Tag Archives: COVID-19

For Staples Grads, Choosing A College Was Easy. Now The Tough Choices Begin.

When first-year students head to Dartmouth College in September, they’ll make history.

Everyone will have their own room, or live in a 2-bedroom double. After being tested for COVID-19, those who are negative will quarantine in their rooms for 14 days. All meals will be delivered.

Anyone violating the strict coronavirus protocols — including being in another student’s room — must leave campus within 24 hours. That won’t be difficult: Students have been told to bring “only those items they can take with them if required to leave on short notice.”

None of that bothers Sam Laskin. The recent Staples High School graduate is excited to attend the school that accepted him early decision last December.

Sam Laskin

Sam — who served as Staples Players president — was attracted to Dartmouth by its focus on undergraduate education, strong government program and great extracurriculars.

Classes — most of them conducted remotely — will be far different this fall. Many clubs will not meet in person. Even Dartmouth’s vaunted first-year orientation program — featuring camping and hiking trips — has been canceled.

After the pandemic slammed into Staples — knocking out, along with everything else, Players’ spring production of “Seussical” just hours before opening night — Sam kept busy.

He worked with Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long on a virtual show. He MC-ed the Class of 2020’s graduation video.

And he waited to hear Dartmouth’s plan. When it was announced that his class (and juniors) had “priority” for this fall — though members of those classes could opt to study entirely remotely, or take a gap year — he decided to head to Hanover.

“I had a great 4 years at Staples. But I’m ready to move on,” Sam explains. “I want to be in an environment where everyone is learning.

“I want to meet people in real life, not on social media. A huge reason I chose Dartmouth is the community. Some traditions will be gone this year, but the school is committed to bringing us into the Dartmouth community. I want to be there for it.”

Most of Sam’s friends will attend their schools this fall. He cannot think of any who will take a gap year because of the virus.

This is a “harrowing time,” Sam admits. Yet he has faith that his classmates — those from Staples, and soon at Dartmouth — will emerge from it with strength of character, and a desire to do good things in the world.

“Life goes on,” he says. “We adapt and adjust.”

Like Sam, recent Staples graduate Patricio Perez Elorza has been accepted by an Ivy League school.

But he will not be there this fall.

Patricio Perez Elorza

COVID struck while Patricio was still weighing his school choices. He chose Yale University because of its excellent academic reputation, including pre-law program; its proximity to New York City, where he hopes to work; the “vibrant” city of New Haven, and the school spirit.

He was also impressed by “Bulldog Days”: a series of Zoom videos and conferences throughout April.

But when he was given the option of enrolling for the fall semester or deferring admission, Patricio chose the latter.

“A lot of the college experience is meeting new people, going to class and interacting with professors,” he says.

“With almost every class online, you miss all that. I like learning in person.”

He also would miss participating in a business club and club soccer, neither of which would occur this fall.

And — because only sophomores, juniors and seniors will be on campus next spring — he decided to wait until next fall.

He’s already got a gap year job: launching and managing an app to help the O Living construction firm with its projects. He’ll take a course to learn Excel, and stay involved with both the Staples soccer program and his St. Luke Church youth group.

In the spring, when restrictions may ease, he hopes to travel.

Of Patricio’s friends, one will attend Yale this fall. Some are going to college; others will stay home, studying online. A few are taking gap years.

Their moods vary, he says. “The ones who are going to school are optimistic. They hope for the best. The others are doing gap years because they think college won’t be what they expected.”

The high school Class of 2020 has been through a lot. As they begin their next journey, the college Class of 2024 faces much more uncharted territory.

Tyler Hicks Tracks The Amazonian Pandemic

COVID-19 is everywhere.

After the US, Brazil has the highest COVID death toll in the world. People are as likely to fall ill in Amazon River villages as in New York City.

Tyler Hicks — the 1988 Staples High School graduate who has earned international renown (and multiple Pulitzer Prize winner) for his New York Times photojournalism — traveled from his home in Nigeria to the Amazon Basin.

His images illustrate an important story, published online today. Along with powerful text and graphics, the piece demonstrates the global reach of the pandemic.

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for The New York Times)

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for The New York Times)

Click on or hover over the photos to enlarge them. Click here for the full story, and all photos.

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for The New York Times)

Roundup: David Pogue; Lynsey Addario; Ospreys; Lending Library; More


David Pogue is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Unlike most chocolate boxes though, with the Westport tech guru/writer/TV star/jack of all trades, there’s never anything you don’t like.

Yesterday, as part of his regular “CBS Sunday Morning” gig, Pogue poked behind the production of the world’s largest virtual choir.

How do 17,000-plus voices come together in perfect harmony? Click below.

Oh, yeah: Pogue himself was one of the performers. Were there any other Westport connections? If so, click “Comments” below.


Yesterday’s New York Times story on the Rio Grande Valley — where poverty and chronic illness compound the coronavirus — was sad and compelling.

It was made more powerful by the images that accompanied it. They were shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist (and 1991 Staples High School graduate) Lynsey Addario. As always, her images show far more than what is in the frame. Click here for the full Times story. (Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Nurses surround a coronavirus patient moments after her death. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)


The Fresh Market ospreys continue to fascinate Westporters. Intrepid raptor-watcher Carolyn Doan reports that the 2 fledglings have fledged. Here’s one:

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


The Westport Library has reopened, with limited service. There’s an alternative, at 95 Kings Highway South.

Sure, the selection is limited. But you don’t have to worry about masks or crowds.


And finally … on this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk walk on the moon. Ten others have followed. The last 2 — Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt — made the journey in 1972.

School Superintendent Reports On Fall Planning

New superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice sent this email to all Westport families last night:

Last night [Monday] I had the fortune of participating in my first business meeting of the Westport Board of Education as the superintendent of schools. I am honored to serve in this role and it is indeed humbling to lead this esteemed school community.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

However, like most things in our lives right now, my transition into this role is unusual. Similar to the patterns of our personal and professional lives that have undergone profound changes over the past four months or so, I have foregone the typical incremental induction period for full immersion into the work before us.

Although I am disappointed to abandon the opportunities to meet and develop rapport with individuals across the system, I am fully aware of the community’s urgency to not only develop, but to communicate the reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

With that, I will dive into an update on our work in preparing our schools for the upcoming school year and reserve a more traditional written statement to the community for a future date.

The Context

As I shared at the Board of Education meeting last night, I have found that there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty in communities across the country and it is a fragile time. To complicate matters, there are some contradictions in professional recommendations and guidelines in how to effectively respond to the pandemic. Additionally, there are demands from our state leaders and questions from our parents, our faculty and staff, and our larger community,

Yet, as the public health community confronts this novel virus and learns more by the day, and after considering the fundamental role schools play in child and adolescent development, confidence has grown among many in the medical field that reopening our schools for all students for on-site full day schooling is the appropriate, and necessary, course of action.

Such professional organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics have weighed the benefits of mitigating measures such as school closures and concluded that the goal of the coming school year should start with all students physically present in school. In addition, Governor Lamont has also called on Connecticut towns and cities to welcome all students for on-site full day schooling for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Governor Lamont encourages all schools — like Staples High School, shown here — to open this fall.

In response to this call, we will work as a system to institute the necessary safety measures to ensure a high quality learning environment, including social and emotional learning, for all students.

However, these calls come with caveats. First, endorsements of a full reopening of schools for all students are predicated on low transmission rates of the virus in communities. Currently, the transmission rates are such that a full return to school in the fall is justified.

Secondly, any return to school must include mitigating measures such as physically distancing to the extent possible, limiting transitions, cohorting groups of students where possible, regular facility disinfecting, compulsory hygiene practices, effective screening measures, and face coverings.

With low transmission rates and rigorous mitigating measures, I encourage the community to welcome a full return to school this fall. Although this approach will not eliminate risk as there are no ”zero risk” approaches, evidence has emerged that schools appear to be low risk settings for virus transmission if the community transmission rates remain low and the mitigating measures are followed with fidelity.

The district will respond with a hybrid, or full distance learning model, if transmission rates surge. The metrics for this decision will be provided by the Connecticut State Department of Public Health and the local Westport/Weston Health District.

Next Steps

As we move forward into the summer months we are obligated to submit a plan to the Connecticut State Department of Educations for the reopening of our schools. This plan is due July 24. However, there will be a full preview and deliberation on the components of the plan at the July 20 public meeting of the Board of Education. This plan will be posted for review prior to the meeting.

The final product will be a comprehensive document crafted by the education and health professionals serving on our “Westport Reopening School Committee.” This plan will contain the volumes of work conducted over the past month related to:

  • Health and Safety – the specific mitigating measures that will be employed to minimize the transmission of the virus while supporting the social and emotional wellness of our children and adolescents
  • Facilities and Operations – the cleaning, disinfecting and infection control measures that will be in place to limit the transmission of the virus, as well as the transportation and food services practices that will be instituted
  • Teaching and Learning – the pedagogy, scheduling and overall learning experiences that will provide purposeful and regular live interactions between teachers in students, whether engaged in on-site schooling, or a blended/distance model
  • Co-Curricular Programming – the extra-curricular experiences that provide programming to meet the physical, artistic, and enrichment needs of our children and adolescents.

