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.
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.
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:
Before we greet whatever 2022 brings, let’s chill with a serene “Westport … Naturally” scene.
It’s Compo Beach, naturally …
And finally … this year, “Holiday Inn” is 80 years old. But Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin were right: