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Connecticut Officials Confirm Suspected SARS Cases in Fairfield County

Two weeks after WestportNow.com reported that Connecticuts first suspected case of severe acute respiratory illness was in southwest Connecticut, state health officials have confirmed there indeed have been at least two suspected cases in Fairfield County.

But state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the state should release more information about the suspected cases of the illness, known as SARS, including where those patients live, according to an AP report.

There have been four suspected SARS cases in Connecticut, but until Thursday, the state health department refused to say where those patients live. On Thursday, a news release gave a county breakdown—two in Fairfield County (in two different towns), one in New Haven County, and one in New London County.

The officials said the four Connecticut patients suspected of having SARS are recovering.

On Thursday, Blumenthal wrote a letter to Department of Public Health Commissioner Joxel Garcia, urging him to release additional information, the AP said. DPH subsequently gave the county breakdown. But on Friday, Blumenthal told the Journal Inquirer of Manchester that wasn’t good enough.

“My feeling continues to be that the names of towns should be released because disclosure serves public interest, and there is virtually no chance of intrusion on patient privacy,” Blumenthal told the newspaper.

Health officials are citing patient confidentiality issues. Spokesman William Gerrish said identifying the towns “would not serve a public health purpose,” the AP said.

On March 28, WestportNow.com reported that area medical officials had received word that a southwest Connecticut resident was involved and were asked to be especially vigilant about suspected cases. The patient had recently traveled to an Asian country where the illness had been reported.

WestportNow.com has subsequently confirmed that at least one of the suspected Fairfield County patients was a Westport resident who travels abroad frequently for business and has fully recovered.

Health officials have stressed that local residents should not be alarmed since the cases are suspected and not confirmed.

Woogs World Highlights WestportNow.com In

Woogs World Highlights WestportNow.com
In case you missed it, todayҒs Westport News carries a column by Dan Woog highlighting WestportNow.com. Its also available on DanҒs Web site.

I point to it not so much to toot my own horn but to guide visitors to a good summary of what my goals are for this little effort. As always, I welcome comments.


04/11/2003 13:36 pm Comments (0)Permalink

Connecticut Political Blog Notes Farrell

Connecticut Political Blog Notes Farrell Bridgeport Initiative
WestportNow is not the only blog taking note of Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrells interest in BridgeportҒs economic development. Connecticut Political Watch, which tracks daily Connecticut political news, also picked it up.

The Web site quoted todays story (see below) in The Advocate of Stamford and also informed readers: ғFarrell is a two term First Selectman of Westport, and a member of the Westport Democratic town committee, and the Democratic State Central Committee.


04/11/2003 01:24 am Comments (0)Permalink

Westport’s Board of Finance Fails

Westport’s Board of Finance Fails to Recommend Budget
The absence of Democrat Shelly Kassen from Wednesday night’s Board of Finance session produced a unique problem—a 3-3 tie vote on whether to approve the towns 2003-2004 budget, meaning it failed to pass.

First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said she would consult the town attorney. But the likelihood is the board will meet again before the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) takes up the budget on May 5.

The non-partisan RTM could approve the proposed budget anyway with a 70 percent majority vote. But itҒs unlikely it will come to that.

At last nights meeting, Republicans expressed frustration that their efforts to seek layoffs to reduce the town budget had evoked little response from the townҒs Democratic administration. Democrats hold a 4-3 majority on the finance board.

Update: The Board of Finance passed the budget by a 5-2 vote at a special April 15 meeting. Republican Rick Benson crossed party lines to vote with the four Democrats for approval.


04/10/2003 11:55 am Comments (0)Permalink

Westports Ken Bernhard Votes for

Westports Ken Bernhard Votes for Rights for Same-Sex Couples but Bill Rejected
Westport State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard listened with legislative colleagues to three hours of debate Wednesday on an effort to legalize gay and lesbian marriages in Connecticut.

In the end, the Republican voted in favor but was on the losing side as the state Judiciary Committee rejected a proposed domestic partnership registration bill by a 26-16 vote.

Opponents hailed the vote as helping protect the sanctity of marriage.

The bill would have extended all the rights married couples have to couples of the same sex.

The bill failed despite support from the committee’s co-chairmen, state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, and state Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven.


04/10/2003 10:59 am Comments (0)Permalink

Now Westports Farrell Focuses on

Now Westports Farrell Focuses on Bridgeport
If you are a savvy Fairfield County politician, the plight of Bridgeport has got to be on your radar screen.

With Joe Ganim headed for the pokey and a temporary mayor in place, one could argue thereҒs somewhat of a leadership vacuum in the state’s largest city.

Congressman Chris Shays, a Republican who lives in the heavily Democratic Bridgeport, has called for a federal audit of how federal dollars have been spent in the city.

And now Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, a Democrat, has her sights on Bridgeport. She is organizing a meeting May 9 at Bridgeports Housatonic Community College to discuss the cityҒs economic development.

She had lunch the other day with Frank Keegan, editor of the Bridgeport-based Connecticut Post, no doubt to talk up the confab.

