Tag Archives: COVID-19

Marpe Clarifies Mask Rules

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

We are aware that there has been some confusion around the mask wearing protocols since both the guidance and regulations on mask wearing and social distancing have recently changed. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state or local laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

According to the state Department of Public Health, masks are no longer required outdoors. Those who are vaccinated are not required to wear a mask in indoor settings. However, some businesses, state and local government offices, and certain events and event venues, still require universal masking. Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities, facilities serving vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools, and childcare facilities. Those who are not vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors when unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Some places still require masks. Don’t abandon all of yours just yet. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Masks continue to be required for all visitors of Town Hall, indoor town facilities and the Westport Library. We also suggest wearing a mask when in crowded conditions — even outdoors.

Business owners and event operators should consider requiring customers to wear a mask when they are inside an establishment or at a large indoor event or private gathering if the space is not designed for continuous social distancing. If not specifically required, these establishments should consider posting signage indicating that unvaccinated customers must wear a mask and any customer is invited to wear a mask if they are more comfortable doing so.

We are encouraged by the results of the vaccine distribution and the dramatic slowing of the spread experienced in the state, and particularly in Westport. This weekend, we are hoping for good weather for at least part of the time and to be able to conduct the parade as planned. In addition to attending the parade, I hope that you will visit downtown on Saturday and Sunday for the Westport Fine Arts Festival, sponsored by the Westport Downtown Association.

I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend as we continue to emerge from COVID and begin resuming activities in a manner that we were accustomed to prior to the pandemic.

Marpe: Updated COVID Regulations. Town Reopenings

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Yesterday, Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order enacting updated COVID mask protocols in response to the new recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These recommendations allow fully vaccinated individuals to forgo the use of a mask either when outdoors or when indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals. According to the governor’s order, a face covering is required when indoors in a public place or when safe social distancing of approximately six feet from every other person is not maintained – specifically for those who are not fully vaccinated. (Click here to read the entire Executive Order #12.)

According to the Westport Weston Health District, “In accordance with CDC and state Department of Public Health guidelines, the use of masks outdoors is no longer required, but recommended if an individual is outdoors in crowded conditions with others of unknown vaccination status and it is not possible to physically distance from others. Businesses, state and local government offices and event organizers may choose to require universal masking when there is uncertainty of the vaccination status of individuals visiting their facility and/or large crowds may be anticipated.” More information from the CT DPH can be found here.

Please note that this guidance does not mean that masks are no longer required or that social distancing is not recommended. Rather, it is a communication to those who are fully vaccinated that they may forgo the use of a mask in certain, if not most, circumstances. Individual businesses and offices may continue to require people to wear a mask in their facilities.

Currently, there is no process in place to recognize the vaccination status of others. Because of that uncertainty, it is recommended that individuals err on the side of caution and assume in certain larger gatherings that there are those who are unvaccinated, and a mask should be worn. Since many institutions will follow this logic, most indoor mask wearing provisions will remain in place until there is a higher degree of certainty of increased vaccination rates.

Effective June 1, town facilities, including the Westport Library, will be expanding capacity with the goal of returning to full in person and pre-COVID access. However, given the uncertainty of vaccination status, masks will continue to be required in all town facilities. The following procedures will be in place:

  • Town Hall:  The building continues to be open to the public. Effective June 1, walk-in services for certain departments will be reintroduced. Visitors may park in the front or the rear of the building and enter through the front entrance or the handicap ramp. Sign-in will continue as visitors enter the building at the reception area. Masks will be required to enter Town Hall.
  • Appointments: Appointments and remote services continue to be encouraged for the most efficient service. Most appointments will occur in the Town Hall lobby to allow for optimal air circulation and social distancing. For those who prefer to meet outdoors, the exterior tent will be reinstalled.

