Tag Archives: COVID

Signs, Social Media Urge: “Unmask Our Children”

Connecticut’s statewide school mask mandate expires February 15. Pressure is growing on Governor Lamont to end it immediately — and for legislators not to extend it, when they vote February 10.

If the state mandate expires, local school districts could implement their own policies.

Local “Mask Choice” groups sprang up earlier in towns like Fairfield, Wilton and Darien. In the past couple of days, “Mask Choice Westport signs” appeared in front yards and public spaces.

A sign near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown … (Photo submitted by “WestportParents06880@Gmail.com”)

On social media, the handle is @MaskChoiceWestport. As of last night, an Instagram account with that name had posted 31 times — mostly links to news stories, opinion pieces and videos — and had 463 followers.

A reader told “06880”: “Parents are sending letters to Lamont, state representatives, the Board of Education, our superintendent, the Connecticut Teachers Association, and anyone else who would listen. This is the hot topic of all the parents I know right now.”

Statewide, 86% of 16- and 17-year-olds, and 79% of those 12 to 15 have received at least one COVID vaccine dose. The figure for 5- to 11-year-olds is 44%.

Cases have dropped sharply in Fairfield County since their mid-January Omicron peak.

… and the Sherwood Island Connector. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice notes that the topic has caused “a great deal of division in both the public health and medical community, as well as in the school community.” The district “will continue to receive guidance from our local health district, medical advisor and the state Department of Public Health,” he says.

Scarice adds:

At the outset of the pandemic and the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the district took a very conservative approach to our learning models and mitigating measures.

Since last January, we have learned a great deal and provided increased access to programs and services within the guidance we have been provided. Not only have we remained fully open, including extracurricular programs, we have consistently peeled back layers of mitigation when the opportunities have presented themselves.  I anticipate that we will take the same approach with universal masking based on the guidance we receive.

“06880” attempted to speak with a spokesperson for “MaskChoiceWestport.” However, contact information was not immediately available.

Roundup: School Visitors, Stop & Shop, Lunar New Year …


With COVID cases decreasing, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has announced that as of January 31, visitors will be allowed back in buildings. All visitors will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test administered 72 prior to the visit.


Stop & Shop may still be confounding customers with its “redesign.” But they are on the ball with one thing. Last week, “06888” called the supermarket out on their flyer, which announced their “reopening” (though they never closed) as taking place in “East Westport.”

This week, they got it right:

Now, if we can just figure out where they moved the coffee to … (Hat tip: Beth Keane)


In just a year of operation, AAPI Westport has made its mark on Westport.

Next up: a Lunar Year celebration. It’s set for the Westport Weston Family Y, on Saturday, February 5 (1 to 3 p.m.).

On tap: crafts, games and a cooking demonstration (dumplings!). Everyone is welcome.

The event is free. Registration is recommended, but not required; click here.


Congratulations to the Staples/Stamford/Westhill girls ice hockey coop team. They’re the Ruden Report Team of the Week, following a great 0-0 tie against powerhouse Darien.

The girls practice at 5:30 a.m. — in Stamford — once a week. But you can catch them working out on Fridays after school, at the Longshore PAL rink.

The Staples/Stamford/Westhiill girls ice hockey coop team.


Ever since COVID struck, Westporters have discovered the wide open spaces and beauty of Sherwood Island State Park. Fred Cantor took this “Westport … Naturally” photo last week.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)


And finally … today is the birthday of Chita Rivera. The actress/singer/dancer is 89 years old.

Unsung Heroes #223

Last week, “06880” saluted Saugatuck Elementary School nurse Jane Sandri, and all her colleagues in the Westport district.

Being a school nurse in the best of times is a herculean — and thankless — task.

These are not the best of times.

Today we honor all those other healthcare workers on the frontlines during the pandemic.

Doctors, nurses, and the staffs in their medical offices. All have spent nearly 2 years dealing with the disease, up close and personal. They’ve diagnosed, treated and reassured their patients, while at the same time worrying about their families and loved ones — and themselves.

The men and women at the Westport Weston Health District. In a time of constantly shifting information, they’re out steady-as-she-goes go-to resources.

The pharmacists at CVS, Walgreens, Colonial Pharmacy, Achorn’s and elsewhere answer panicked questions and give vaccines in addition to their usual duties — and everyone else in their stores, who has been caught up in this tsunami.

Emergency workers like police, firefighters and EMTs have had far more than their share of interactions with COVID patients (and those they fear may be, or don’t even know themselves).

