Officials in a Connecticut town regarded as one of the wealthiest communities in America canceled a drive-through coronavirus testing center four hours after it was announced following complaints on social media from local residents.
Darien, the smallest town on Connecticut’s Gold Coast, is facing criticism for canceling a test collection site that was set to start Thursday in a parking lot of the town hall located at 2 Renshaw Road.
The town’s First Selectman Jayme Stevenson’s made the announcement through a town-wide email Wednesday but some of the 21,800 residents in one the country’s top-earning towns were enraged about its location close to their $1.2 million homes.
The town hall contains a senior outreach program, although this is now closed until further notice, and is placed in close proximity to homes where children live in a densely-populated part of the town.
The center was relocated to Darien High School, where it will set up every Monday between 1pm and 4pm until further notice. Tests are only offered to those who have doctor’s orders and have an appointment.
Darien Town Hall where the testing center was first supposed to set up in a parking lot
The town hall is close to a residential area that is highly-populated and contained a senior programs center but that has now been closed from March 16 until further notice
Social media users hit back after Darien canceled its coronavirus testing center Wednesday because residents complained about its location in the parking lot of the town hall
‘We think it is a really important service to provide to our local community,’ Stevenson said in her initial email, adding that she and the town’s health department reached out to Murphy Medical Associates after hearing they had set up a similar testing area in Greenwich.
She followed it up several hours later with the cancellation statement but did not give a specific reason for the change.
Stevenson added that another location would be sought, stating: ‘We appreciate the important work being done by Murphy Medical Associates to provide testing to our residents at their other locations.’
The new location was announced as Darien High School Friday and is set to open for the first time on Monday. The area is said to be isolated from residential areas and allows for easy traffic control.
People who come for screening without an appointment will be turned away.
Before the new location was announced, angered people took to social media to vent their frustration that access to testing in the town was being held back when more tests are vital to get a hold of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak.
Local government are still looking to establish another location for the center in the town leaving residents forced to travel to other towns if they need a test.
The escalation of cases in the United States since the first one was reported on January 21
The move was immediately criticized by local Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat, who said it was ‘maddening’ that residents in the Republican stronghold were ‘offended’ by location of the test center.
The comments sparked an online spat between the mayor and Stevenson, a Republican.
‘Luke, thanks for your social media message. I’m sure things are tough in Hartford too,’ she responded, accusing the mayor of partisanism and throwing ‘social media stones’.
‘I was very confused by the Mayor’s criticism of what’s happening in Darien as I’m sure he is dealing with similar COVID-19 crisis management issues 7 times over given the size of his city and their unique challenges,’ Stevenson told Patch.
‘I have great respect for Mayor Bronin and we’ve always worked well together but in these times, throwing social media stones appears partisan and I’m sure he didn’t intend that. Social media is an invaluable tool for us as town leaders, if used positively, for sharing information to our communities.’
Mayor Bronin was not alone in his criticism with an intense debate opening up about the location of the testing center in the comments of a Facebook post from a local newspaper.
The argument became so heated that the editor of The Darien Times was forced to intervene to calm the situation.
‘It is an unsettling time and things are stressful enough without attacking one another,’ the post read.
‘The town is seeking a location that will work best for all for drive-through coronavirus testing — which Darien took the initiative to obtain to benefit all. Let’s be patient as the new location should be announced shortly — and not judge one another’s motives or actions, neighbors, elected officials, or otherwise.’
Among the chief criticisms was the ‘Not in My Back Yard mentality’ in the complaints with resident hoping to keep any center away from their million-dollar houses.
‘Ridiculous that this was canceled. And as the seat of our town government, town hall is the perfect location. The NIMBY attitude and the caving into it is very disappointing,’ said one poster.
‘So let me get this right……it was cancelled because some people did not want it in their neighborhood? Really? That should not matter……sorry…..if that is the spot chosen that is where it should have been…this is necessary…that was a mistake to cancel it…’ another said.
Some said that residents needed to remember the healthcare workers carrying out the tests who were putting their own health at risk: ‘Access to testing is essential – this is very upsetting. Hope the neighbors can put community needs first. Think of all of the health care workers putting their lives on the line. Everyone needs to do what is asked of them right now!’
Others understood the complaints, hoping that a more suitable location could be found.
One poster wrote: ‘Testing is absolutely necessary and hope the town will find a more appropriate location than Town Hall, which is in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood. I can understand why neighbors would have serious concern. Noroton Heights train station or the parking lot at Darien Library would be good options.’
The cancellation was also bashed by people who live elsewhere, Darien being referred to as ‘the worst town in America’ and one Twitter user saying, ‘This is the most “Darien, CT” thing ever’.
‘Meanwhile in the rich a**hole region of Connecticut: residents in wealthy Darien cried about having a covid-19 testing location in their neighborhood and so they CLOSED IT,’ one tweet said, while another claimed Darien residents would be happier to see the center in a poorer area stating: ‘Darien: Please move to the poor people’s areas, like Bridgeport or New Haven. We are not your virus village meeting place.’
Some claimed that Darien was an example of the mindset that could be found in any rich American town.
‘Darien is full of very rich people, in an already very rich state,’ argued one poster.
‘They don’t want sick ppl from out of their hood driving in, and you’ll find the same attitude in every rich suburb.’.
Other social media users who know the town claimed: ‘Darien is the worst. Went to church there growing up – its privilege knows no bounds.’
Darien is a majority Republican town and voted for a Republican president for 60 years until Hillary Clinton in 2016 but some posted to social media to criticize them for being ‘a rich white liberal town’ who you ‘don’t ever inconvenience’.
‘They don’t call it ‘aryan darien’ for nothin baby!’ one person joked.
Others criticized them for being Republican writing, ‘REMINDER: Darien, CT ranks 36th in ‘America’s Richest Zip Codes’ — with average household income of $249,000 and an average household net worth of $1,400,000.
‘53.1% of registered voters in Darien are Republican so this “keep the poors away” bullsh**t totally tracks.’
‘I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Darien is greater than 95% white, with a median income greater than $130K,’ added another.
Darien is almost 96 percent white and the median income for a family is $195,905.
The average price for a house in the town is $1.2 million, although prices have dropped slightly in recent years.