Critical partnerships with local medical professionals and public health experts have provided a framework for the development and implementation of the plan. In addition, these professionals will provide ongoing consultation in advancing mitigating measures, identifying and treating cases of transmission, and effectively tracing contacts after transmission.

Lessons learned from the spring distance learning have provided our professional educators with valuable experience in the pursuit to continually improve our teaching and learning. Live instruction, naturally when students are engaged in on-site schooling, has emerged as a necessity for any blended or distance learning model. These approaches will augment the current pedagogy employed by our teaching staff.

As confidence grows in an environment with low transmission rates and strong mitigating measures, it is important for parents to understand that the Governor’s call for a full return to school comes with an important option for parents. You, as a parent, have the option to choose a distance learning model for your child in lieu of on-site schooling.

The primary features of this model will be included in the Westport reopening plan. In the near future, the school district will follow up on the initial parent survey recently administered to accurately project the number of parents that will invoke this option in order to appropriately plan for upcoming school year.  You will have the option to subsequently modify your choice. Further information will be provided related to these procedures.

As superintendent, I am committed to increasing the frequency and substance of communication to the school community. In the future, I intend to provide brief insights to our work on a regular basis. This initial communication is critical in setting the stage for the next steps in our plan to return to reopening our schools. Thank you for your attention and support as we work to serve the children and adolescents of the Westport community.

Sincerely,
Thomas Scarice

Roundup: Marpe Update; More


1st Selectman Jim Marpe provides this update, on a variety of topics:

Town Facilities

As part of our efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 and in an abundance of caution, Town Hall and indoor town facilities continue to be closed to walk-in services. All town services are being conducted on-site or remotely. and telephones and emails are monitored. Appointments may be made on an as-needed basis.

If you have a matter that requires resolution by town staff, please use the staff directory on the website (www.westportct.gov/directory) to call or email the office, and allow adequate time for a response.

The possibility of conducting in-person public meetings is being explored. In the meantime, public meetings of the Boards of Finance and Selectmen, the Representative Town Meeting, Conservation Commission, Planning & Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals can be viewed on the town’s website (westportct.gov/watch) and Westport TV on Channel 79 (Optimum) and Channel 6020 (Frontier).  Public meetings of the Board of Education can be viewed on Channel 78 (Optimum) and Channel 6021 (Frontier).

Masks and Social Distancing

It is imperative that masks be worn while inside or when unable to maintain social distancing in all public places. Masks may be removed provided you are with people who reside in your household, and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.

Any other time, whether you are outside at Compo Beach, on a field, walking on town sidewalks and roadways, or entering an indoor location (including the restrooms at Compo Beach) you must wear a mask. You protect yourself, your family and your neighbors when you abide by this rule.

Many residents continue to express concern about the lack of face coverings on individuals that they encounter in public spaces. While it is impossible to know if a group includes only those people who reside in the same household, it is usually obvious when they do not.

Gatherings of younger people without face coverings have been observed. I respectfully ask that parents speak to their children about the importance of wearing a mask. We know that children are not impervious to the virus, and steps must be taken to insure the safety and health of all. Each of us has a personal responsibility to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

I Love Westport Campaign

If you haven’t already seen the #ILoveWestport videos on social media, please go to the town’s website (Westportct.gov/ilovewestport) and view these one minute video vignettes.

The #ILoveWestport campaign asks Westporters to make a personal promise to our community to stop the spread of COVID-19. We love our town, so let’s keep our neighbors and our employees healthy. Please make a pledge and share your video at #Ilovewestport.

Statement from the Westport Weston Health District on Connecticut’s Travel Advisory

Given the concerning surge in COVID-19 cases reported in many states across the country, it’s more important than ever to take precautions and pay strict attention to the state’s recent travel advisory. The Westport Weston Health District urges residents to keep up their prevention efforts.

Governor Lamont’s travel advisory went into effect on June 25. Anyone traveling into Connecticut from a state that has a new daily positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, must self-quarantine for 14 days from the last contact within the identified state. This also applies to Connecticut residents who return from those states.

Those who test negative for COVID-19 are not subject to the travel advisory. In order to avoid the advisory, any traveler from the restricted states should be tested no sooner than 72 hours prior to departing.