Ditto everyone who has volunteered at a vaccine clinic, or helped distribute testing kids.

And of course all those who work every day at a test center.

I’m sure there are many others who spend every day — 24/7/365 — deep in this viral mess.

If you’ve served us in any way throughout the crisis, you’ve done something special. That’s why you’re “06880”‘s Unsung Heroes of the Week.

And the year.

Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email nominations to dwoog@optonline.net.

Scarice: School District COVID Update

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this message today to Westport families:

As an interim follow-up to the message yesterday, I would like to share some additional updates regarding recent changes in isolation, quarantine and contact tracing guidelines, as well as an opportunity for COVID-19 testing for students and families this Monday.

As previously announced, Monday (January 3) will be a “staff only” day, as the winter break will be extended 1 day. Students are expected to return Tuesday.

Maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff, while keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs, remains our priority.

Possible COVID-19 Testing Clinic for Students Monday, January 3

In an effort to keep positive student cases out of our schools we are in the planning stages with Progressive Diagnostics, our partner with our in-school weekly testing program. Initial plans are being made to host a testing clinic for Westport Public School students and families this Monday. All family members will have the opportunity to be tested, and insurance will be billed.

The initial plan is to provide space in our Staples High School fieldhouse.  Appointments will be scheduled by Progressive through an on-line scheduler.  The link to schedule an appointment will be provided through a follow-up communication once the details have been finalized.

This is in the planning stages, but we wanted to make our students and families aware of this possibility given the lack of testing options in the region.

The Westport Public Schools have already offered several vaccination clinics for staff and students, in the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Changes in Isolation Guidelines

Last night,  the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) notified all superintendents that the state has adopted changes to the isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing guidelines.

Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19:

  • should isolate at home for at least 5 days, or longer if symptoms develop and persist,

  • wear a mask for the subsequent 5 days at all times when around others,

  • return to school on or after day 6 if symptoms have resolved, and they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medication.

This is a change from the previous isolation period of 10 days.

If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 on or before December 29, they can return to school on January 4 if they are symptom-free. Students who have tested positive after December 29 should remain home and isolate for 5 days and return to school on Day 6 if symptom free.

Contact Tracing and Quarantine Practices

Individual contact tracing is less effective when community transmission is high. This process further taxes our nurse and health staff, and our building administrators, to a point that it becomes more challenging to attend to the needs of the students currently in school.

Connecticut DPH has determined that routine contact tracing within the school buildings and during supervised activities can be discontinued. Our priority will be early identification of positive cases and assuring appropriate isolation.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students and staff (defined has having only 1 dose of a 2-dose vaccine, or being within 2 weeks of the final dose) experiencing a high risk exposure incident outside of school (athletic event, sleepover, other similar activities) will:

  • quarantine for 5 days

  • obtain a test on day 5 with either with an at home or lab test and

  • return to school wearing a mask at all times when with others for up to 10 days.

Vaccinated school staff and students with an exposure outside of school may:

  • continue with in-person learning,

  • test with either an at home or lab test on day 5, and

  • wear a mask at all times.

Support for Students in Isolation or Quarantine

Part of the work over the vacation period and on Monday will be to provide as many supports for students in isolation or quarantine as possible. More information will be forthcoming at the end of the day on Monday on this effort.

Notifications of Positive Cases

When a positive case is identified, elementary classroom notifications will be made as well as grade level and school notifications. As the numbers of cases remains high, we will continue to report district numbers daily and maintain the district dashboard. This work is very demanding, and might not be entirely accurate at a given moment. We ask for your patience, and reiterate that the district will continue full transparency as we have done this entire pandemic.  Any delay is a matter of the human resources necessary to maintain our data.


Not only is universal masking still part of the governor’s Executive Order, but an increased emphasis on mask wearing will be implemented on our return on January 4. Staff and students will be required to wear face masks at all times when in the presence of staff and students.

  • The provision for teachers to remove masks when teaching from the front of the classroom will be suspended until further notice from the Superintendent’s office.

  • Reminders will be provided for all students to reinforce proper mask wearing.

  • There is significant “mask fatigue” in our community and our schools. Faculty, staff, and administrators are doing, and will continue to do their best to ensure proper mask wearing among our student population.

  • DPH has reinstated the use of masks for all athletes to continuously wear masks during athletic competitions.

  • In addition to our supply of KN95 masks for staff, the district anticipates a shipment of N95 masks from the state for staff use.

De-densification in the lunchroom

  • All efforts will be made to provide additional spacing between students while at lunch at all levels.