Town Hall is reopening — slowly. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

  • Plan review meetings with the Land Use Departments (Planning & Zoning, Conservation, Building and fire marshal) continue to be encouraged using remote technology, but those requiring in-person meetings that exceed 15 minutes should schedule an appointment during the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p,m. Monday through Friday in the Town Hall lobby. Plan review with the Building Department and fire marshal will follow the same protocol at Fire Headquarters at 515 Post Road East.
  • Public Meetings: Some public meetings will begin to return to in-person attendance by both board/commission members and the public. Municipalities are still authorized to host remote public meetings until July. It is expected that additional board, committee and commission in-person meetings will gradually return over this time period. Public meeting announcements will indicate how meetings will be conducted.
  • Parks & Recreation:  The Parks & Recreation Department will reopen its administrative office to the public beginning June 1. Masks must be worn. Please practice social distancing. Remote and online options remain the preferred methods of interacting with the Parks & Recreation Department.
  • Police Department:  The Police Department lobby is fully open, including the records window. Follow signage for safety procedures. Remote and online services remain preferred methods of business interaction.
  • Reopening Updates: For the latest on reopening updates, please visit here.

Our goal is to make the town’s transition to pre-COVID operations as safe as possible for residents and employees.  Your continued patience and cooperation are appreciated.

Certainly, anyone may wear a mask if they prefer to do so. Civil and courteous behavior towards all should continue to be the norm. Some individuals with underlying medical conditions who may be more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 should consider continued mask wearing. Such conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes and those immunocompromised. More information on underlying medical conditions can be found at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html1

Board Of Ed: COVID Easing, Schools Move Forward

There was no significant increase in COVID cases after the April break. Elementary and middle school student assessment performances were not significantly impacted by the coronavirus. Federal grants due to the pandemic may help the Westport Public Schools show a surplus at the end of the year.

Those were 3 takeaways from last night’s Board of Education meeting, Brian Fullenbaum reports.

There are only 6 current COVID cases in the school district, supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur said, with just 17 students in quarantine. Most are at Staples High School.

265 students age 16 and older attended the first vaccine clinic. The 2nd is May 16.

Multiple classes will now be allowed at elementary and middle school recess. Classroom desks can again face each other, allowing for more classroom collaboration.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Anthony Buono reported on the MAP assessment results, given to all K-8 students. Some performances were consistent or better than last year.

In addition to Elio Longo’s 3rd quarter financial report, showing a probable balance at the end of the school year after COVID-related offsets, there was discussion of proposed capital maintenance projects. The cost over 10 years will be around $100 million. Scarice proposed securing outside professional expertise to provide oversight; the board agreed.

Marpe’s COVID Update: Regulations Eased, But Vigilance Needed

1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this COVID update:

As of last Friday, the percentage of Westporters receiving at least the first COVID-19 vaccination dose is:

  • Age 65+: 93%
  • Ages 45-64: 83%
  • Ages 15-44: 50%

These vaccination statistics are encouraging. It is recommended that all residents who have not received the vaccine do so as soon as possible. Click here to find a provider near you, and book an appointment. To register for an appointment via telephone, call 877-918-2224.

Given the success of Connecticut’s vaccine rollout, Governor Lamont recently announced significant easing of COVID restrictions.

  • Effective May 1, all restaurants will be allowed to remain open until midnight.  Beverage-only service outdoors will be permissible, and the 8-person limit on outdoor dining will be lifted.
  • Effective May 19, all remaining gathering restrictions will be lifted;  however, masks will continue to be required in all indoor public settings where social distancing is not possible.

Westport municipal buildings remain open to the public by appointment.  Residents are encouraged to continue accessing town services online. Members of the public may also schedule appointments for in-person meetings or other services that require additional assistance.

Residents can make appointments for Town Hall business. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Governor Lamont’s declaration for remote public meetings remains in effect through May 20. Town officials are monitoring changes to the declaration, and legislation that might allow in-person “hybrid meetings” (with both in-person and remote participation). In the meantime, public meetings will continue to be conducted via Zoom.

Planning continues for opening or expanding town amenities and activities:

  • The Senior Center and Toquet Hall are planning for possible outdoor and limited indoor programming in late spring or early summer.
  • As of May 1, parking emblems will be required on all vehicles to enter Compo and Old Mill Beach parking lots, and on May 29 for Burying Hill Beach. Parking emblem purchases must be made online at www.westportrecreation.com. Daily parking for non-residents will be allowed this summer at Compo Beach and Burying Hill Beach. Visit www.westportrecreation.com for daily parking rates.
  • The Parks & Recreation Department and Selectman’s Office continue to plan for a Memorial Day parade. July 4th fireworks are still under consideration, pending further guidance from the state.

