who find life and love on the run. 

Unlike other places, our event does not last a week, or even a month. This year — well, 2021 — WestportREADS runs from January through May. There are speakers, films, art exhibits, music performances, educational opportunities — you get the idea.

Not even COVID can slow it down.

The Westport Library — longtime driving force behind WestportREADS — has announced the topic, and the books.

This year’s theme is “Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism.”

The books are The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (fiction); Caste (Isabel Wilkerson, nonfiction); Class Act (Jerry Craft, young adult), and I Am Every Good Thing (Derrick Barnes, elementary school).

Programming kicks off on Sunday, January 17 (12 noon). Layla F. Saad — an East African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman and author of Me and White Supremacy — headlines the 15th annual Martin Luther King Day celebration. TEAM Westport’s Bernicestine McLeod Bailey will lead the discussion.

 

Layla F. Saad

Click here to register. More programs will be announced soon.

In past years, the Library has bought hundreds of copies of the book selections. They’ve distributed them throughout town, and made them available in their building.

The coronavirus complicated that task. So the Library has invested in digital versions and audiobooks. They are, however, providing hard copies to The Residence at Westport, the Gillespie Center, and schools.

“It’s called a ‘community read’ for a reason,” says Library executive director Bill Harmer. “All I did was pick the theme. This year it was a no-brainer. We really count on our partners to help plan what we do.”

WestportREADS is co-sponsored by the Westport Country Playhouse, TEAM Westport, the Westport Public Schools, Westport Weston Interfaith Council and Clergy, and Westport Museum for History & Culture.

Young Library Users Discover Diverse Characters

There are 3 ways to think about fiction.

Books can be mirrors, reflecting our own experiences.

They can be windows, allowing us to look at new worlds. 

Or they can be sliding glass doors. Exceptional authors help us actually walk through, and enter other people’s lives.

Because young people come to literature with great curiosity and openness, children’s literature is exceptionally important. Too often though, the characters young readers see are too much like themselves.

Or nowhere like them at all.

In an effort to broaden the pages available to local child, tween and teenage readers, the Westport Library and Public School’s PTA have teamed up on an exciting initiative.

“Finding Diverse Books” — a curated list of the Library’s collection — features long-underrepresented characters. Specifically, they’re Asian, Latinx, Black, LGBTQ, Native American, people with disabilities, and those who are neurodiverse (on the autism spectrum, or with similar different abilities).

Selections are broken into levels: K-2nd grade, 3rd-5th, middle school and high school.

“Can I Touch Your Hair?” presents paired poems about topics like family dinners, sports, recess and more.

It’s part of a national “We Need Diverse Books” project, begun by authors and the publishing industry. The Library’s “Own Voices” program is an offshoot of that.

The Westport PTA’s Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has championed the effort. Library director of youth services Mary Parmelee is an enthusiastic supporter.

She points to research showing that when children read books deeply and closely, their brain lights up in the same area as if they were actually living that experience.

“Parents understand Westport is an insular world,” Parmelee says. “They’re asking for these books. And they’re checking them out.”

The youth librarian reels off a wide sampling of popular topics: books about Black children’s place in America, trans youth’s experiences in high school, Latinx families and life with OCD.

“Pashima” is about a girl who thinks her mother’s homeland exists only in her imagination.

Yet many simply include diverse characters as part of everyday life. One features a little Black girl whose parents try to get her to sleep in her own bed.

“For years, these types of characters were not part of the books being published,” Parmelee notes.

Now they are.

“We hope they can help nurture a society that is connected through a shared humanity,” says PTA DEI committee co-chair Ngassam Ngnoumen.

Check ’em out!

(Click here for the Westport Library’s “Diverse Books Need Us” page. Click here for the Library’s #OwnVoices Resource Guide.)

Roundup: Colonial Green, Home Movie, Tutors, More


Unless you have business with one of the tenants at Colonial Green — an eclectic mix including attorneys, CPAs, and the offices of CLASP and Newman’s Own — there’s no reason most Westporters would ever see the lobby at 246 Post Road East.

What a shame. Its walls are lined with local history. There’s a great collection of large photos and old postcards, with intriguing text. They tell wonderful stories of Westport’s first library, National Hall, a spectacular hotel on Beachside Avenue, and more.

And who knew the Cribari Bridge was once painted red?

Thanks to Eve Potts, for this fascinating find!


Home Movie is a dark comedy about a wounded family’s struggles with death, deception and general mania.

Jarret Liotta — a longtime Westporter, and Staples High School graduate — filmed it entirely in Westport.

The title also refers to the help he got from many local people and groups, like the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, Gold’s Deli, even Harding Funeral Home.

On January 7 (7 p.m.), Miggs Burroughs will host a live (virtual) Q-and-A with Liotta. Everyone registering for the event through the Westport Library (click here) will receive a link to view the film any time the week before the event.

Liotta — a noted writer, photographer and video producer — is also a filmmaker. He says his first film, How Clean is My Laundry, “received moderate acclaim but wasn’t very good.” His second, The Acting Bug, “was much better, but no one saw it.”

