Tag Archives: social distancing

2nd Petition: Time To Re-Open Beach, Golf Course

A petition to halt the May 15 opening of the Compo Beach parking lots and Longshore golf course made the Westport rounds yesterday. An “06880” story generated dozens of comments — and signatures.

 Organizer Drew Ferrara says, “For the past 2 months, Westport officials have worked hard to keep us safe. They’ve had to make tough decisions in the best interest of the town.  Some of those decisions were unpopular but necessary at the time in order to flatten the curve and keep those at risk safe.

“We need to continue to trust in our elected officials. We understand that life as we know it will be different for the foreseeable future, and that people will need to follow precautions.”

Compo Beach (Photo/Dan Woog)

Titled “We trust in our elected officials and people to make the right decision — open Westport!,” Drew’s petition says:

We know it’s an uncertain time but we need to start to go back to a sense of normalcy, opening up our beaches and golf courses will do that.

We understand that we’re not out of the woods yet BUT we want to be able to make our own choice and not have a small percentage of the population speak for the entire town. If you don’t want to go to the beach or golf course and feel unsafe, please stay home. Westport officials have done a great job of managing this crisis and we need to start opening up again with the proper precautions.

Unfortunately this is necessary as another Petition.org was created and has gained signatures even though the majority of the discussion in the Facebook post has been against it.

It’s time to re-open Westport beaches and the golf course.

Social distancing at the Longshore golf course. (Photo/Mary Sikorski)

Petition Pleads: Don’t Reopen Compo And Longshore Yet

Town officials plan to open Compo Beach parking lots, and the Longshore golf course, on May 15.

Not so fast, warns Holly Maybruck

The Westport resident thinks that’s too early. She shared her concerns in a letter to the 1st selectman, Parks & Recreation staffers, RTM members and others.

She also created a Change.org position. As of 9 a.m. today, it had received 112 signatures. She hopes for 200.

The petition says:

We are asking for the Compo Beach (parking lots) and Longshore golf course not to be opened on May 15, 2020. Please see our signed petition.

We are very concerned about the opening up of the parking lots and beach area even at 50% capacity. It is apparent to myself and others that we can’t trust people to be compliant with social distancing on the boardwalks, paths and beaches.

Compo Beach cannons, before social distancing rules went into effect.  (Photos/Larry Untermeyer)

Just this past weekend there were clusters of teenagers and people, who were clearly not immediate family, together on the beach. People were not wearing masks and walking way too close together on sidewalks and boardwalks on the beach.

I know people are anxious to get to our beautiful beach but this virus thrives in social settings and people are less likely to wear masks in outdoor public spaces.

I feel that more needs to be done before opening these public areas to large groups of people. There is so much unknown about this virus. I know that the beach stickers, restaurants and golf course brings revenue to the town, but I strongly feel that lives and safety should be the focus.

Two people practice social distancing at Compo Beach. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Anyone can be a carrier and takes this virus with them wherever they go. I have photos from last weekend of the beach area and it was disturbing to see the large numbers of people not social distancing. Aside from adults and teens not complying, young children cannot understand the concept and can infect others as well.

Please see this letter posted on Westport Now. On May 4 there were reports that Westport COVID cases and deaths are up.

It just took one party in Westport to get the fire started. I ask you to please consider delaying the opening up of these until we have the following:

Key elements for safely re-opening:

  1. Capacity/capability to execute and perform contact tracing.
  2. Provide adequate resources and means for those who need to self-isolate.
  3. Monitor and reinforce social distancing.

These are the 3 elements that the community at large can contribute towards a safe re-opening.

Compo and other public gathering places of similar nature pose the 3 biggest risks to community transmission (hence, a larger 2nd wave):

  1. Ability to distance at a minimum of 6 feet.
  2. Duration of social gathering (hours vs. seconds/minutes)
  3. Number of individuals that will exposed to others (infected or not).

Thank you in advance for the consideration of the health and safety of our community.

Can there be social distancing on a golf course? (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Social Distancing, Public Shaming: What’s A Blogger To Do?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a dozen or so emails about an important topic. They say things like:

  • “My neighbors let their kids ride bikes and play together in the driveway. They’re all very close together, and the parents don’t seem mind at all. In fact they’re there too, chatting away.”
  • “There was a party down the street yesterday. Teenagers drove over, parked, and went out in back. Here is a photo of the cars.”
  • “People on our road walk every day, with no social distancing at all. It’s the same people, all the time.”

