Inside the Lavish Party That Became Ground Zero for Connecticut's Coronavirus Outbreak

Nearly 50 people attended a 40th birthday party in Westport, Connecticut. Today, half of those guests have tested positive for COVID-19.

Can a significant number of Connecticut's coronavirus cases be linked back to a single party?

People came from as far away as South Africa to attend a lavish 40th birthday party in the high-end town of Westport earlier this month. After returning to their homes, many of the guests have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Party guest Cheryl Chutter, who appears on this week’s cover of Time magazine, said she learned she had tested positive on March 17. After she notified her son’s private school, "they sent him home in an Uber and closed the school three hours later," she said.

Chutter was just one of nearly 50 people at the March 5 party, which was held at a private home before Connecticut and many other states banned large gatherings – and before everyone began falling sick.

After the party, guests continued on with their lives, not realizing they had been exposed to the virus. Some of them lived in nearby towns, some worked in New York City, and one guest even flew to South Africa shortly after, carrying the virus with him.

Half of the party guests ended up testing positive for COVID-19 when tests became available a week later. The town did not have a single confirmed case at the time of the soirée.

“While I understand the inclination of people to know the numbers and identities of the people involved, it is now past that point,” Westport’s First Selectman Jim Marpe said in a statement.

Westport, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s population, now has 85 people infected and makes up one-fifth of Connecticut’s coronavirus cases. 

Fairfield County, where Westport is located, had 384 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, more than half of the state's total.

The small town, which is home to celebrities like actress Melissa Joan Hart and NBC’s Craig Melvin, now looks deserted as residents are urged to stay inside to stop the spread.