Tag Archives: Westport Weston Health District

Marpe’s Vaccine Update: Patience, Persistence Needed

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

The state of Connecticut is scheduling and vaccinating people 75 and older as part of the vaccine rollout Phase 1b.

People ages 65 to 74 are next in line for eligibility. Information will be posted on the Westport Weston Health District website when the state opens up clinics to this group. More information for frontline essential workers and individuals with underlying medical conditions with increased risk for severe illness will be forthcoming.

Many Westporters are eager to get vaccines. Some have registered themselves into the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), scheduled their appointments and have received first and, in some cases, second vaccine doses.

Others have found technical challenges, a lack of information and guidance, or difficulties getting their first or second doses scheduled. Currently, vaccination dates are not being scheduled sooner than 3 weeks out. The process is moving slowly. Frustrations are high.

Additionally, the supply of vaccines is not keeping up with the demand. A total of 1.3 million Connecticut residents are eligible for the vaccine during Phase 1b. The state must ration the 46,000 doses it receives each week. At this rate, it will take months before all eligible residents are vaccinated. There is a national vaccine shortage, and it impacts us locally.

The WWHD staff have consistently ordered more vaccines than it they receive. The WWHD runs up to 3 vaccine clinics per week at the WWHD on Bayberry Lane, and the Westport, Weston and Easton Senior Centers.

With a limited supply of vaccines, the WWHD advises eligible Westporters not to wait for an appointment at a Westport clinic. Rather, go to the first available appointment and plan to schedule your second vaccine immediately after. The state’s 211 line now includes a public vaccine clinic directory to search for local clinics.

We are aware that some have found success bypassing VAMS and registering through hospital portals in the surrounding cities. These third party VAMS sites appear to be more direct and do not require waiting for confirmation emails and codes. For links to some local participating vaccination centers, please see further below.

We are also aware that some residents do not have the mobility to obtain a vaccine in another nearby community, or might not be able to leave their homes. Once supplies are available, the town plans for a larger-scale local vaccination site, as well as a traveling clinic for those who are most vulnerable and homebound.

The state’s long-term distribution plan focuses on 5 or 6 large vaccination clinics set up across Connecticut, and with neighborhood CVS and Walgreens pharmacies as potential local options. However, there are multiple challenges with distribution, administration and the vaccine supply itself that must be overcome at the state and federal levels first.

Keep in mind that neither the Westport Department of Human Services nor the Westport Senior Center has access to the VAMS portal, nor can they schedule a vaccination on a resident’s behalf. Human Services staff is working diligently to answer questions and offer resources to help.

Vaccine line outside the Westport Senior Center. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Ultimately, the state’s official helpline (211) is the best option for registration by phone or to have your technical questions answered.

Do not be discouraged as the inevitable complications and delays occur. Your patience is needed during these trying times. Please remember to continue to wear a face covering, social distance and maintain good hygiene.

For more information on the vaccine in Westport, visit www.westportct.gov/vaccine or print Westport’s Vaccination Tip Sheet here: https://www.westportct.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=37255

For information on the WWHD’s plans to schedule and conduct vaccinations, go to www.wwhd.org

The state’s vaccine information site can be found here: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccination—75-and-older

Remembering Dr. Jack Shiller

Dr. Jack Shiller — pediatrician to generations of Westport Baby Boom boys and girls, co-founder of Willows Pediatrics, and founder of the Westport Weston Health District — died Wednesday in his home in Redding. He was 92 years old.

The Brooklyn native graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1947, and Columbia Medical School in 1952.

Dr. Shiller received the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal for his service in the Air Force as captain of the 47th tactical hospital stationed at Sculthorpe, England.

After training at Bellevue Hospital and The Babies Hospital in New York City, he was board certified in pediatrics.

He established his own private practice in Westport before forming Willows Pediatric Group in 1973 with Dr. Albert Beasley. Dr. Beasley died this past June.

Dr. Jack Shiller

He was active on the staff of Norwalk Hospital, where he started the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and later served as interim chief of pediatrics. He continued academic ties to Babies Hospital as teaching staff.

He was an advocate of equal representation, disease prevention, and education during and after helping to form the Westport-Weston Health District in 1967. It was the first of 20 such districts in the state.

He was named director of the district he formed, and was named the Champion of Immunization by the Governor of Connecticut. 

Dr. Shiller was proud of his published works — especially “Childhood Illness and Childhood Injury: A Commonsense Approach,” which helped new parents recognize and treat common childhood ailments and injuries at home. This practical resource remains relevant today.