  • This task is very challenging, yet our school-based teams will continue to put thought into how to further “de-densify” our lunch settings.

Vaccination Efforts

We encourage all families that have not already done so, to get vaccinations and boosters 6 months after the last vaccinations of Pfizer and Moderna and 2 months after J & J vaccine  It is anticipated that the FDA will authorize boosters for 12-15 year-olds this week.

During this time of high transmission it is more important than ever, whether vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, to stay home when ill. Even mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue and nasal congestion can be signs of COVID-19. Stay home, test for COVID-19 with either an at-home or lab test, and remain home until you are symptom free for at least 24 hours.

You can anticipate an additional update by the end of the weekend. In the interim, please stay healthy and rest assured that the district is working continuously on maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff, while keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs.

Tooker: Mask Up In Town-Owned Buildings

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker says:

Westport’s COVID-19 Emergency Management Team is tracking and assessing transmission rates in Westport, Connecticut and the nation, specifically as they relate to the COVID-19 Delta and Omicron variants.

After consideration and consultation with health officials and municipal leaders, effective Monday (December 27), all vaccinated or non-vaccinated individuals will be required to wear a mask indoors in town-owned buildings. These include Town Hall, the Senior Center and Westport Library.

In cooperation with town officials, Progressive Diagnostics anticipates opening a COVID testing center at Greens Farms railroad station on or about January 1. Details will be announced soon.

At the Senior Center, there will no indoor programs or congregate lunches the week of December 27.  Classes will be held via Zoom. The lunch program will take place as a drive-thru at noon on December 27, 28 and 29. The Senior Center is closed December 30 and 31. In-house programs resume Monday, January 3.

Health officials note that all who are able and eligible should get fully vaccinated. and a booster, as soon as possible. Getting fully vaccinated – including receiving a booster shot, wearing a mask indoors in any public setting and maintaining social distancing. remain the most reliable ways of limiting exposure and transmission.

Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, COVID testing is encouraged to determine if you have the virus, and can take necessary precautions to avoid the spread to family, friends and those who are vulnerable.

Fortunately, although the Omicron variant is highly contagious and transmissible, people who are vaccinated and boosted are experiencing less severe symptoms if they test positive.

Cases have increased rapidly across the Northeast. Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper says, “Of the new cases reported in Westport, 37% are in fully vaccinated individuals (those who have received 2 Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or 1 Johnson & Johnson). Those who have received the booster make up about 2.6% of the new cases.”

Additional information on the virus, testing and boosters is available at www.WWHD.org and https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus

Please remain cautious and safe, especially during this holiday season. If you are not already fully vaccinated, please get a booster. Continue to be proactive, wear a mask indoors in congregant settings, and get tested.

With everyone’s cooperation, we can look forward to having a happy and healthy holiday season and new year in Westport.

Scarice: Increased Mitigation; No Remote Learning

This afternoon, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this message to all Westport Public Schools families:

Throughout the pandemic, our community and our schools have been able to flexibly adapt our mitigating measures in order to respond to the changing conditions. Our benchmark has been to continually review our strategies and consider changes every 4-6 weeks, sometimes sooner. However, the recent sharp increase in cases over the past 4 or 5 days warrants action.

The district has increased the frequency of reporting cases in direct proportion to the increase in the volume of positive tests. Our weekly screening program, administered yesterday, identified 12 asymptomatic cases. In addition, since this morning, another 18 cases have been reported. The town of Westport has reported 113 cases this week, up from a total of 41 last week.

Nearly all who have tested positive report mild to moderate symptoms. Based on minimal transmission in the school setting compared to the community, we continue to believe that our schools may be one of the safest places for our students to be.

With strong mitigation, schools are safe during COVID. (Photo Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Increase in Mitigating Measures
However, in order to strengthen our measures and keep our students and staff safe, we will take actions to limit activities we believe may contribute to the potential of spread within our schools at this point in time. These measures include:

  • The grade 8 trip to Staples High School for the Candlelight performance will be canceled. Other opportunities will be explored
  • Holiday parties in the classroom will continue, with an emphasis on social distancing
  • Effective immediately, parent and school visitors will be restricted from accessing our school buildings through January 7.
  • Concerts/performances will not be held through January 7.

While we regret having to take these measures just prior to the holiday, it is our hope that this present wave of COVID-19 will subside and our cases will decrease which will allow mitigating measures to be relaxed.

Remote Learning
I have received a couple of inquiries regarding a preemptive move to remote learning. Remote learning is not an option for districts this year.