His current project is a comedy exploring racism and gun violence (!). It will filmed entirely in Westport.

Jarret Liotta


Top Hat Tutors — the Staples High School juniors and seniors who charge less than adult competitors, but deliver quality with a teenage vibe — is starting the new year right.

Now through March, they’re offering their services free, to low income families and students on tight budgets. The offer is available every other Friday and Saturday, between 2 nd 5 p.m. There is a limit of 5 students per time slot.

Top Hat tutors cover math, science, language arts, social studies and standardized testing prep, for all age students.

Click here for the special free tutoring service.  Click here for the Top Hat Tutors home page.


And finally … on this date in 1845, Texas became the 28th U.S. state. It had been an independent republic since 1836.

 

 

Give The Gift Of Giving

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

And to give.

Separately, but with the same idea, alert — and generous — “06880” readers Karen Abramson and Polly Newman gave me the gift of a perfect story idea.

As we buy presents for loved ones, friends, and people whose good graces we need to keep, we also want to help others.

Give what you can.

It does not hurt that helping them can also ease our tax burden a few months from now.

But who to give to?

Far be it for “06880” to say. So here is a list — off the top of my head — of some worthy local organizations. Each one has a clickable link 🙂

I know I’ve missed some. Rather than bite my head off (very un-Christmas-y), please mention them in the “Comments” section. Then I’ll add them to this list.

And please: Keep it local (southern Fairfield County). There are way too many very worthy national and international groups to include. Thank you!

Animals

Christine’s Critters: Rehabilitation of big birds
Connecticut Humane Society
: Westport branch
Save Our Strays: Animal rescue
PAWS: No-kill animal shelter
TAILS: Spaying and neutering
Westport Animal Shelter Advocates: Care, shelter and adoption of homeless dogs
Wildlife in Crisis: Preservation and emergency help

Arts and history

Artists Collective of Westport: Creativity, education, shows, forums and more
Beechwood Arts and Innovation: Exhibits, salons, talks, food — wow!
Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County: Supporting cultural organizations, artists and creative businesses
Levitt Pavilion: More than 50 nights of free entertainment
MoCA Westport
: Exhibitions, concerts, education and more
Remarkable Theater: Providing entertainment and employment for people with disabilities
Westport Country Playhouse: 90-year-old cultural institution
Westport Museum for History & Culture: Exhibits and education
Westport Public Art Collections: Bringing art to schools and public spaces

Community aid

Al’s Angels: Help for children and families battling diseases and hardships
Bridgeport Rescue Mission: Fighting poverty, offering help
Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants: Service and advocacy for immigrants, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and torture
Lifebridge Community Services: Bridgeport youth development behavioral health and family resources organization
Norwalk Hour
: Aid to families in need
United Way of Coastal Fairfield County:
Access to food, shelter, transportation and childcare
Westport Department of Human Services “We Care”
:
Many options!
Westport PAL: They do it all: college scholarships, youth sports programs, fireworks, ice rink, etc., etc., etc.
Westport Weston Family YMCA: Help in many ways

Disabilities

Catch a Lift: Westport strongly supports veterans through fitness programs
CLASP
: Group homes and opportunities
MyTEAM Triumph:  Road race support for children, adults and veterans
STAR Lighting the Way: Support for all ages

Education and youth

A Better Chance of Westport: Education and support for outstanding minority boys
Achievement First: Schools provide Bridgeport families of color with a high- quality education at no cost
Adam J. Lewis Academy: High-quality experience for Bridgeport youngsters
Carver Foundation: K-12 pre- and after-school programs in Norwalk
Child Advocates of SW Connecticut: Providing advocates for abused children
Child & Family Guidance Center: Counseling and support for youth and families
Kidz Give Back: Children helping children
Neighborhood Studios: Arts education for Bridgeport youngsters
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities: Helping fulfill potential; support for parents too
Staples Tuition Grants: Need-based scholarships for Staples High School students and alumni
The Susan Fund: Scholarships for young people affected by cancer

Environment

Aspetuck Land Trust: Preserving open space; maintaining 45 preserves
Earthplace:
Education, wildlife exhibits, and a 62-acre sanctuary
Friends of Sherwood Island: Preserving, maintaining and enhancing our state park
Future Frogmen: Teaching students to protect the oceans
Norwalk River Valley Trail: Maintaining 30 miles of open space 
Save the Sound
: Protecting Long Island Sound
Wakeman Town Farm: Sustainability center, with plenty of programs
Westport Farmers’ Market: Food, education, programs and more

Food and shelter

Filling in the Blanks: Providing weekend meals for children in need
Food Rescue:
Helping volunteers pick up and deliver excess food
Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County: Building houses and creating affordable home ownership
Homes with Hope
: Supportive housing, food pantry, food distribution and more
Open Door  Shelter: Aiding Norwalkers in need
Person-to-Person: Food, rent help, clothing and more