Bill Vornkahl looks forward to a 2021 Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)

  • The Parks and Recreation Department is preparing to open its facilities, and plans to offer programs not available last summer due to COVID.
  • Longshore golf course is open for play, as are several tennis locations. The Compo Beach pickleball courts, skatepark facility, platform tennis, Compo basketball courts and playgrounds are open as well.
  • The Board of Selectmen approved the closure of Church Lane, for expanded outdoor dining.
  • The Levitt Pavilion is planning its season, to be held in compliance with COVID considerations related to outdoor venues.
  • Today, Progressive Diagnostics opened a same-day public testing site at the Saugatuck railroad station parking loto adjacent to Exit 17 on Saugatuck Avenue. Services are available weekdays (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Saturdays (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

Plans for townwide reopening and a “return to normal” are encouraging, but we should be cautiously optimistic. According to the state Department of Public Health, 122 municipalities out of 169 (including Westport) remain in the highest COVID alert level (red). This is cause for concern, though more recent daily statistics indicate a downward curve in the spread.

It is also important to understand that being vaccinated does not prevent individuals from being COVID positive and transmitting the virus. Ccontinue to remain informed, and balance COVID safety with personal priorities for physical and mental well-being. This includes being empathetic to those around you, and the individual choices they make.

I encourage those who are vaccinated to be respectful of those who are not, or have differing opinions about the current guidelines and status of the pandemic. Westport town officials will continue to follow and employ science experts’ advice and guidance, so that all in our community will be safe and healthy.

Despite rising vaccination rates, masks continue to be important.

Scarice: Travel Wisely Over April Break

A week before spring vacation — with COVID still a strong concern — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice issued travel guidelines.

He also reminded families of quarantine mandates for athletes staying overnight at out of state events, . Scarice wrote:

Although Governor Lamont’s Executive Order regarding travel is no longer in effect, the Department of Public Health recommends that all Connecticut residents follow CDC Guidelines for Travelers.

Students and staff traveling over the April vacation are asked to follow the guidelines below, which are consistent with the expectations that have been previously communicated.

  • While traveling, please continue to utilize all appropriate mitigation strategies (including mask wearing, distancing, symptom recognition, hand washing, etc.) regardless of whether they are mandated at your destination.

  • Before travel, review current DPH and CDC recommendations for travel during COVID-19, and plan sufficient time for any necessary actions.

  • Before returning to school after travel, we ask everyone to:

    • Get a viral test after returning to Connecticut, and stay out of school until you receive a negative test from the laboratory.

    • Be aware of and closely self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms during and after your trip, especially for the 14 days after returning.

    • Immediately quarantine if anyone with you on your trip tests positive after returning to Connecticut.
    • Be prepared to immediately quarantine if/when symptoms appear.

International travelers should be aware of the additional COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination prior to departure: click here. You may also find these Frequently Asked Questions helpful.

Any student traveling overnight to participate in an athletic tournament must quarantine for a minimum of 7 days upon returning to Connecticut, even with a negative COVID-19 test result.  Additionally, any student not testing must quarantine for a full 10 days upon returning from an overnight out-of-state tournament.  These expectations come directly from the DPH document, “Updated Guidance for the Operation of Interscholastic, Youth and other Amateur Sport Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Connecticut mandates quarantines for any athletes participating in out-of-state events, if they include overnight stays.

As we conclude our second, and final, round of vaccinations for faculty and staff this week, we turn our efforts to supporting parents in vaccinating our 16+ student population.

At this point in the year, nearly 2/3 of our high school population is 16+.  Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine has received emergency approval for administration to children ages 16+. This is not the vaccine that has been distributed to our local health district. However, there are options in our region to advance this effort.

There might be clinics in the region that will be dedicated to local students. We may have more specificity just prior to the April break.  Stay tuned!

School districts across the state are awaiting guidance from the DPH regarding end-of-year activities, including graduation, proms, etc. It is likely that we will continue to be encouraged to favor outdoor activities, with universal mask wearing and social distancing.