Districts are not permitted to implement remote instruction as a school, or as a district, preemptively like last year. School districts are able to implement continued educational opportunities (tutoring, remote contact with teachers outside of the classroom, before and after school programs, etc.) for students who must be in COVID-19 isolation or quarantine. This year, school districts are not permitted to implement remote learning. That provision was removed prior to the start of the school year.

Learning remotely — as shown with teacher Peter von Euler last year — is no longer a school-wide option.

Again, based on our data and experience over the past 2 school years, we continue to maintain a safe environment for our students and staff, with minimal transmission of the virus in our settings, particularly when compared to community transmission rates. Maintaining continued contact with peers and faculty, while attending to the social/emotional needs of our students is critical to their long term mental health and overall wellness.

We will continue to monitor cases throughout our break and provide case updates through our emails. Families are asked to continue to report positive cases through our hotline. Please note that contact tracing will be limited throughout the break.

Scarice Updates Town On Security And COVID

Last night, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this message to the community:

Safety and Security: It is troubling to consider that the only period of time void of school shootings occurred during the remote learning and full quarantine in the spring of 2020. Again yesterday, another unspeakable act of school violence took the lives of 4 innocent children in Michigan. In Connecticut, there were reports of a prop gun in one high school, a stabbing just outside another high school, and a bomb threat in a neighboring district. These events are an unfortunate and heartbreaking reminder of the world our children are growing up in.

In Westport, our vigilance in keeping our students safe is resolute, and does not ebb and flow based on such tragedies. We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with our local police department, including regular patrols of a dedicated officer on our campuses, in addition to a full time School Resource Office at our high school.

Additionally, each school is staffed with full-time security personnel, and equipped with cameras and communication systems. Furthermore, our administrative team conducts regular drills to keep our faculty, staff and students fluent in procedures to maintain safety in the event of an emergency.

Finally, our increased focus on proactive measures to build community, while addressing emotional and mental wellness, serves to meet the needs of all of our students in providing interventions to those in distress. However, we count on our families to partner with us in open two way communication as no one knows your child better than you. Together, we can work to celebrate our students in the best of times, and support them in the most challenging of times.

COVID Update: Less than one month ago I shared with our families that COVID infection rates had hovered at levels we had not seen since May. In those few short weeks we have seen an increase in infections in the region, and the warning of the Omicron variant. There is much to learn about how this variant might, or might not, impact our community.  his is precisely why approaching the school year in 4-6 week increments is important.

Fortunately, hundreds of 5-11-year-olds have been vaccinated in town, or are receiving their second shot, in addition to the high rate of vaccination among our staff, secondary students, and the community at large.

State Senator Will Haskell and Long Lots Elementary School nurse Max Zimmer, at last month’s vaccination clinic for 5-11-year-olds, at Staples High School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

K-6 Weekly Serial Testing: With these developments, we will continue to administer our K-6 weekly voluntary serial testing program through the end of the calendar year at a minimum. Given transmission rates at that time, we will reassess the program and make considerations for the new year.

Lunch and Dismissal: Students have returned to the cafeteria for lunch with some schools making modest exceptions based on sizes of individual grade levels. We continue to distance to the maximum extent possible. Additionally, each school, particularly at the elementary level, revised dismissal procedures to determine the most efficient way to release students to parents who are not taking the bus.  Each school has a slightly different dismissal procedure based on a variety of factors (i.e. driveway capacity, traffic flow, etc.).

Vaccination Requirement for School Visitors:  Since the beginning of the school year we have required proof of vaccination for school visitors.  Additionally, the governor used his executive powers to mandate vaccination for all employees with the provision of legal exemptions. We will continue to require vaccination for school visitors but we will employ the same approach for unvaccinated visitors as we do for unvaccinated employees. Effective immediately, we will require evidence of a negative COVID test within 72 hours prior to visiting our schools for unvaccinated visiting parents and caregivers.

School Performances and Concerts: It is the time of year for school concerts and performances. When rates plummeted last month we were able to welcome audiences with 100% capacity. With the recent increase in infection rates, the Westport/Weston Health District and our medical advisor, Dr. Norman Wienberger, have both asked that we limit audiences to accommodate appropriate distancing between family units. Some schools might use alternative venues to accommodate all parents. Your child’s school principal will provide additional information on this topic.

We continue to recommend and expect all visitors will be vaccinated or test negative for COVID within 72 hours of attending a school concert or performance. Although we do not have the resources to check individuals upon entry after hours, it is an expectation and I am confident that our families will honorably respect this requirement.