The emails all urge me to write something. And they all end the same way: Please don’t use my name.

Neighbors on Sylvan Road North practice social distancing. (Photo/Nancy Breakstone)

I write back. I say I am happy to post something, but first I need to know: What did you say to them? How did they react?

That’s an important part of anything I’d write: Not just what seems like a disregard for important social norms (and laws), but the story behind it.

Did the neighbor say, “Oh my god. I’m so sorry. It’s just so hard with the kids at home all day, and my husband out of work. I thought just this once I’d give them a treat. But you’re right. Thanks for saying something. It absolutely won’t happen again.”

Or did he say, “Screw you. No one can tell me how to live my life.”

These are the types of photos readers ask me to post. Always anonymously.

Did someone respond, “Yes, we had 3 people over. But they all stayed 15 feet apart — not 6. We asked one not to come, because someone in their house was quarantined. And we made sure the only things they touched were the chairs they sat in.”

Or did someone else respond, “Well, if you walked the right way facing traffic, I wouldn’t have to pass you?”

The reactions of Westporters to requests to comply with the coronavirus rules is as important an element of the story these folks want me to write as the actions themselves.

But when I ask those questions, I never hear back.

This type of teenage gathering has drawn praise — and criticism. (Photo/Kimberly Paris)

I understand the request for anonymity. This is a small town. It’s hard to stand up publicly for what’s right (though we always tell our kids to do it).

What I don’t understand is the unwillingness of people to stand up in the moment — but to then want me to call out others for it.

It’s clear many Westporters are practicing strict physical distancing — and taking it seriously. It’s clear too that some Westporters aren’t.

So what’s the solution, blog-wise? Should “06880” be the repository for my-neighbor-did-this-and-I-want-everyone-to-know stories? Or should people contact me only after they’ve already made their views known, face to face (or at least via email or text)?

I welcome your thoughts. Please click “Comments” below. Be civil. And — of course — use your full, real name.

More social distancing: grandparents stay away. (Photo courtesy of Bob Weingarten)

Marpe: Masks, Mutts, Rentals And More

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

This weekend, I witnessed most people maintaining the recommended distance between neighbors and friends when out and about in Westport neighborhoods and public facilities. Thank you to all who heeded the clear message that we need to self-isolate and, when we do go out, we maintain social distancing at all times. We are still a long way from the end of this battle, so please continue to practice appropriate social distancing and avoid gathering even on private property.

A new directive from the CDC states that when going out, all individuals, whether infected or not, should wear a mask or cover their face.

This directive does not eliminate the need for 6-foot virus distancing. Self-isolation and distancing ensures your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your family, friends, neighbors and community. It is very important that we continue on this path, and do everything we can to insure that others follow our positive examples. Remember that if you walk your dog anywhere, it must be on a leash.

Social distancing at the beach. The photo was taken before the CDC’s new mask directive. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

To our new neighbors who are moving into Westport: You must quarantine for 14 days. Realtors and homeowners must cease short-term (31 days or fewer) rental transactions.

Compliance with these directives and managing quarantining in this manner is an effective way to reduce the risk of community spread. Thank you for considering your new neighbors and fellow-Westporters when you move to town.

Thank you also to the many Westporters who leave messages and send e-mails about incidents, data, reports or concerns specific to COVID-19. We appreciate your intentions, and are trying to review and respond as quickly as possible. Many of your questions are addressed in regular updates and media posts. If you have not done so already, please follow or check updates:

The current crisis is both active and ever-changing. While we are looking ahead to the social and economic impacts this crisis may impose in the future, we must balance that with immediate public safety needs and day-to-day government functions. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

Please continue to self-isolate, quarantine if necessary, socially distance yourself and, as much as possible, stay at home. Remember, you’re not stuck at home; you’re safe at home.

As of today, there are 146 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in  Westport. That’s 11 more than yesterday.

Statewide, Connecticut has recorded 6,906 cases. That’s an increase of 1,231 from yesterday. There have been 206 deaths.

Fairfield County continued to lead the state in cases with 3,719. There have been 101 deaths.

COVID-19 Roundup: Winslow Park Rules; Virtual Bingo Helps Non-Profits; Keep Your Distance!; Restaurant, Retail News; More

As of yesterday, there were 89 positive cases of COVID-19 in Westport — the smallest daily increase here since the spread was first reported. Norwalk has passed Westport for the most cases in Connecticut (105).