Once the DPH document is released, the district will move from “save the date” to planning specifics of our end-of-year activities, knowing that any event can change at a moment’s notice until the pandemic is behind us.

Please continue to report any cases over the break to our hotline. We intend to stay on top of our reporting procedures and data, as we have with prior vacation periods.

Thank you for all of the support and patience this year.

JoyRide Founder: Fitness Industry Needs Help

Westporter Amy Hochhauser started JoyRide in 2011. For 10 years, she has nurtured and grown the popular cycling studio. She writes:

Founding JoyRide is one of the highlights of my life. In addition to the incredible community of riders, many of whom I count as close friends, it’s been tremendously rewarding to employ so many amazing people, in Connecticut and Texas. The JoyFamily is remarkable.

In addition to providing workouts, our team has always been committed to using our platform for good. To date, we’ve helped various charitable organizations raise over $750,000 for their causes. This brings us immense JOY.

Amy Hochhauser (right) with fellow JoyRide leaders (from left): Becky Cerroni and Rhodie Lorenz.

But times are tough. This year, we’ve had to close two of our beloved Connecticut studios just to survive — and we’re still struggling to make ends meet.

After months of mandatory closures and capacity restrictions, the reality is — despite being allowed to open at full capacity — social distancing requires us to limit the number of customers we can serve. Our business model was not meant to function with only 12-15 customers per class.

Most of our landlords have been great. A few, not so much. And as a female-founded, independent small business, we struggle to get the support and attention of some of our larger competitors.

JoyRide has moved classes outdoors …

We’ve had to guarantee many of our obligations personally. Despite believing that we’ve banked enough good karma to avoid this fate, when your landlord is a public company, good vibes and fairness don’t get you very far.

But we are not alone. Thousands of gyms and studios (and many other small businesses) across the country struggle with the exact same fate. We can all forecast a horizon in 2022 where things get better, but to get to that place, we need to survive the next 6 months.

… and cut capacity indoors.

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that fitness and wellness are more important than ever. They combat not only obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also the epidemic of loneliness and reliance on technology. We need to turn off the screens and sweat together! Human connection is a requirement for a JOYful life.

The Gym Mitigation and Survival (GYMS) Act — a bipartisan bill in Congress — would offer relief to health and fitness establishments. Most previous economic relief packages have either left out or not really helped the fitness industry.

If want to help, please click this link and ask our representatives to ask them to pass the GYMS ACT. We need all the help we can get.

Marpe Marks 1-Year COVID Anniversary

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Today marks 1 year since Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, Westport Public Schools representatives, my fellow selectpersons, various department heads and I held a press conference on the steps of Town Hall addressing the new “coronavirus” spreading throughout the world. At

that time we knew that COVID had been discovered in Westport, contact tracing efforts could not control its spread, and that community members should be made aware of the serious health and safety issues associated with the virus.

We announced that the Public Schools and other town facilities would be closed. We were unaware of how circumstances would unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months to follow.

Flanked by town officials, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced the latest COVID-19 news, one year ago today.

In the following days, as the town was further shut down and we all entered a phase of self-isolation, I implored everyone to “stay safe and stay home.” I reminded Westporters to maintain “virus distancing” everywhere; that stores and certain businesses remained open only to insure that food and essentials were available to the public, and that all other activities where people may congregate in groups must be avoided.

In short order, we realized what services were considered essential. We became reliant upon takeout food, curbside pickup, and planned for lines outside grocery stores and pharmacies. Working and schooling from home, scrambling for masks, toilet paper and disinfectant became common occurrences.

It was a confusing and unsettling time. In retrospect however, I believe the common conversations and collective experiences were a way to self-manage the significant emotional toll the pandemic was having on our lives.

A funeral service at Willowbrook Cemetery was limited fewer than 10 mourners.

We continue to remain careful and vigilant. Thankfully, due to many positive developments throughout the year, the science and information now available provides an understanding of what we must do to contain and combat the virus.

I am very thankful that we are in a position today to state that we are beginning to see an end; that much of the unknown has become known, and that we are stronger as a result.