For more information, a listing of restricted states and frequently asked questions, please visit the State’s site https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Covid-19-Knowledge-Base/Travel-In-or-Out-of-CT

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Seen (and admired) on Hillandale Road:

(Photo/Bill Dedman)

And finally … Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! Happy Bastille Day!

4 Months In: Pandemic Reflections

It’s mid-July. We’re now 4 months  — 1/3 of a year — into a world we never imagined in those innocent days of late winter.

When Westport schools suddenly closed on March 11, we were told “2 weeks.” That stretched into mid-April. Finally, the inevitable announcement: School was done for the rest of the year.

We’d already endured a lot. A “super-spreader” party landed Westport in the national spotlight. On the first nice weekend, hundreds headed to Compo. Within hours, town officials closed the beaches.

We foraged for toilet paper, figured out how to find curbside food, watched our hair grow.

Jeera Thai, downtown across from Design Within Reach, was an early adopter of curbside dining.

Those early days seem like a thousand years ago. The time before the pandemic — say, March 10 — belongs to another universe.

But this is the town, the country and the planet we inhabit now. Four months in to our new (ab)normal, here are a few thoughts.

My nephew and his wife had a child last week. What is it like to be born at a time when everyone a baby meets wears a mask? How can he make sense of the world without seeing smiling faces admiring his every move? And it’s not just newborns I worry about. The longer we all must wear masks, the harder it is for any of us to make the human connections so vital to all our lives.

Momentous world events shape the young generations that live through them. The Depression, for example, scarred people forever. For decades, men and women who now had plenty of money ate everything on their plate, because they still worried where their next meal would come from. They turned off lights in empty rooms, to “save electricity.” It’s too early to know how the pandemic will etch itself into the brains of young people, but I can’t imagine they’ll have a positive, adventurous view of the world.

On the other hand, it’s been fun watching so many families embrace the outdoors. They walk together, all over. Teenagers who seldom exercised took up running. Bikes were hauled up from the basement. The town is reopening now, but I still see more outdoor activity than ever.

. (Photo/Anna Kretsch)

I was impressed too by the number of teenagers who used their time away from school productively. I suggested to the players in our Staples High School soccer program that they try new activities. I expected eye-rolling. What I got was a number who learned how to cook, play guitar or write code.

We held weekly Zoom calls with our returning players. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what they have learned about themselves. The results were insightful — and inspiring. “I learned I need structure in my life. I wasn’t happy just sleeping until noon,” one said. “I had a great time with my siblings,” another noted. “I learned not to be afraid of spending time alone,” said a third. “I realized I really like myself!”

No one knows yet what the fall sports season will look like (or if there will be one). But when I return to the soccer field (whenever that is), I know I will be a different coach than before. I already feel things shifting. Little things that used to drive me up a wall — a referee’s call, or canceling a training session at the threat of rain that does not come — will no longer seem worrisome. Our players, and the joy they get from the sport, will become more important than ever.

With so many new rules and regulations, meanwhile, will many old ones seem insignificant? Does it really matter if, in the winter, dogs are unleashed on one part of the beach and not another? Or if, during the summer, we have bottles and cans at Compo?

As for the beach: One unintended consequence of the pandemic is that Westporters discovered Sherwood Island. The 232-acre gem — with walking trails, wildlife, a Nature Center and the state’s 9/11 memorial — has sat right there, virtually unnoticed by most of us, for decades. The secret is out now. And did I mention that for anyone with a Connecticut license plate, it’s free?!

Sherwood Island (Photo/Roseann Spengler)

Until the Y reopened for swimming, I spent an hour or two every day biking. It was great exercise, and with little traffic on the roads, I no longer feared for my life. My goal — which I did not meet — was to ride up and down every side street in town. There are lots of them! (Nearly every one ends in a cul-de-sac.) And boy, are our roads in terrible condition. Soundview Drive is smooth and newly paved. Everywhere else — well, I had a new reason to fear for my life.

From the start, we knew some restaurants would not survive. It’s so sad to think of those we’ve lost, like Da Pietro’s, Tavern on Main and Le Penguin. And Chez 180: The patisserie across from Jeera Thai opened just a few days before the coronavirus hit. Everyone raved about it. The doors are shut now; new furnishings and gleaming cases sit forlorn and empty. The timing could not have been worse.