Social distancing appears to be working. Governor Lamont emphasized that again, restricting all social and recreational gatherings to no more than 5 people.

The Parks and Recreation Department institutes these rules at Winslow Park:

  • No off leash areas. All dogs must be kept on leash.
  • Pets must be kept close to the handler.
  • The 6-foot physical distancing protocol is to be followed for people and pets. 

These protocols should be followed everywhere in town, including Longshore. Park.

Reader Stan Witkow reports that a group of Westporters has started a virtual bingo night every Thursday. The winner chooses a non-profit to get the buy-in pot. This week’s beneficiary is Westport EMS.

Over 20 people played last week, from as far as Florida and California. Most met 20 years ago at New Neighbors, Temple Israel and parents’ night at Bedford Middle School.

Even more signed up for this Thursday. Bingo!

A reader writes:

My wife and I walk on our sidewalks and roads. We’re mindful of the 6-foot distancing recommendation, so we’re distressed to encounter people who seem oblivious or apathetic. Young folks seem most careless, though some are mindful. Some older folks are careless too.

Yesterday, a young man running and breathing heavily came up from behind and nearly brushed my shoulder. That single encounter could easily have spread the virus. Unfortunately it was not our only close call.

A reminder: The virus is in the community. We all must avoid spreading it.

Be careful out there!

Nefaire, JoyRide and Haus of Pretty have teamed up on a “self-care bundle.” It  includes a facial, cycling class and blowout.

15% of proceeds go to retail employees across the 3 businesses: estheticians, therapists, cycling instructors, front desk hourly staff and hair stylists.

The bundle can be purchased at www.westportisstrong.com.

In restaurant news, Bartaco is donating 100% of all gift card sales to an employee fund.

And although Bobby Q’s moved from Westport to Norwalk, its heart is still here. They always contribute generously to town causes, like Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool. A reminder: Their smoker is open now, with curbside and delivery service.

Last month, “06880” profiled Ben Saxon. The bright, creative Staples High School 9th grader had just launched a math, robotics and coding tutoring service  for 6- to 14-year-olds.

Schools closed, but Ben hasn’t. He now offers weekly LEGO building, Kano Star Wars programming and Makeblock robotics courses, for 2-3 students each. They’re 1 hour a day, 5 days long, starting on Mondays, all via Zoom Video Conferencing. For details, click here.

The Berniker family has had a tough time during this crisis. Jen is now recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Her husband Eric is at home after an encouraging chest X-ray.

The other day, Jen Berniker interviewed her 6-year-old son Max about the ups and downs of family isolation.

That’s today’s Persona interview (below). Download the Persona mobile app to share your own stories, by interviewing family members and answering questions we’ll be sending around. Tag “6880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.

Finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19. But it has everything to do with the idea that everything we do matters. Bruce Springsteen took a chance and invited a kid onstage. Look what happened next. So cool!


Pics Of The Day #1069

These days, everyone and everything practices social distancing:

Grandparents … (Photo courtesy of Bob Weingarten)

… dogs at Grace Salmon Park … (Photo/Susie Kowalsky)

… UPS drivers at the Imperial Avenue lot …

… and the gulls at Compo Beach (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

…. even daffodils on Rocky Ridge Road (Photo/MIke Hibbard)

Meanwhile, Carter Klein shelters in place with his buddy Luke (Photo/Nicole Klein)


Friday Flashback #185

July 4th fireworks, 2019 and earlier. Before “social distancing” entered our vocabulary.

Those were the days!

(Photo/John Kantor)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Rick Benson)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Rick Benson)

Understanding Pandemic Spread: Staples Grad’s Simulation Goes Viral

Much has been written about the spread of COVID-19, and the importance of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine.

But it’s one thing to read about protective measures. It’s another thing entirely to watch them unfold.

Thanks to Washington Post graphics report Harry Stevens, we can.

And — because the 2004 Staples High School graduate’s piece on the virus has been shared relentlessly by readers — so can the rest of the world.

The “corona simulator” (click here to see) provides vivid evidence of how a disease spreads through a population. Moving dots represent healthy, sick and recovered people.

The dots move randomly, interacting with other dots. Importantly, each viewing of Stevens’ simulation is different. My random sample is different from yours. In fact, each time you scroll up and look at the graphic again, it’s different.

A static screenshot of Harry Stevens’ moving simulation.