On this solemn anniversary, I send my deepest condolences to those who have lost a loved one and to others who have seen the devastating effects of this pandemic. As a community, we mourn with you and send loving thoughts that the memories of your family members and friends will sustain you in this difficult time.

I would be wholly remiss if I did not emphatically state that, despite its obvious impact, COVID has proved how creative, resilient and compassionate Westporters truly are. The support for first responders and health care workers, words of encouragement, heart-shaped signs, painted rocks, and donations of handmade PPE, proved to be a motivating force for many. These acts of kindness brought a sense of peace and calm during extremely challenging times. The community spirit and collective concern for all was, and continues to be, uplifting.

Some hot meals for the Westport Fire Department, courtesy of Staples football and Viva Zapata.

In conclusion, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Westport residents, businesses owners, religious leaders, town employees, and the multitude of volunteers who offered advice, maintained services, provided comfort, financial support, and generally surpassed expectations in caring for all of our neighbors.

Your cooperation and unselfish participation, under extreme conditions, was extraordinary. I will always be thankful that Westporters were able to respond to and meet the unique challenge that was COVID.  And I am confident that brighter days are ahead. Please continue to be safe and healthy.

For more information on Westport’s response to COVID-19, visit westportct.gov/covid, or wwhd.org. For information on COVID-19 vaccination distribution plans in Connecticut, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine.

March 11, 2020: The Day COVID Crushed Our Town

On Sunday, March 8, 2020, town officials hosted a community forum on COVID-19, at the Westport Library.

“A small, well-spaced-apart crowd was joined by many more online participants this afternoon,” I wrote.

“Presentations were clear and cogent; questions were wide-ranging and thoughtful; answers were direct and honest.” Topics included schools, the Senior Center, restaurants, Metro-North, budget implications, gyms and the YMCA.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (far right), at the March 8 COVID-19 panel.

The key takeaways:

  • There were dozens of “what-ifs.”
  • The best precautions included rigorous hand-washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces, and careful monitoring of surroundings and contacts.
  • It was virtually inevitable that COVID would come to Westport.

In fact, it already had.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left),and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrated the best way to say hello, COVID-19-style.

Three days later — on Wednesday, March 11 — fear had heightened considerably.

A student at Staples High School asked me if I thought schools would close. “Maybe Monday,” I replied.

That night I was supposed to have dinner with my sister and nephews in New York, and see Andy Borowitz. We texted all day about what to do. With trepidation, we said: Let’s go for it.

Suddenly, news came that Westport schools were closing. A news conference was quickly planned for outside Town Hall. Forget dinner, I texted. I have to cover this.

The weather outside Town Hall was beautiful, I reported. But the officials on the front steps were grim.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper and others outlined the day’s rapid developments.

Flanked by town officials, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announces COVID-19 news.

They noted a private party in Westport the previous Thursday, March 5. Of the 40 or so attendees — of all ages — 14 reported coronavirus-like symptoms.

“It’s likely many people were exposed,” Cooper said. “And others will be.”

Schools would be closed indefinitely, for deep cleaning. Also shut: Town Hall. All meetings, including the Board of Finance budget. The Senior Center. Toquet Hall. The Westport Library (until Monday).

Marpe noted that private institutions must decide for themselves which events to cancel. “We recognize these are tough decisions,” he said.

Print and television reporters kept their distance from each other, at the press conference on the steps of Town Hall. (Photos/Dan Woog)

I still planned one last hurrah that night in New York.

I never went. Midway through writing my story, I got a text. Andy Borowitz had canceled.

The next day, I walked downtown.

The scene was surreal. Main Street was abandoned. Stores were shut; every parking spot was open.

A friend in an office above Brooks Corner spotted me. We talked for an hour. He runs a summer camp. He had no idea if — or how — he’d be affected. We agreed: None of us knew what’s ahead. But suddenly we were very, very worried.

One of my fears was that with Westport locked down, I’d have nothing to write about.

An hour or so after the Westport Public Schools announced they were closing, Trader Joe’s looked like the day before a snowstorm. (Photo/Armelle Pouriche)

I could not have been more wrong.

After returning home, I did not leave for the next 4 days. I wrote constantly. There were stories everywhere.