He is survived by daughter Bethanne McCarthy (husband Steven) of Savannah, Georgia; sons Stephen (Emily) of Ridgefield and son Andrew David (Raaya) of Jerusalem, Israel; brother Marvin (Annie) of Manhattan, and grandchildren Shane, Krystle, Jessica, Matthew, Samantha and Naama.

A graveside funeral service will be held tomorrow (Sunday, January 17), at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in New York. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only immediate family will be in attendance.

In lieu of flowers, donations in the name of Dr. Jack Shiller can be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

(Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

COVID Vaccine: Am I Eligible? How Do I Register?

1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the Westport Weston Health District pass along important information about the COVID-19 vaccine:

Right now, only people eligible under Phase 1a or 1b may register for the vaccine. Click here for the form to register with the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).

Phase 1a includes:

  • Healthcare Personnel: All paid and unpaid personnel serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients of infectious materials.
  • Long Term Care Facility Residents: Adults who reside in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently.
  • First Responders at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their response to medical emergencies, such as emergency medical technicians, police officers, and firefighters.

Phase 1b includes:

  • Individuals 75 and older (proof of age required at the clinic).
  • NOTE: The state Department of Public Health is still finalizing its definition of Phase 1b eligible residents.

To register (see above), full name, date of birth, zip code, occupation (including “retired”), and email address are required.

The information entered will only be used for purposes of scheduling a vaccination and will remain confidential.

Once submitted, a confirmation email will be sent from the Department of Public health/VAMS, followed by another email that approves or denies the registration.

Approved registrants may then register in VAMS and select a vaccination appointment.

Every individual must have a unique email to be registered and vaccinated. Someone using their personal email to register an elderly parent may not be able to register or be vaccinated using that same email. The Westport Department of Human Services’ vaccination helpline (203-341-5037) can help.

VAMS is the only way right now for an individual not in a congregate setting to register for and receive the vaccination in Connecticut.

This is a state program. Westport residents do not need to be vaccinated in Westport. VAMS may suggest vaccination appointments in nearby communities based on the supply of available vaccinations.

(For more Connecticut vaccine information, click here.)

Roundup: Flu Shots, Voters Guide, CLASP Concert, More


There is no COVID vaccine yet. But — uh oh — flu season is near. And the Westport Weston Health District is offering flu shots.

Clinics are set for Wednesday, October 21 (9:30 to 11:30 a.m.); Wednesday, October 28 (2 to 3 p.m.), and Monday November 16 (1 to 4 p.m.).

There are no walk-ins. All appointments must be scheduled in advanced. Click here for details.

The WWHD accepts Medicare, ConnectiCare, Cigna, Aetna and HUSKY insurance, as well as credit cards, checks and cash.

Questions? Call 203-227-9571, ext. 231.


For decades, voters have relied on the League of Women Voters’ Westport Voters’ Guide. It was delivered with the local newspaper.

It’s here now, and more available than ever: The Guide is online.

It’s packed with answers to policy questions by candidates for president, Congress and the state legislature.

There is also a map of polling places, sample ballots, and absentee ballot information.

Click here for this great resource. Questions for the LWV? Call 203-293-7687.


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a great — and welcome — series of outdoor concerts this year.

The last of the season is next Thursday (October 15, Imperial Avenue parking lot). Part of the Chamber’s support for people with special needs, it’s a safe, fun, family-friendly evening called “Flashback to the ’80s and ’90s.” Band Central will play — and the very entertaining group is donating their time.

The event is a benefit for CLASP Homes. For half a century they’ve created and supported family environments for people with autism and intellectual disabilities.

Tailgating begins at 4:30 p.m. The show kicks off at 6. Click here for tickets ($150 per car; 70 car limit in the lot).


And finally … it’s a weekend in mid-October. Time to go pumpkin picking!

 

Roundup: Hot Yoga Closes; Book Donations; Contact Tracing; Commuter Survey; More

 

 


Hot Yoga writes:

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we tell you we are closing the doors to Westport (/Fairfield) Hot Yoga. This was a difficult decision that was made very consciously, and for a variety of reasons both in and out of our control.

“For 10 ½ years, we brought you the very best hot yoga that we know how. We also spent this time building an incredibly strong and resilient community of beautiful yogis, of which you are an integral member. This is not goodbye. This is just so long for now.

“We feel very connected to each of you in our own way, and hope we can continue to grow and develop these relationships with you, although it will not be at 877 Post Road East. With everlasting grace and gratitude — Rich, Abbey and Yogi.””


There’s a (relatively) new liquor store. An established (and much beloved) donut shop. Across the street will be a (very) new restaurant.

And — in mid-September — Outpost Pizza establishes an outpost at the site of a former dry cleaners, near Coffee An’, The Grapevine, and the new spot soon to replace 323.