This year’s Candlelight Concert will include audience and other restrictions. It may look different from this 2020 performance — but the 81-year tradition continues.

Universal Masking: The Governor’s universal masking mandate for schools remains in effect through February 15. It is possible, based on vaccination and infection rates, that the Governor will revisit this provision after the New Year.  In the interim, we will maintain universal masking.

Modified Quarantine Procedures “Screen and Stay”:  =We have successfully implemented the new quarantine procedures, “Screen and Stay” in the past month for students identified as close contacts. Vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine.

We will continue to monitor conditions as we flexibly employ mitigating measures in response to the pandemic. While rates have increased recently, I want to assure our families that throughout the entire pandemic, like most school districts, we have experienced little to no virus spread in our schools.

Thank You, Jim Marpe!

This is Jim Marpe’s final day as 1st selectman.

Tonight at 7:30, Jen Tooker will be sworn in as Westport’s 1st selectwoman. She was Marpe’s deputy for the past 4 years, but she’ll bring a new style and tone — and perhaps some new policies — to the job.

Yet before Marpe hands over his key (or swipe card, or however else he gets into Town Hall), let’s pause and say “thanks!”

Jim Marpe, at last May’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Thank you, Jim, for coming out of retirement — after a career at Accenture — to bring your managerial and organizational skills to Westport.

Thank you for overseeing every aspect of town — business and residential; police, fire and EMS; transportation; recreation, and so much more — with professionalism and expertise. You always had the best interests of our community at heart.

Thank you for handling too many weather emergencies — blizzards, wind storms, nor’easters, Isaias — with calmness and competence.

Thank you for handling the biggest emergency of all — COVID — well too. We were one of the nation’s first super-spreaders. No leader anywhere knew exactly what to do. An early decision to close the beach created a huge backlash. But the virus never spiraled out of control here. Eighteen months later, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In early March 2020, 1st Selectman Marpe convened a panel at the Westport Library to discuss the coming threat of COVID. Mask wearing had not yet become mandatory. Four days later, Marpe shut the town down.

Thank you for keeping our mill rate so stable. The state and nation has been whipsawed by economic volatility. But throughout the Marpe administration, our taxes have been remarkably low. (Don’t believe me? Ask friends in neighboring towns — or Westchester or Long Island.)

The first selectman does not have direct control over education. But thank you for your previous service on the Board of Education. Our school district is in great shape. Thank you for all you have done to keep it that way.

Thank you for being always present, all the time. You joked about the oversized scissors you bring to every new store and restaurant ribbon cutting. But your presence touched every part of Westport.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (2nd from left) proclaims Pizza Month in Westport.

You were there for so many of my own events: our annual “06880” party at Compo, and Staples boys soccer team car washes and banquets (even though it’s across the border, at the Norwalk Inn).

Many other Westporters have been heartened by your presence too, at their concerts, plays, fundraisers, ceremonies, meetings, you name it. Your presence meant a lot, to all of us.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, First Selectman Jim Marpe and organizer Andy  Berman bang out pushups at a charity event.

I did not agree with all of your decisions. No one ever does. (Probably not even your wife and constant supporter, Mary Ellen.)

But you always listened carefully, to all your constituents. You treated us all with respect, no matter what our point of view or political party.

Politicians in Washington and Hartford could learn a lot from what you’ve done in Westport. We are a better town for your service.

I’m glad you’re not going anywhere (other than to spend more time with your grandson). I look forward to seeing you around town — and at the “06880” picnic.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe at the 2018 “06880” party.

PS: It may seem that Jim Marpe never took a vacation. But every once in a while, he snuck away. A couple of years ago, he went on a Tauck Tour to Alaska. Robin Tauck was on the cruise. I thought that would make a great story.

But Jim asked me not to say anything. He didn’t want people to know he was not available here, 24/7/365. Now it can be told. 

[OPINION] The Great Unmasking

Allegra Gatti Zemel is a Westport resident of 8 years, and mother of 3. She works in healthcare. In her spare time, she writes about real life.

Real life includes the pandemic. Allegra says:

1st Selecctman Jim Marpe and the Westport Weston Health District lifted the indoor mask mandate on Thursday. That means if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask at Trader Joe’s, CVS or any other place you frequent on regular (in my case, daily!?) basis.

(There are exceptions. Check local and individual policies.)

