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The “Super-Spreader” Party That Started the Coronavirus Outbreak in Connecticut

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  • One of the guests, a 43-year-old man from Johannesburg, became sick during his flight home, exposing the passengers to the virus.
  • Some of the other guests attended larger events in New York.
  • The governor of Connecticut had to close restaurants and public buildings across the state.

On March 5, 2020, around 50 guests were in a party at one of the houses in a stately suburban area in Westport, Connecticut. It was the hostess’ 40th birthday and they shared not just toasts and a lavish buffet, but also the coronavirus.

These guests went to their separate ways, scattering the infection to different places. This Westport party, which has been dubbed “Party Zero,” was how the massive spread of the virus in the state came about.

The party happened at one of the houses here in Main Street, Connecticut.

Before the party, Westport didn’t have a single known case of coronavirus. Around 11 days after the gathering, the town of 28,000 quickly had 85 cases. On March 23, Ned Lamont, the governor of Connecticut revealed that 415 people in the state were already infected – it was 327 the previous day. Ten people have since died.

Now accounts have been linking the party in Westport to the spread of the virus, since some of the guests at the party went to large social events in New York later on.

Governor Ned Lamont had to close restaurants and public buildings statewide.

William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard, said that the Westport party “may be an example of the kind of thing we call a super-spreading event.”

One of the guests, a 43-year-old man from Johannesburg, became sick during his flight home. This led to him spreading the virus to the other passengers. The other guests went on to attend other gatherings and went to their jobs throughout the New York metropolitan area.

The children of those guests went to daycare and school and attended after-school sports and soccer games.

Three days after the party, Julie Endich, one of the guests living in Westport, developed a high fever and extreme tightness in her chest. She suspected that her symptoms could be COVID-19, but it was only after four days that she was able to get a confirmed result.

This led to Mark A.R. Cooper, the director of the Westport Weston Health District, to start calling the party guests one by one. After several hours, schools and most of the public buildings in Westport were closed.

It was already a week after the party that the health district conducted drive-through testing for the guests. 38 of the 50 showed up and more than half of them tested positive.

Health workers setting up the drive-through screening for the guests.

The number of infected people in Fairfield County soared later on, which prompted the governor to close restaurants and public buildings across the state. Tracing the contacts of the guests became a nightmare. One of the guests admitted to going to an event with more than 400 people.

Citing federal and state privacy rules, the officials refused to disclose the names of the party’s hosts and the guests, although two of the guests, including Endich, have publicly identified themselves.

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