Outpost has a great reputation in Stamford. Their prices are good. They’ll be welcomed to the neighborhood, for sure.


Westport Library Book Sales has been “overwhelmed by the generosity of our community.”

They resumed collections yesterday at 9 a.m. By 2 p.m. the shed was full.

Donations must be quarantined for 3 days, so no more can be accepted now. Donations resume next Thursday.

For more information, click here.


The Westport Weston Health District says: Be aware of scammers posing as COVID-19 contact tracers!

Impostors claim to work for “the sheriff’s office” or local health department. They say they need to load “contact tracing software” onto a victim’s computer. 

Do not fall for these scammers. Official contact tracers working on behalf of the WWHD or state Department of Public Health will never ask to enter your home, threaten you with a fine, or ask you for personal financial information. Anyone asking for such information is trying to steal your identity, money or both.

If someone asks to enter your home for “contact tracing,” call the police immediately.  Do not let strangers into your home.

Other things to be alert for if you receive a call:

  • Do not pay a contact tracer. Anyone who says you must pay is a scammer.
  • Do not give out your Social Security number or financial information. There is no reason why a legitimate tracer would need these.
  • Do not share your immigration status. Legitimate contact tracers do not need, and will not ask for, this information.
  • Do not download anything onto your computer. Real contact tracers will not ask you to download any software on your computer.

Contact tracing is an important component of public health, and an essential tool to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Connecticut’s contact tracing initiative is completely voluntary. There is no cost to participate. If you do participate, you may elect to receive daily health assessment reminders via text, email or phone. You will be reminded to do a simple assessment of your symptoms each day.

All information is strictly confidential. Contacts who are identified will not be given information on cases (such as the name of the person who may have exposed them).


The state Department of Transportation is conducting a brief survey about commuting during COVID-19. Answers will help the agency plan funding for future projects.

If you were or are a commuter, click here to take the survey.


MoCA Westport invites all Fairfield County teenagers interested in the arts to join its new Teen Council.

The Council will connect the museum with area youth through events, exhibitions, performances and educational programming. Teen Council members will develop strong relationships with prominent artists and community leaders as they explore their personal creativity.

Teen Council members will enjoy behind-the-scenes access to MoCA Westport — and free memberships.

Click here to apply, Questions? Email teencouncil@mocawestport.org or check out Instagram: @mocawestportteens.


And finally … happy 85th birthday, Peter Schickele!

Contact Tracing: Health District Protocols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The COVID-19 virus

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

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

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

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

Health District Chief Addresses COVID Numbers, Tests And More

As of yesterday, Westport had 233 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 13 COVID-associated deaths.

Today, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper said that while all data is preliminary, the number of cases and associated deaths have increased, while the number of hospitalizations has decreased.

Day to day changes reflect newly reported cases, deaths, and tests administered up to a week prior. Reported deaths can lag by up to 10 days due to issues with data collection. COVID-associated death numbers may go up or down, as medical providers and epidemiologists continue to refine case definitions and audit autopsy reports.

Cooper said that early efforts to flatten the curve by social distancing are having positive impacts. Westport and Weston’s case rates (829 and 615, respectively per 100,000) are lower than many nearby communities.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right) and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at a March 11 press conference.

Cooper urged continued vigilance: Stay safe and at home whenever possible. Avoid social gatherings. Maintain at least 6 feet of separation from others, and wear a mask or cloth face covering in public.

Cooper noted that the WWHD is seeking rapid result saliva test kits, for an easier, less invasive method of checking infection status. These tests can be repeated multiple times, and are safer for health care providers because of reduced risk of exposure. Turnaround time for results is much faster as well, sometimes just 24 hours.

While the Health District looks to transition to the new rapid result saliva test process, there are currently a number of sites where concerned citizens who fit the criteria for testing can be tested. For a complete list and contact information, click here.

Cooper also provided these CDC guidelines. A face mask should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

A man and his mask

First Selectman Jim Marpe added, “We appreciate your continued patience and persistence as we all work together to assess, manage and combat the coronavirus. In cooperation with surrounding communities and under the direction of state and local health officials, and state government directives, our town departments are working on an effective re-opening strategy that will not reverse or diminish the progress made so far.

“As we continue to work though this crisis, please be sure to look after your families and friends as well as yourself. Together we will get through this, and remember you’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.”

Marpe: 42 Westporters Test Positive; Testing Set For Bedford On Tuesday

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

In this time of uncertainty, I want to assure Westporters that our public health and public safety officials are working diligently to provide accurate and essential information to you on a daily basis, and to keep everyone as safe as possible. We are all in this together and we must respond as a civil community.

