Time magazine cover features Westport party guest with coronavirus
WESTPORT — A large private party in Westport that led to more than 20 people contracting the coronavirus is attracting national attention with one of the attendees featured on the cover of Time magazine.
Donning a facemask while staring outside the window of her Stamford home in the photo, 51-year-old Cheryl Chutter told Time magazine that after attending the birthday party earlier this month, she learned another guest tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, when he returned to his home country of South Africa. It is unclear where he contracted the virus.
By then, Chutter had already visited a hospital and urgent care facility due to high fever, chills, body aches and exhaustion. But she told the publication she was only able to get tested after she discovered she may have been in contact with someone who had the coronavirus at the party.
After receiving the positive test result on March 17 following an eight-day quarantine, Chutter said she felt one emotion in particular.
“Relief, I felt relief. I knew now that my dad can get tested. I just want to be safe. I want to take care of my son, be considerate to other people and I don’t want to leave my house till quarantine is over,” Chutter told Time magazine.
The Time magazine feature comes as Westport’s coronavirus outbreak continues to grow. Mark Cooper, health director of the Westport-Weston Health District, said Friday that the March 5 party was attended by significantly more people than the 40 amount that was originally reported.
“As the situation unfolded, it quickly became clear that there were more than only 40 people involved,” Cooper said in a statement on the health district’s website.
Cooper said the initial round of testing on March 12 “did not capture everyone on the initial list of people, so, in an effort to get ahead of the virus, WWHD scheduled a second round of testing.”
The second round was completed on March 18, he said, and those tested will be contacted by the health district’s staff once results are back.
“Potential exposures were many hundreds before it was even reported to the WWHD. Although our efforts could not contain the virus, the information obtained (20 initial positive test results from March 12 testing) was important because it demonstrated that the virus was, in fact, in our community,” Cooper said.
The widespread exposure caused schools in Westport and Wilton to be closed more than a week ago when more than a dozen people who attended the March 5 gathering — many of them parents of children in those school districts — started suffering flu-like symptoms.
Since then, the number of coronavirus cases in town has reached 42, at least 20 of which were confirmed to be related to the party. The total comprises nearly half of the cases in Fairfield County.
“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,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said in a statement Thursday. “We are all in this together and we must respond as a civil community.”
He added the number of positive cases are sure to rise as test results continue to be 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,” Marpe said.
In a video statement on Friday, Marpe acknowledged his office had received numerous emails and calls about the party that precipitated the spread of the coronavirus in town, but asked the community not to cast blame.
“While I understand the inclination for some to know the numbers, know exact locations, and the identities of people involved, it is now passed the point where any of that is relevant,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that this could have been any one of us, and rumor-mongering and vilification of individuals is not who we are as a civil community.”
With more testing needed, the Westport-Weston Health District has now arranged in-car testing with Murphy Medical Associates, an area medical practice, in the parking lot of Bedford Middle School.
Registration will be required for Westport and Weston residents to be tested. Residents can visit www.coronatestct.com or call 203-658-6051 to learn more and begin the screening process. Testing will take place on March 24, March 31 and April 7 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.