Closings like those have made us realize the importance of so many (mostly non-Westporters) to our lives. Restaurant cooks; the folks who stock shelves and work registers at CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s; mail carriers, and FedEx and UPS deliver persons. There are literally thousands of others. Some lost work; others worked harder than others. Until March, we pretty much saw through and past them. Now we understand that they’re the men and women who make Westport go.

Volunteers also make Westport go. Many organizations lost fundraisers this year: A Better Chance. The Westport Woman’s Club. Sunrise Rotary. They do so much good for our town. They have not complained at all — but I’m surprised so little attention has been paid to their collateral damage.

A few days ago, I went inside Staples High School. Even in summer, it usually bustles with activity. The emptiness this time was overwhelming. A school without people is not really a school.

That same day, I saw a Dattco bus. I have no idea why it was on the road, or where it was going. But it made me wish — almost — that once again I could be stuck behind it, creeping along as it stops every 5 yards to serve one eager, backpacked (and unmasked) child at a time.

Minutes after the second plane struck the 9/11 tower — when it was clear the US was under attack — I had one overpowering thought: Our world has just changed forever. I did not know how — who could have imagined the effects on our airports, immigration system and political process? — but there is a clear, defining line. There was life before 9/11, and life after.

I had the same thought in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, that realization has become a reality. Once again, I am not sure what life post-pandemic will look like. But everything — from daily school bus rides and summers at Compo, to the way my 2-week-old great-nephew relates to his parents, peers and the entire planet — will be different.

Those are my admittedly random, very personal thoughts. What have you learned — about yourself, our town, the world — since March 11? Click “Comments” below.

 

[OPINION] Frontline Worker Deals With Baggage

An “06880” reader who works locally writes:

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order to suspend the 10-cent surcharge for paper and/or plastic bags expired on June 30. That took some residents by surprise.

Surprise! We frontline workers don’t like having our heads taken off by rude, ignorant customers.

Some retailers are charging the 10-cent fee. Others are not. So frontline workers like me are stuck in the middle. Customers don’t know who’s doing what, or what the law is. We get the brunt of their anger.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Some customers were disgruntled before COVID. Some were angry  even before the present White House administration. Some have been upset for the past 30 years.

They complain about anything that doesn’t fit their own personal narrative.

We have enough to juggle and deal with: stocking shelves. Following all the new rules and regulations. Wearing masks and gloves. Answering questions. Handling our own lives and uncertainties.

We would appreciate some manners, etiquette and courtesy.

It’s bad enough people don’t wear their masks correctly, when they come into our business. If they don’t get their acts together, we will be right back where we started, with this spread of infection.

Little kids actually wear them very well. They’re fine. It’s the adults who don’t. Not all of them — but enough to make a worrisome difference.

I have wear a mask for 8 to 9 hours a day. So do hospital staff, doctors and first responders.

So don’t tell me you are having issues breathing or having anxiety attacks. Deal with it! Wear your mask for a 30-minute shopping trip!

PS: Yes, you can bring your own bags. You probably will be asked to bag your own groceries, because frontline workers don’t feel comfortable bagging with reusable bags at this time. It’s for our safety.

Moving To Town, In The Midst Of COVID

MaryLou Roels is used to moving.

In 35 years of marriage the Chicago native has lived in Dallas, back to Chicago, Phoenix and — from 2000 to 2020 — Seattle.

Her husband Chuck manages assets for computer resales. She’s taught psychology, sociology and classical flute; been a realtor; started a non-profit that provides clothes for people entering the job market, and served as Washington director for the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

Along the way, she raised 3 children. They’re now scattered around the country.

So when a recruiter called Chuck and offered him a job with an East Coast hedge fund, he and MaryLou said “sure!”

They figured theirs would be a normal goodbye, to friends and colleagues they’d grown close to over their 20 years in the Pacific Northwest.

But they lived in Redmond. They bordered Kirkland: ground zero for the first coronavirus outbreak in the US. When MaryLou, Chuck and their cat got in their car to drive east, they left in the midst of a pandemic.

MaryLou and Chuck Roels, leaving their Washington home …

Of course, the full crisis had not yet hit much of America. By Montana, MaryLou says, most people said, “Wear a mask? What are you talking about?!” She went to the gym for the first time in a month.

It was the same all across the country.

By the time the couple reached their new home though — Westport — “it was like the first day in Seattle.” Our town was in the throes of COVID-19. Dozens of Westporters had been infected. Twenty or so had died.

MaryLou and Chuck had brought plenty of masks and hand sanitizers. They were in short supply.

The couple was used to moving to a new, unfamiliar place. Yet they’d never done it when that new place was unfamiliar even to longtime residents. Everything here was shut down.

