‘It came on fast and hard’: Westport resident awaits coronavirus test results as town’s cases rise to 74
WESTPORT — Julia Dzafic is still waiting.
The 34-year-old Westport resident first felt ill March 15. What began with a light cough and a sore throat quickly turned into a high fever, body and headaches, cold sweats and a terrible cough that lasted roughly five days.
Because of pre-existing respiratory issues, Dzafic, who runs the lifestyle blog Lemon Stripes, qualified for coronavirus testing, which she had done on March 16 at Stamford Hospital.
But it’s been a week and Dzafic still hasn’t received confirmation whether the illness, which she said has incapacitated her, her husband and her daughter, is COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“It came on fast and hard,” Dzafic said Monday. “It’s not just a cold. If we had it, it was really hard. We were really sick. We couldn’t do anything.”
After five days of fever and intense symptoms, Dzafic and her husband, Anel, both 34, began to improve. Their 2-year-old daughter is also feeling better.
Dzafic recently described her experience on her blog, joining a growing group of people who have taken to social media or the internet to share their experiences amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit Westport particularly hard.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has continue to rise in Westport, reaching 74 on Monday. In Weston, there are four confirmed cases.
Dzafic speculated that she and her family may have become sick through her husband’s work as a physical trainer or from around town at a place like the grocery store.
Dzafic said she and her husband did not attend a March 5 birthday party in Westport that local health officials have said was the source of many of the town’s cases.
At least some of Westport’s disproportionate number of cases — the town’s residents comprise just 3 percent of Fairfield County’s population, yet accounts for roughly 27 percent of all confirmed cases countywide — have been linked to the well-attended birthday party. A guest was diagnosed with the coronavirus after returning to his native South Africa following the party.
The man, who was not named, told the South African newspaper the Sunday Times that guests at the party had come from all over the U.S. The party’s hosts have declined to comment.
Westport officials said last week that the party was attended by far more than the 40 guests they originally were told.
“As the situation unfolded, it quickly became clear that there were more than only 40 people involved,” Mark Cooper, director of the Westport-Weston Health District, said in a Friday statement.
Cooper did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. The exact number of people at the birthday party remains unclear, but at least 20 of the confirmed cases in Westport are linked to the gathering.
“The increasing number of positive cases is not surprising,” the health district said. “Last week, the number of testing sites and the resulting number of tests being conducted increased significantly. The more testing that gets done, the more COVID-19 will be found in Westport and Weston, and across the state.”
On March 15, First Selectman Jim Marpe closed the playground at Compo Beach and the parking lots at Compo and Burying Hill beaches indefinitely, citing large crowds. Town Hall is closed to the public through the end of March.
Cheryl Chutter, a Stamford resident who attended the party, was on the cover of Time Magazine’s coronavirus issue and reported having a high fever, chills, body aches and exhaustion before receiving a positive test March 17.
Another Westport woman, Julie Navin Endich, posted on Facebook that three days after attending a social event on March 5, she started showing symptoms. Endich wrote she experienced high fever, cough, body aches, chest pains, chills and severe headaches. According to the post, Endich received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis March 12. Endich did not respond to requests for comment.
For Dzafic, the best-case scenario would be a positive result, so she could help others in need. But until she receives her diagnosis, Dzafic, like many of her neighbors, must contend with the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“People are really freaked out, people are scared of getting it,” Dzafic said. “We kind of haven’t had that fear of like, ‘Are we going to get it?’ Because we got what we think was it so early. But I’m scared of not being able to get any food, or medicine, or things that people really need.”
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Staff writer DJ Simmons contributed to this story.