I wrote about:

  • Constantly changing advice on numbers and safety precautions
  • Store closures: How to get food
  • Church closures: What to expect for Easter and Passover
  • What students should expect, with schools closed
  • The emotions of the Staples girls’ basketball team; COVID canceled the state tournament, just as they reached the semifinals
  • The lack of test kits
  • A raging debate on whether “small gatherings” were okay. “It’s not a snow day!” one news story reported. Some in Westport disagreed.

And of course, I wrote about the beach.

The weekend was gorgeous. Stuck at home Thursday and Friday, Westporters flocked to Compo. Some wore masks. Most did not. Some practiced that new concept: social distancing. Others did not.

Compo Beach, March 13, 2020 (Photo/Jo Shields Sherman)

Alarmed, Marpe shut the Compo and Burying Hill parking lots, and the Compo playground.

Some Westporters applauded his action.

Others protested. They drove to the beach, and parked up and down Soundview Drive.

Police issued tickets. But they were playing whack-a-mole. As soon as one beachgoer left, another arrived.

With the parking lot closed, folks parked up and down the exit road.

All that was within the first 96 hours of COVID in Westport.

It’s been here since.

I realized quickly that I would not run out of stories.

The pandemic has affected every aspect of life here. I’ve written about:

  • The return of college students and 20-somethings to their parents’ homes
  • The continued fallout from “the party”
  • Mental and physical health
  • Westporters of all ages coming together: teenagers shopping for the elderly; women making masks (and yarn bombing trees); churches providing meals; children painting positive messages on rocks
  • Where to find toilet paper, paper towels and Lysol
  • Businesses and restaurants that closed — and new ones that opened
  • Pop-up entertainment, like the Remarkable Theater and a Staples grad who sings opera
  • How to access business loans and other help
  • Hybrid education, Staples’ unique graduation, and the virtual Candlelight Concert
  • 12-step programs, religious services and more online
  • App developers who help the world trace contacts, visualize impacts, connect with others
  • Virtual programming: the Westport Library, JoyRide, non-profit fundraisers and more
  • Where to get tested, and how to get a vaccine.

One of the yarn bomber’s first works, at fire headquarters. (Photo/Molly Alger)

One year ago today, I stood on the steps of Town Hall. I still thought I could get to New York that night.

I haven’t been back since.

This has been a year like no other. Every man, woman and child in Westport has been affected.

We’ve lost 28 neighbors. Over 1,400 here have been diagnosed with COVID. If we did not believe that COVID was real on March 10 last year, we sure did on March 11.

Soon, “06880” will look ahead. We’ll try to figure out what March 11, 2022 will feel like.

But today, let’s look back. We want to hear your thoughts on the past year.

What did the town do right? Wrong? What are you most proud of, or regret the most? How did your life change?

Click “Comments” below.

And remember: Wear a mask!

James Dobin-Smith created the OneWestport.com website in a matter of days. It provided up to date information on what’s open and cloed, all around town.

COVID Update

Here is 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s weekly COVID update:

This week we saw great progress in the fight against COVID-19, and some return to normalcy.

Governor Lamont announced some easing of COVID-19 restrictions over the next couple of months. Individuals age 55 and over, along with educators and childcare professionals, became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) hosted the first COVID-19 vaccination clinic dedicated to school personnel at Staples High School.

Health officials continue to emphasize mask wearing, social distancing and good hygiene, even as restrictions are loosened and the vaccine is further distributed.

Governor Lamont’s plans for the 2021 spring season include the following:

  • An executive order immediately opens the fishing season by removing the closed seasons on all inland waters in Connecticut, and opens additional lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams to fishing statewide.
  • Effective March 19, the occupancy limits for many places of business, restaurants, cultural institutions, libraries, offices, and houses of worship will be removed, although COVID protocols must continue to be observed. Indoor occupancy limits will be increased to 25 indoors and 100 outdoors. For commercial venues, those caps are 100 and 200 respectively. Subject to Department of Public Health guidance, all sports will be allowed to practice and compete, and all sports tournaments will be allowed.
  • Effective April 2, summer camps and festivals are advised they may begin planning to open for the upcoming season. Additional information can be found here.

Summer camps may be open again this year.

