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COVID-19: NY Times Examines How Westport Party Became A 'Super Spreader'

Westport officials hold a press conference earlier this month to discuss the potential exposure of around 50 people to COVID-19 at a party in town.
Westport officials hold a press conference earlier this month to discuss the potential exposure of around 50 people to COVID-19 at a party in town. Photo Credit: Town of Westport Facebook

A lavish birthday party with about 50 people at a home in the tristate area ended up sparking numerous cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after a guest from out the country was found to be carrying the virus.

Before the Thursday, March 4, gathering, there were zero cases of COVID-19 in Westport, one of the hotspots for the virus' outbreak in the New York City metro area, which includes Westchester, Northern New Jersey and Fairfield County.

On Wednesday, March 25, there are 87 cases of the virus in Westport and seven in Weston with more than half of the partygoers infected.

The number and the party are a classic example of how a pandemic can spread and multiply in a second with a brief hello, according to a lengthy New York Times investigation of the party.

Rumors have spread rapidly online with some saying more than 100 people attended the party instead of the stated 40 or 50.

Westport/Weston Director of Health Mark Cooper said the town may be one of the first to see the virus slow after being "hit" first.

"Being ‘hit’ first, we may be first to see the virus start to slow its spread, so long as people self-isolate and socially distance themselves from others. Only time will tell," Cooper said.

The Westport celebration “may be an example of the kind of thing we call a super-spreading event,” William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard told The New York Times .

“Some of the early cases in Northern Italy were associated with small towns, and people thought, ‘Oh, it’s just in the small towns.’ But then you suddenly find cases emerging from Milan Fashion Week and spreading internationally,” Dr. Hanage told the Times. “Everywhere you think the virus is, it’s ahead of you."

Of note, the original infected person at the party is said to be doing well and recovered.

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