Grant-giving and foundations

100 Women Who  Care of Fairfield County: Raising funds to give them away!
Fairfield County Foundation: Philanthropy to strengthen communities
Near and Far Aid:
Fighting poverty in Fairfield County
Newman’s Own
: Okay, they’re global — but they’re headquartered in Westport!
Westport Rotary: Noontime chapter meeting of Rotary International
Westport Sunrise Rotary: 7:30 a.m. chapter meeting of Rotary International
Westport Woman’s Club: Raising funds for charitable, educational, cultural and public health services
Westport Young Woman’s League: Building community through volunteerism and social activities

Health and Safety

Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation: Funds for non-medical expenses
Domestic Violence Crisis Center:
Help for victims and families
Mission
: Helping survivors create lives after cancer
Pink Aid: Financial aid and services to woman and families facing breast cancer
Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service
: Providing staffing, supplies and apparatus to keep the town safe

LGBTQ

Triangle Community Center: Providing programs and resources for the LGBTQ community


Literacy

Mercy Learning Center: Life skills training for low-income women
Read to Grow: Promoting children’s literacy from birth, supporting parents as babies’ first teachers
Westport Book Sales: Providing employment for people with disabilities — and offering books, while providing funds for the Westport Library
Westport Library: They do it all!

Mental health and addiction 

Laurel House: Mental health and recovery resources
Positive Directions: Treatment and prevention for addictive behaviors

Seniors

Jewish Senior Services: Skilled nursing and other care
Westport Center for Senior Activities
: Senior Center provides programs, meals and more

Women

AWARE: “Assisting Women through Action, Resources and Education”
Dress for Success Mid-Fairfield County: Empowering women by providing professional clothes and other support
Malta House: Shelter and programs for young pregnant women and their babies

 

COVID Casualty: Library Scales Back Hours

With coronavirus cases rising around the state — and more expected over the holidays — the Westport Library is limiting access.

Effective this Wednesday (December 16), entrance to the building is by appointment only.

The Library will offer 30-minute reservations between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. There are different ways to make appointments:

  • To browse the collection or speak with a library staff member, click here.
  • To use the Express computer, click here.
  • To visit the library store, click here.
  • To use  the children’s library, click here.
  • To speak with reference or information staff, call 203-291-4840. To speak to staff in the children’s library, call 203-291-4810. For all other inquiries, call 203-291-4800.

The Westport Library during COVID. Services will now be cut back even further. (Photo/Lauren MacNeill)

The Library will still offer special delivery to homebound Westporters, and provide cart-side pickup of books, DVDs and CDs at the upper parking lot.

To select and request materials for pick up through the catalog, click here or call 203-291-4807.

The good news: during the limited service period, fines will not accrue.

Roundup: Environment And Social Justice, Pop-Up Art, Pop-Up Menorah, More


At first glance, environmentalism and social justice might seem to be different issues.

But they intersect powerfully. One example: petrochemical facilities — with all their toxic byproducts — are often located in predominantly minority, economically disadvantaged communities.

Wanjiku Gatheru wrote a provocative piece for Glamour: “Want to be an Environmentalist? Start With Antiracism.”

The 21-year old is the first Black person in history to receive the Rhodes, Truman and Udall scholarships. A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, she’s now studying in Oxford, England.

That’s where she’ll join the Westport Library on Wednesday, December 16 (7 p.m.), for a virtual event. She’ll discuss the intersection of those 2 movements. The event is co-sponsored by TEAM Westport, Sustainable Westport and Earthplace. Click here to register.

Wanjiku Gatheru (Photo/Sean Glynn, UConn)


The Greens Farms Elementary School PTA has organized a fundraiser.

They not only want everyone to help — they want to help other PTAs and organizations too.

When you buy a gift card from a participating local retailer or locally owned online brand — click here! — the store donates a portion of proceeds to the GFS PTA.

But GFS wants to spread the wealth. If your PTA wants to be considered — as part of a dropdown menu at checkout — email contact@payitforward.co.

Participants include ASF Sports & Outdoors, BD Provisions, Club Pilates, Dojo Westport, Posh Nail Salon, Shelala, Skin by Kataryna, Olive & Linen, Organic Krush, Posh Nail Salon, Romanacci Pizza Bar, Splatz by OneFun, Stew Leonard’s, Westport Masks and 3Dux.

New brands are being added all the time. If your business would like to join, email contact@payitfwrd.co.


Westport artist Michael Chait will sponsor another of his popular pop-up photo shows on the Saugatuck River this Sunday (December 13, 12:30 to 3 p.m., 11 Riverside Avenue).

It’s all outdoors. Smooth jazz/R&B music starts at 1:30 p.m., with the Dave Kardas Band. Pop by for the pop-up!

Michael Chait’s flag over the Saugatuck River.


Anthropologie’s Christmas decorations bring a bit of light to downtown Westport.

Now they’re joined by a menorah.

Happy holidays to all!

(Photo/Arlene Yolles)


As of yesterday, Westport had 786 cases of COVID-19 since March (722 confirmed, 64 probable). That’s up 87 total cases since last Thursday.

There have been 25 deaths, up 1 from last week. Click here for full statistics.


And finally … happy 89th birthday to Rita Moreno. In 1961 she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Anita, in the film version of “West Side Story.”

Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico’s in America!