In Westport, I am pleased to announce that plans are underway for a summer that will look more like what we normally experienced in past years.

  • The Levitt Pavilion is planning its season, to be held in compliance with any necessary COVID considerations related to outdoor venues.
  • The Board of Selectmen approved the use of the Imperial Avenue parking lot for the Remarkable Theater’s Drive-In movie theater, and for The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library’s Supper and Soul events.
  • The Parks and Recreation Department is currently preparing to open its facilities, and plans to offer programs that were not available last year due to COVID-19. They will strive to create safe environments for all facility users and program participants by following best practices and state guidelines.

The Remarkable Theater will be back, with movies and events like Supper and Soul concerts. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

While the easing of these restrictions, as well as the relief from the vaccine, is encouraging, we cannot and should not put our guards down when it comes to the pandemic. All protocols that relate to face coverings, social distancing, and cleaning measures must be maintained. Although current vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, there is a possibility that the virus may be contracted from another source. People may remain asymptomatic and contagious even after vaccination. I strongly urge all residents and businesses to follow the State’s reopening guidelines.

The CDC’s latest guidance on mask wearing can be found here.

Update from the Westport Human Service’s Department:

The Department of Human Services and the WWHD seek the community’s help in identifying residents who are experiencing technical difficulties scheduling their COVID-19 vaccination appointments or who require a home vaccination appointment. Seniors ages 65+ and individuals ages 55+ years old with disabilities who require local appointments or a home visit to receive their vaccine should call 203-341-5037 or email humansrv@westportct.gov for assistance.

If you or a loved one are genuinely homebound, please contact the Human Services Department for an assessment of eligibility to receive a home visit for vaccination. Homebound persons include those who require medical equipment to leave their home safely and whose medical provider has advised them not to leave their home due to medical vulnerability.

Registration for the Vaccine:

Vaccine eligible residents are encouraged to make vaccine appointments at any available vaccination clinic, and not wait for an appointment specifically with WWHD. It is anticipated that as supplies to the Health District increase, additional clinic appointments will become available.

Those who are currently eligible to register for the COVID-19 vaccination include:

  • Healthcare personnel
  • Long-term care facility residents
  • Medical first responders
  • Residents and staff of select congregate settings
  • Individuals 55 and older
  • Educators and child care providers:  Pre-K – 12 teachers, paraprofessionals, custodial staff, food service providers, school bus drivers and childcare providers as well as in-school administrative staff. This does not include individuals who are not required to work on-site in a school.

To view a statewide list and map of COVID-19 vaccine clinics click here, enter your zip code in the location box on the right and press the yellow search icon.

Vaccination appointments can be made utilizing the following tools:

  • The Vaccine Administration Management System can be used to schedule appointments at multiple clinics across the state. Click here.
  • Call Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Assist Line: Open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., 7 days a week: 877-918-2224.
  • Hartford HealthCare: Multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the Hartford area. Click here.
  • Yale New Haven Health: Multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the New Haven area. Click here.
  • Stamford Health: 7 days a week at Stamford Hospital. Click here.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccination distribution plans in Connecticut, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine.

COVID Vaccine, Restriction Rollback Update:

State Senator Will Haskell offers this COVID-19 update:

Connecticut this week received 39,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, in addition to the thousands of Moderna and Pfizer doses already being distributed on a regular basis. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective, and requires only 1 injection, so we’ll be able to accelerate the rate of immunization significantly in the coming weeks and months.

Currently, 74 percent of state residents over the age of 75 have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine; 59 percent between 65 and 74 have received at least 1 dose, and 17 percent between 55 and 64 have received at least 1 dose. I’m proud that we’ve administered over 1 million vaccine doses.

In light of our vaccination success and the overall decline of COVID-19 cases, Governor Lamont has also announced the rollback of certain social distancing restrictions beginning March 19th, including the full capacity reopening of indoor restaurants.

These new restrictions reflect that we’re moving closer to a fully reopened economy. In the meantime, it is important that all employees and customers continue to wear masks, stay 6feet apart, and wash their hands frequently. The more we do those things, the more likely it is that we will be able to fully reopen and put this pandemic behind us in the near future.