Tag Archives: Cheryl Chutter

“Covering” COVID In Westport

As we end the first week of our new, hunker-down normal, plenty of people have time on their hands.

Not to mention, Time on their hands.

The newsmagazine — which, honestly, I did not know still existed — has published a special online edition about the pandemic. There are 6 different covers.

The very first one shows a 51-year-old Stamford woman. As the text explains, she was infected at a Westport party.

When photographer Angela Strassheim went recently to visit Cheryl Chutter in Stamford, Conn., she was there not on assignment, but as a friend. Chutter, 51, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 17.

Chutter was on her first day of quarantine, and Strassheim had come by to leave some food for Chutter and her son outside the door. As she approached the house, she saw Chutter in the window wearing a face mask, and was struck by how powerfully the mask seemed to visually convey the frustration, fear and isolation her friend was feeling. Strassheim asked if she could take a quick photo on her iPhone, and came back the next day with her camera. “For me it sums up where we are at right now. We are all imprisoned in our homes and the window is like a mirror to look back at ourselves,” she says. “You are that same person in your own home whether you have the mask on or not.”

Chutter thinks she was infected when she attended a birthday party in Westport, Conn., in early March. About a week after the gathering, she learned that one of the attendees, who had recently traveled abroad, had tested positive for COVID-19. By then, she had already been once to a hospital and once to an urgent care facility due a high fever, chills, body aches and utter exhaustion. But it was only after she discovered she’d been in contact with someone at the party who was diagnosed with COVID-19 that she was able to get a test, since kits were so scarce.

When she finally received her positive test result on March 17—after eight days in quarantine—she said one word: “Relief, I felt relief. I knew now that my dad can get tested. I just want to be safe. I want to take care of my son, be considerate to other people and I don’t want to leave my house till quarantine is over.” Since the party, 20 attendees have tested positive.

Entering her second week of quarantine, Chutter is trying to stay positive, but the social isolation—especially the forced estrangement from her son—is emotionally challenging. “I was told to have as little contact with my son as possible,” she says. “I can’t prepare meals for him. I wear a mask and gloves in the house. I can’t be near him.” —Paul Moakley and Alice Park

(For this, and Time’s other stories on coronavirus victims, click here. Hat tip: A dozen-plus readers.)