As ‘crowds’ come early, tensions rise in Little Compton, Westport

Out-of state arrivals asked to quarantine; Some visitors resent local attitude

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 3/29/20


Little Compton as posted gathering caution signs at popular visitor locations. (Wilbur’s Store Instagram photo)



“It's like the first of June around …

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As ‘crowds’ come early, tensions rise in Little Compton, Westport

Out-of state arrivals asked to quarantine; Some visitors resent local attitude


LITTLE COMPTON — The calendar was still on late March, but in Little Compton it seemed more like near-summertime, some said.

Cars filled parking lots at South Shore Beach, Simmons Pond trails and the Point, joggers and walkers were abundant, and traffic was much busier than normal for a sleepy March week.

“It's like the first of June around Sakonnet. The foot and vehicle traffic is unbelievable,” Town Council member Gary Mataronas said, adding that people have told him that they have “noticed quite a few New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other out of state plates in town.” 

Town Administrator Tony Teixeira agreed that there has been a lot of traffic for March.

“Many of the folks who live year-round in town were very concerned when they began to notice the unusual amount of out-state plates in town sooner than early summertime,”  he said Thursday when asked about the influx.

“There are clearly more ‘summer residents’ in town in March than in prior years,” said Town Council President Bob Mushen. “Since many of them come from year-round residences in states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts with higher rates of COVID19 cases, that was the impetus for our quarantine request.”

Town Council member Larry Anderson said that, being “hunkered down at home,” he couldn’t confirm the reports.

But he had heard much the same from others who had been out and about.

“I am told that the roads and streets had summer-level traffic, at least in terms of walkers, runners, bikers, etc.” It was a nice weekend and “The urge to be outside is perfectly understandable.”

Also, “By anecdotal accounts, some summer residents, as in some other coastal communities, are opening and moving into their houses earlier than they usually might.”

A woman said the same — “A lot of out-of-state plates … summer people coming in early, yards getting cleaned up. Feels almost like summer down here. Kind of weird.”

“A question arises, though,” Mr. Anderson added, “whether adequate social-distancing can be effectively maintained, even in these relatively large outdoor spaces, under such circumstances.”

“I have no problem with summer residents coming into town as long as they heed the 14-day quarantine issued by the Town Council,” Mr. Mataronas said. “They own houses here so they have the right to be here but I'm not sure renting houses out will be a good practice.”

He said he has also heard that business has been especially brisk for Wilbur's Store and Gleason's Package Store.

Reaction unfair, some feel

Some residents of the targeted states are increasingly unhappy about being singled out in this way, given that they, too, are property owners here, pay taxes and contribute to the local economy and causes.

Sally Goldstein of Greenwich, Conn., and Westport had this to say (in a letter to the editor) about the reaction by some in Westport, where similar discussions are happening.

“As of this writing it’s unclear whether there are any cases of COVID-19 in Westport, but if hatred is a symptom, there is certainly a pandemic in town! Social media websites with semi-private groups like 'Westport MA We the People' are virtual rallies, with angry townies calling for police to keep Connecticut and New York license plates out of local grocery store parking lots.  

“To local simpletons, the coronavirus is a wonderful way to try to legitimize the longstanding if ill-founded ire for “summer people”, out-of-towners, and their favorite homegrown slur, “skukes.”  Cries like 'Stay where you’re from … this is our town!' are among the more polite sentiments, most aren’t appropriate for newsprint.”

Call for quarantine

The Little Compton Town Council met last Wednesday and passed a measure that calls on town visitors to quarantine for at least 14 days, a step also taken in Newport, Portsmouth, Tiverton and Block Island, as well as out on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The statement called on all to take common sense safety precautions, “principles (that) have served us well, and are especially important with our demographics.”

Asked whether those demographics had to do with age (older people are more vulnerable to the virus),” Town Administrator Tony Teixeira replied, “Little Compton is, I believe, the community that has the greatest percentage of elderly in the state 60 and over.”

Census data confirms that — Little Compton has the state’s oldest median age at 57.8 (43 percent of the town’s population is age 60 or older); Tiverton’s median age is 50.8, Westport’s is 48.7, Newport’s is 35.6; Rhode Island’s as a whole is 39.9.

Town Council statement

The Town Council statement, signed by Robert Mushen, Town Council president, and Antonio Teixeira, town administrator, reads:

The effort to overcome the effects of the Coronavirus continues to require special measures from all of us in Little Compton. We encourage all residents to carefully abide by current CDC guidelines and the Governor’s Office recommendations with respect to personal hygiene and social distancing. Those principles have served us well, and are especially important with our demographics.

We request that all persons arriving in town from outside Rhode Island, whether homeowners, seasonal residents or visitors, self quarantine for a period of fourteen days upon arrival. As has been evident elsewhere, a single person’s illness can propagate quickly.

If you experience flu-like symptoms, please take action to notify your physician. Any resident in need of assistance can telephone the Public Safety Complex at 401-635-2311 or 401-635-2323.

Town Offices will remain closed until further notice. Residents are encouraged to monitor the Town’s website, for updates regarding further advisories.

Further notice ...

Late Friday, the towns updated ...

Little Compton:

In conformance with the Governor’s Executive Order 20-12, all persons arriving in town from New York, whether homeowners, seasonal residents or visitors, are required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. As has been evident elsewhere, a single person;’s illness can propagate quickly.

And in Westport:

Following Governor Baker’s directive that out-of-state travelers self-quarantine for two weeks …

Out of state travelers arriving in Westport are instructed to remain in their homes or on the grounds of their property for a period of two weeks. Health care, public health and safety, transportation and designated essential workers are exempt from this requirement.

Items needed from businesses such as groceries, pharmacies or hardware stores should be obtained through deliver services wherever possible. If the deliver  of necessities cannot be obtained, please contact the Board of Health at 508-636-1015 or email

Everyone should be practicing social distancing when out at public places such as beaches, parking lots and stores.

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