Farrell, who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Bridgeports efforts to win federal approval to build an Indian casino, has invited Bridgeport and lower Fairfield County leaders to the one-day forum.

TodayҒs Advocate of Stamford highlights Farrells initiative. In a story headlined ғWestport leader has Bridgeport on her mind, the newspaper says, ԓDiane Farrell thinks it may be the perfect time to puzzle out Bridgeport’s future.


04/10/2003 10:38 am Comments (0)Permalink

Westports Iraq Connections If you

Westports Iraq Connections
If you think Westport doesnҒt have close connections to the war in Iraq, think again. Consider:

—The states first casualty in the war was the stepson-in-law of the president of the townҒs volunteer ambulance corps. His widow is a Staples grad.

—A Westport firefighter is among those called to active duty in the days leading up to the fighting in Iraq. Hes helping protect our homeland in the Coast Guard.

—Today’s Westport Minuteman identified at least three servicemen serving in or near Iraq with Westport connections.

—WestportҒs Save the Children is one of the first charities heading into Iraq to assess the humanitarian needs.

—One of the U.N. weapons inspectors who headed out of Iraq before the war began is a Westport resident.

—With all the media types in town, undoubtedly there are several whose waking hours in recent weeks have been consumed with news coverage of Iraq. (I was one of them in 1991 when I helped coordinate planning for CBS News coverage of the Gulf War.)

One of the Westporters on active duty in Iraq is Marine Cpl. Todd Austin, 22, a 1999 Staples grad. His mother, Nancy Austin, told the Minuteman:

“What I want the town of Westport to know is that Todd is there, representing our town no matter what their political bent is, and when my son comes home, I want everyone to shake his hand and say ‘thank you.’

“I saw what the guys went through when they came home from Vietnam and came into a society where they were spat on, and not greeted with open arms.

So whether you think it is a just war or not, these men and women are out there doing what they signed up to do. I want everyone to walk up to him and say ‘thank you.’”

There are past connections to Iraq as well. Back in the 1960s, Westport hosted an Iraqi official who spent several weeks studying town government. Before he left, he proclaimed his admiration for how well we did things then. I remember because I recently came across an interview I did with him for the Town Crier newspaper.

Finally, the townӒs voter list includes one person who lists her birthplace as Iraq. How many other Westporters have Iraq connections I can only guess. It may seem far away. But it isnt.


04/10/2003 03:09 am Comments (0)Permalink

Westports Harvey Weinstein Wins Oscars

Westports Harvey Weinstein Wins Oscars and Dines There
Westporter Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films whose Oscar wins this year included ғChicago and “Frida,Ԕ was spotted the other day at lunch in Westport by a spy for a Stamford gossip columnist.

So what, you may ask. Well, the Beachside Avenue resident happened to be dining at Oscars. So the headline on gossip columnist Susie CostaregniҒs column in The Advocate of Stamford was: Movie mogul Weinstein wins Oscars, and dines there.Ӕ

Her item in entirety read: Scene . . . Famed movie producer and Miramax Films founder Harvey Weinstein having lunch at Oscar’s in Westport.Ӕ

No word on what he had for lunch or who he was dining with. But great publicity for Oscar’s. Pretty soon you’ll have to make reservations.


04/10/2003 02:16 am Comments (0)Permalink

If Your House is Pretty

Martha Stewarts place may not be the only game in town. Westporters with picturesque homes looking for a little added income can now add their homestead to the stateҒs list of potential location sites for filmmakers.

The casting call for homes has been issued by the Connecticut Film, Video & Media Office which is updating its database of available production crews, companies and support services for its print production guide, CD-ROM and Web site

Connecticut residents who want to make their homes available as locations to potential filmmakers are welcome to list their homes with the film office to become part of its library of Connecticut location sites.

Those interested are asked to fax a residential listing form to 860-721-7088 and see guidelines for Taking Your Location Photographs. Single snapshots are also accepted.

You can send hard copies to the Connecticut Film, Video & Media Office, 805 Brook St., Building 4, Rocky Hill, CT 06067 or e-mail images (at 150 dpi) to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


04/10/2003 00:40 am Comments (0)Permalink

Retirements in Police and Fire

Retirements in Police and Fire Depts. Expected Before New Pension Plan
Look for a wave of retirements in the ranks of Westports police and fire departments in advance of new changes in the departmentsҒ pension plan.

Like most municipalities, Westport is trying to reduce costs in the face of increased expenditures and declining state aid. So it has served notice to the police and fire departments to expect reduced medical benefits in the next revision of their pension plan.

As a result, a number of veteran police officers and firefighters have decided to retire before new the plan takes effect. They include several assistant chiefs in the fire department and a number of senior officers in the police department.

It’s not known which members have already filed formal notification of retirement or when they will take effect.

Update: The Hour reported on April 13 that at least seven firefighters and shift commanders planned to retire this summer as a result of pension plan changes along with an unknown number of police department members.


04/10/2003 00:01 am Comments (0)Permalink