That illustrates the randomness of our encounters with each other. But the key finding is usually the same: Extensive distancing is the best way to slow the spread of disease.

(There is one unrealistic element to his moving graphs, the story notes: Dots don’t “disappear” when someone “dies.”)

Harry Stevens (Photo/ Sarah L. Voisin for The Washington Post)

Stevens’ route to the Washington Post began in another down time: the recession of 2008. After acting in Staples Players and college, he graduated at a time of few enticing professional opportunities.

“I kind of fell into journalism by mistake. But I liked it,” he says.

So he headed to Columbia Journalism School, to learn enough to be hired by an actual newsroom.

At Columbia, he saw how journalists can enrich their reporting through data analysis and visualization. He was hooked.

A year after graduating he followed his girlfriend (now wife) Indrani Basu back to her home town: New Delhi. She’s a fellow journalist, and had just gotten a great job helping launch HuffPost India, as news editor.

Stevens landed a newspaper job in Delhi. They let him experiment with “all kinds of weird ideas” about how to do data journalism on the internet.

He started at the Washington Post 6 months ago.

“It’s really cool,” he says. “There are so many smart and talented people here, so there are lots of chances to learn new things and get better at the craft.”

The idea for the COVID-19 story began as he read how diseases spread exponentially. “I had a hard time internalizing what that means,” he says.

A year earlier he’d been experimenting with making circles bounce off each other. He realized now that he could apply that to show how network effects work.

When he got the basic simulation working (with help from data pioneers Bret Victor and Adam Pearce), he realized the story could be “very cool.”

It is.

As well as amazingly educational, and incredibly important.

Part of Harry Stevens’ story shows 4 different outcomes in disease prevention.

Social Distancing: “It’s Not A Snow Day”

As the coronavirus pandemic hits Westport, I’ve tried to maintain a balance. I want to inform readers, but not overwhelm them. I want to be relevant, but not alarmist. And I want to make sure that every story has a local hook. There’s plenty of information about the virus out there, from many sources. This is a local blog, not a national one.

But a number of readers have raised questions about “social distancing.” They wonder what it means for play dates and small gatherings. One expressed concern after seeing a group of teenagers posing tightly for a selfie at the beach.

A dozen readers asked me to post this piece by Dr. Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs in Boston. Originally published on Medium — with the provocative headline “Social Distancing: It’s Not a Snow Day” — it’s gone, um, viral. He writes:

I know there is some confusion about what to do next in the midst of this unprecedented time of a pandemic, school closures, and widespread social disruption. As a primary care physician and public health leader, I have been asked by a lot of people for my opinion, and I will provide it below based on the best information available to me today. These are my personal views, and my take on the necessary steps ahead.

What I can clearly say is that what we do, or don’t do, over the next week will have a massive impact on the local and perhaps national trajectory of coronavirus. We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track to repeat what is unfortunately happening there and throughout much of the rest of Europe very soon.

At this point, containment through contact tracing and increased testing is only part of the necessary strategy. We must move to pandemic mitigation through widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing. That means not only shutting down schools, work (as much as possible), group gatherings, and public events, but also making daily choices to stay away from each other as much as possible to “flatten the curve” (below).

Our health system will not be able to cope with the projected numbers of people who will need acute care should we not muster the fortitude and will to socially distance each other starting now. On a regular day, we have about 45,000 staffed ICU beds nationally, which can be ramped up in a crisis to about 95,000. Even moderate projections suggest that if current infectious trends hold, our capacity (locally and nationally) may be overwhelmed as early as mid-late April. Thus, the only strategies that can get us off this concerning trajectory are those that enable us to work together as a community to maintain public health by staying apart.

The wisdom, and necessity, of this more aggressive, early, and extreme form of social distancing can be found here. I would urge you to take a minute to walk through the interactive graphs — they will drive home the point about what we need to do now to avoid a worse crisis later. Historical lessons and experiences of countries worldwide have shown us that taking these actions early can have a dramatic impact on the magnitude of the outbreak. So what does this enhanced form of social distancing mean on a daily basis, when schools are cancelled?
Here are some steps you can start taking now to keep your family safe and do your part to avoid a worsening crisis:

1. We need to push our local, state, and national leaders to close ALL schools and public spaces and cancel all events and public gatherings now.