This afternoon, Governor Lamont indicated his reluctance to authorize a complete statewide shutdown, and I agree with his assessment, keeping in mind that the situation is very fluid and may change. In the meantime, it is imperative that every individual and business owner take this crisis seriously and do everything possible to maintain social distancing and minimize social interactions. Parents should also remind their children to do the same.

Today, the Westport Weston Health District shared with my office that as of this afternoon, the number of positive tests known by the WWHD is 42. This number is sure to rise as test results are reported. COVID-19 is in the community and we can’t stress enough the importance of self-isolation, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and practicing good hygiene.

The WWHD has also arranged in-car testing with an area medical practice (Murphy Medical Associates) to take place in the parking lot at Bedford Middle School. Pre-registration will be required. Visit www.coronatestct.com or call 203-658-6051 to learn more and begin the screening process.  Testing will occur on 3 Tuesdays (March 24 and 31, and April 7) from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Residents are reminded that if you feel symptoms of COVID-19, call your physician for a test referral. Regardless if you are tested or not, it is imperative that you stay home and self-isolate.

The COVID-19 virus is everywhwere.

COVID Testing At Bedford: Health District Provides Details

Drive-through COVID-19 testing took place yesterday outside Bedford Middle School. The line of cars sparked rumors throughout town.

This morning, I spoke with Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper. He explained what happened.

Initial testing was done last week, the day after the WWHD learned of a party the prior weekend. The protocol followed any infectious disease outbreak — virus, food-borne illness, sexually transmitted disease — the WWHD becomes aware of. It includes both testing (to confirm a disease) and contact tracing (to notify anyone who might have been exposed).

“Over the next few days, we found that substantially more people had been at that party,” Cooper says. “And they went to other functions afterward.” The initial 40 people “quickly blossomed. Those numbers overwhelmed our ability to do contact tracing.”

Meanwhile, anxious Westporters kept calling the WWHD office on Bayberry Lane.

Yesterday’s tests at Bedford represented “the final efforts of the first part of our investigation.” The WWHD tested 72 people, though more had been notified of the testing.

Cooper surmises that some did not show up for testing because they had been tested elsewhere, while others may not have felt sick.

The tests were overnighted to a lab. Results will be available in 3 to 5 days.

In any infectious disease outbreak, the health district not only traces the illness; it monitors those who are infected. That includes daily calls by nurses to check on patients’ temperature.

The WWHD has brought in extra nurses to do that monitoring. There is, Cooper notes, a nurse shortage throughout the area.

“I know the community needs and wants more testing,” Cooper says. “We are talking with a private company about testing for symptomatic people, over the next 3 Tuesdays.”

When plans are finalized, he will announce the times, locations and more details.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right), with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Unsung Heroes #138

This one’s a no-brainer.

If you are anyone who, over the past couple of weeks, has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are an Unsung Hero.

Perhaps you:

  • Man and woman the Westport Health District — performing coronavirus tests, administering aid, answering questions, soothing nerves
  • Serve in emergency operations with the police, fire, EMS departments — or anyone else in government called on to plan, execute, render assistance or in any other way help the town
  • Work in a medical practice, helping some patients who may have been infected and many more with their usual ailments, knowing all the while you had more contact with, and less protection from, sick people than anyone else

  • Are teaching students online, while at the same time soothing nerves, offering non-school advice, and ensuring continuity of education despite having never done so before
  • Are a school custodian or maintenance worker elsewhere who put on a mask and gloves, and spent days deep cleaning every square inch you could find, and did it well, despite your very real fears and anxieties
  • Own a business, and decided (or had to) to shut down, for the good of the community, and despite all your fears, still worry more about your employees and customers
  • Work in a store or market overrun by panicked customers; despite your low pay and own fears you stocked shelves, worked registers, answered questions, and did it all with grace and courtesy
  • Ditto all those restaurant workers who are adapting to a rapidly changing environment, preparing and serving food while observing new rules and regulations, and doing it with enormous care and concern
  • Reach out through your religious institution or civic organizaiton– even though its doors are closed and meetings canceled — to someone in need

Temple Israel is one of the many religious institutions now conducting services, classes and programs virtually.

  • Are suddenly thrust into the role of teacher, in addition to the disruption of having to work your own job remotely, or worry about what was going on at the office because you had to be home
  • Calm a child’s nerves, bring food to an elderly neighbor, or help a stranger figure out what to do now that the library, Senior Center, YMCA, Town Hall — and every other gathering place — is closed
  • Or are doing anything else to help someone else during these unprecedented days.

Thank you for helping make this town a “community.”

We’ll need you — and everyone else — to keep doing it for a while.

No one knows what’s ahead. But with all these Heroes in our midst, we’ll get through all this.

There’s no other choice.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net to let us know!)