Fairfield police bust up New Year’s party that violated COVID restrictions

The Fairfield Police Department broke up a large party in the early hours of New Years Day.

The Fairfield Police Department broke up a large party in the early hours of New Years Day.

/ Josh LaBella

FAIRFIELD — It didn’t take long into the new year for reports of the first beach party to arrive.

Minutes after the ball dropped, the Fairfield Police Department received a call to break up a party violating state coronavirus restrictions, echoing concerns residents’ had this summer and fall.

Police Lt. Antonio Granata said approximately 80 college-aged young adults appeared to be attending the party. He said most of the time, when police have to break up parties, party goers are apologetic and cooperative.

The call came in at 12:12 a.m. on Jan. 1, police said, and the person who claimed to be the sole tenant was issued an infraction for creating a public disturbance, which carries a fine of $103.

“Officers could hear loud music and yelling coming from the home of [the 1000 Block of] Fairfield Beach Road,” police said. “Upon officers approaching, house guests began running away from the home and onto the beach.”

Deborah Noack, Sacred Heart University’s executive director of communications, said the police department did not inform the university about any students being involved, which it often does when that is the case.

Jennifer Anderson, the vice president of marketing and communication at Fairfield University, said the university is unable to comment on details related to student discipline due to privacy regulations.

“We would stress that the town’s COVID-19 directives, and the directives that students have been given by the university are taken very seriously and enforced accordingly,” she said.

Restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic restrict social gatherings at residences to a maximum of 10 people, and require face masks to be worn and social distancing adhered to.

In a Monday meeting of the Board of Selectmen, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said Fairfield’s law enforcement officers have responded to every single complaint about large gatherings and taken appropriate action.

Chief of Police Christopher Lyddy said it is not always an easy thing to accomplish.

“Just because executive orders call for specific numbers of 10 people limited in a dwelling doesn’t mean we can just run into the door and count the people,” he said. “There are Fourth Amendment issues that come into play, that we have to take under consideration.”

Lyddy said the department opts for encouragement and education before enforcement, but does not shy away from enforcement when appropriate. He said most of the infraction issued have been for creating a public disturbance.

Commercial establishments generally face heftier fines for hosting large gatherings and violating the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Connecticut health officials fined Mango’z Sports Bar in Bridgeport $10,000 over alleged violations, making it among the first to receive this penalty.

In August, approximately 50 people had to be monitored after seven people who attended multiple gatherings in Fairfield tested positive for coronavirus. Then, in September, Fairfield Ludlowe High School closed for several days after four people who tested positive for the virus were found to have attended at least six gatherings over the weekend.

One of those parties had to be broken up by police because of the large number of people in attendance.

According to state data from Tuesday, Fairfield has had 3,148 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began in March, and 179 people living in town have died after contracting it.