A local, town by town response won’t have the adequate needed effect. We need a statewide, nationwide approach in these trying times. Contact your representative and your governor to urge them to enact statewide closures. As of today, six states have already done so. Your state should be one of them. Also urge leaders to increase funds for emergency preparedness and make widening coronavirus testing capacity an immediate and top priority. We also need legislators to enact better paid sick leave and unemployment benefits to help nudge people to make the right call to stay at home right now.

2. No kid play dates, parties, sleepovers, or families/friends visiting each other’s houses and apartments.

This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals. It may be particularly uncomfortable for families with small children, kids with differential abilities or challenges, and for kids who simply love to play with their friends. But even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent. The symptoms of coronavirus take four to five days to manifest themselves. Someone who comes over looking well can transmit the virus.

With no school yesterday, some teenagers headed at Compo Beach — and posed tightly together for a photo. Such close proximity is considered potentially dangerous.

Sharing food is particularly risky — I definitely do not recommend that people do so outside of their family.

We have already taken extreme social measures to address this serious disease — let’s not actively co-opt our efforts by having high levels of social interaction at people’s houses instead of at schools or workplaces. Again — the wisdom of early and aggressive social distancing is that it can flatten the curve above, give our health system a chance to not be overwhelmed, and eventually may reduce the length and need for longer periods of extreme social distancing later (see what has transpired in Italy and Wuhan). We need to all do our part during these times, even if it means some discomfort for a while.

3. Take care of yourself and your family, but maintain social distance.
Exercise, take walks/runs outside, and stay connected through phone, video, and other social media. But when you go outside, do your best to maintain at least six feet between you and non-family members. If you have kids, try not to use public facilities like playground structures, as coronavirus can live on plastic and metal for up to nine days, and these structures aren’t getting regularly cleaned.

Compo Beach has been a popular place the past couple of days, with most people keeping their distance … (Photo/Jo Shields Sherman)

Going outside will be important during these strange times, and the weather is improving. Go outside every day if you are able, but stay physically away from people outside your family or roommates. If you have kids, try playing a family soccer game instead of having your kids play with other kids, since sports often mean direct physical contact with others. And though we may wish to visit elders in our community in person, I would not visit nursing homes or other areas where large numbers of the elderly reside, as they are at highest risk for complications and mortality from coronavirus.

… and Earthplace is popular too. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

Social distancing can take a toll (after all, most of us are social creatures). The CDC offers tips and resources to reduce this burden, and other resources offer strategies to cope with the added stress during this time.

We need to find alternate ways to reduce social isolation within our communities through virtual means instead of in-person visits.

4. Reduce the frequency of going to stores, restaurants, and coffee shops for the time being.

Of course trips to the grocery store will be necessary, but try to limit them and go at times when they are less busy. Consider asking grocery stores to queue people at the door in order to limit the number of people inside a store at any one time. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after your trip. And leave the medical masks and gloves for the medical professionals — we need them to care for those who are sick.

Maintain distance from others while shopping — and remember that hoarding supplies negatively impacts others so buy what you need and leave some for everyone else. Take-out meals and food are riskier than making food at home given the links between the people who prepare food, transport the food, and you. It is hard to know how much that risk is, but it is certainly higher than making it at home. But you can and should continue to support your local small businesses (especially restaurants and other retailers) during this difficult time by buying gift certificates online that you can use later.

5. If you are sick, isolate yourself, stay home, and contact a medical professional.

If you are sick, you should try to isolate yourself from the rest of your family within your residence as best as you can. If you have questions about whether you qualify or should get a coronavirus test, you can call your primary care team and/or consider calling the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800 (or your state’s department of health if you are outside of Massachusetts). Don’t just walk into an ambulatory clinic — call first so that they can give you the best advice — which might be to go to a drive-through testing center or a virtual visit on video or phone. Of course, if it is an emergency call 911.

I realize there is a lot built into these suggestions, and that they represent a real burden for many individuals, families, businesses, and communities. Social distancing is hard and may negatively impact many people, especially those who face vulnerabilities in our society. I recognize that there is structural and social inequity built in and around social distancing recommendations. We can and must take steps to bolster our community response to people who face food insecurity, domestic violence, and housing challenges, along with the many other social disadvantages.

I also realize that not everyone can do everything. But we have to try our absolute best as a community, starting today. Enhancing social distancing, even by one day, can make a large difference.

We have a preemptive opportunity to save lives through the actions we take right now that we will not have in a few weeks. It is a public health imperative. It is also our responsibility as a community to act while we still have a choice and while our actions can have the greatest impact.

We cannot wait.