… and arriving in Westport.

“We read ‘06880’ to get a sense of the town,” MaryLou says. “But every story was about what used to be.”

She walked Compo Beach alone. She loved it. But she had the place to herself.

Slowly though, the town has been opening up. Just as slowly, MaryLou is discovering what Westport really is like. She likens it to a child making sense of the world.

She enjoys learning the town’s history. She marvels at the stone walls, deer and foxes (and was fascinated to find the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald connection. She looks forward to going to Italian restaurants.

Life in the Connecticut suburbs. (Photo/MaryLou Roels)

She and Chuck meet neighbors on walks. They ask if they’re “the new people. Everyone is so nice. They say hello. It’s nothing like the ‘Seattle freeze.'”

That’s as far as it goes, however. “We can’t really do much socializing,” MaryLou observes. “There are not really any barbecues.”

Still, MaryLou says, “I love Westport! I know that’s odd, because I don’t have anything to do yet. I’m sure I’ll have a project soon.”

That was our conversation last week. The next day, she emailed me with news.

MaryLou had already landed a job. She joins an educational firm, discussing the online K-12 model with superintendents, curriculum directors and other personnel.

She’ll work from home. So she’ll still have plenty of time to walk at the beach and around her neighborhood. She’ll watch the wildlife, and sample our restaurants.

Welcome to Westport, MaryLou and Chuck! There really is a lot going on here — even with the pandemic. Enjoy!

Contact Tracing: Health District Protocols

In the wake of yesterday’s disclosure of a COVID-19 positive employee at Longshore Sailing School, the Westport Weston Health District fielded a number of questions about contact tracing.

Director Mark Cooper noted that because the employee does not live in Westport or Weston, that person’s local public health authority is doing the contact tracing, as required by law.

Cooper also sent this information, from director of clinical care Louis D’Onofrio:

Westport Weston Health District has performed contact tracing for communicable diseases since it was established in the 1960s. Contact tracing is a fundamental public health activity that enables public health officials to slow the spread of infectious diseases.

The WWHD began contact tracing for COVID-19 in early March of this year. Our clinical team, along with trained volunteers, is responsible for and has been managing contact tracing activities for every reported positive case in residents of Westport and Weston.

The Westport Weston Health District works with Connecticut’s statewide confidential software system to monitor the health and wellbeing of people affected by COVID-19. The information collected in contact tracing is used to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

All WWHD staff and volunteers have completed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention training prior to performing COVID-19 contact tracing.  The majority of volunteers are a medical professional of some kind (nurse practitioner, medical doctor, registered nurse or medical assistant), and/or is a member of our Medical Reserve Corps.

Each public health jurisdiction in Connecticut is informed by the State Department of Public Health of a suspected or active COVID-19 case in their jurisdiction. The WWHD serves both Westport and Weston, thus it is our responsibility to contact residents in both.

The COVID-19 virus

WWHD staff then contacts that person and asks multiple survey questions using the state assessment outline. The survey collects basic information on symptoms, the ability to self-isolate, and assesses unmet needs (such as access to food, housing, healthcare, etc.), to connect people who are being asked to isolate with the resources needed to be successful. All information collected will remain confidential, and contacts who are identified will not be given information on cases (such as the person who may have exposed them).

If a positive COVID-19 person informs the interviewing WWHD staff member of another  person who may have been exposed to them and that places that person at risk, per CDC recommendations*, then the WWHD contacts that new person. If the person is not a Westport or Weston resident, we inform other local health departments via the CT DPH software, and their own town of residence public health agency performs that contact tracing.

Click here to learn more about contact tracing. We appreciate the public’s cooperation if contacted, as we must all work together to slow the spread.

*For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.  The public health evaluation of close contacts to patients with laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 may vary depending on the exposure setting. Contacts in special populations and/or congregate settings require additional considerations and may need handoff to a senior health department investigator or special team. 

COVID Update: Longshore Sailing School

Longshore Sailing School adds this information about their temporary closure, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19:

This employee is not an instructor nor do they work inside our office. We notified all current families as soon, as we were informed. We are also reaching out to all students that have been at our facility over the last three weeks.

ServPro will be at our facility today doing a full sanitization of our facility and equipment. After speaking with the Westport-Weston Health District, it was concluded that we are going above the requirements of the State of Connecticut OEC Coronavirus Memo #18 regarding Youth Camp Guidance.  We will do our very best to continue to provide updates as they come.

Longshore Sailing School (Photo/Carolyn Doan)