Alas, gone are the days of picking up a cantaloupe and trying to assess its ripeness without the telltale aroma at the stem. Pineapples, tomatoes, peaches — I rely on my nose for selecting all of them. Without my sense of smell, over the last 20 months, I’ve arrived home with a handful of duds.  

The blast of coffee aroma that greeted me at Starbucks has been reduced to a mere hint seeping through my mask.

Allegra Gatti Zemel

And remember when you didn’t touch your face or mask without hand sanitizing first? You certainly didn’t lower it. My mask ensured my bubble of safety, for a long time.

But Friday, with the indoor mask mandate just lifted, I liberated the lower half of my face. Here’s what happened.

I toured a friend’s new space, partially renovated for sale but being renovated further, and was overwhelmed by the dampness. My nose smelled wet wood, wet plaster. Not wet paint. I wonder how many new homeowners took their masks off to smell their potential new home.

I got my hair cut in a salon with a hairdresser I’ve seen 3 times in the past 20 months. Any adult with hair remembers the urgency of that first time back in the chair, and the ability to subsequently maintain what just felt like self-care,

Despite our hours together, she had never seen me without a mask. As I sat in front of the mirror she looked at me, really saw me, and said “Oh my goodness – I’ve never seen your whole face. You’re so pretty!”

I blushed, said thank you, and panicked.  Did I have anything in my teeth!? I haven’t worried about that in a while. But as we talked, she got to see my expressions – my reactions, my smiles, my thinking face.

While she painted rows of hair and sculpted an impressive tin foil head piece, my eyes watered from the smell of ammonia. As she masterfully unwrapped my hair and washed it all out, my head tilted back in the sink, sniffer straight up to the air,

I was overwhelmed by the chemicals – familiar, but daunting. Is this the best thing to be putting on my head? My nose was looking out for me again.

I headed to Sono Fieldhouse for pick up (my daughter is playing on a new team in another town this year so I hadn’t spent much time in the field house before masking.

Ripe is not the word. Hordes of sweaty (masked) children and teenagers, hour after hour, increasing with age. They ran, trapped and passed the ball on artificial turf that doesn’t aerate or circulate air under a dome, with not enough windows to open to purge this intense use of space (and the smell that accompanies it(.

It was rank. Musty. Foul.  Dare I say putrid?  Let’s just say very, very smelly.

Lots of bodies. Not a lot of air circulation.

Then Friday night, as I walked from my car to the sliding door entrance to Trader Joe’s under a dark cold sky, I saw my breath in front of me. I wished I had a face covering for warmth.  

When I got home I called the second person I’d heard that day who had a terrible stomach bug. Isn’t it flu season now?

I remembered my masked hair dresser, who is in nursing school. She said she’ll continue to wear her mask; she lives with her mom, and doesn’t want to bring anything home to her.

I realized: I too will probably continue to wear my mask, for at least a bit longer.  It’s gotten so wonderfully commonplace. Safe.

My nose had a day out, indoors. That was enough for now.

Still, maybe I’ll start lowering my mask from time to time. I’ll smell the good stuff — and the bad — now that I can.

Marpe Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Over the past few weeks, the daily rate of COVID cases in Westport has been trending downward. The town continues to be in the “gray” category (fewer than 5 cases per 100,000). Therefore, in collaboration with Westport’s COVID emergency management team, I am hereby rescinding Executive Orders #9 and #10, and lifting the mask mandate in indoor public settings in Westport, effective immediately.

This is certainly an optimistic trend =- one that we have been anxious to announce. But we continue to be aware of the potential of stronger strains and breakthrough cases that could impact future recommendations. Those who are eligible are strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated and/or receive a booster.

Masks are no longer mandated in most indoor spaces in Westport. (“Mask Quilt” by Amy Schneider)

Westport Weston Health District director of health Mark Cooper said, “We are in support of this action for those in the lower risk category for severe COVID illness and who have been vaccinated, so long as the local transmission rate remains low. If everyone proceeds with caution and some common sense, we may be able to enjoy the coming holiday season with family and friends in a more traditional manner. For those in a higher risk category for severe COVID illness, masking is still highly recommended because, although the transmission rate is low, the COVID virus is still in the community.”

According to the CT Department of Public Health:

  • Outdoors
    • Masks are not required to be worn by anyone.
  • Indoors: 
    • Vaccinated individuals are generally not required to wear masks.
    • Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks.
    • Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities, facilities serving vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools (public and non-public, when students are present), and childcare facilities.
    • Some businesses, state and local government offices, performance spaces, and certain events, may still require universal masking.