Archive | April, 2020

Hartford HealthCare and City to Erect Mobile Test Sites


HARTFORD — Hartford will be the first site for HealthCare mobile coronavirus testing soon to reach the city’s most vulnerable and underserved populations, according to hospital officials on Thursday.

The mobile testing will focus on nursing homes first because they have been the site of numerous outbreaks. The next hot spots will be hotels housing hundreds of people relocated from homeless shelters, Mayor Luke Bronin said.

On Thursday, the city announced another program that will make coronavirus testing more accessible to the wider community: free rides for those who have an appointment at Hartford Hospital or Saint Francis Medical Center.

More than 30 percent of households in Hartford don’t have access to a car, according to the Census Bureau.

Hartford residents can now call 860-757-9311 and the city will arrange a ride to the site, Bronin said in a press conference on Thursday.

Both hospitals are also accepting people on foot. However, health officials said, driving through is safest, as it limits potential exposure to other people.

City officials urged city residents to practice social distancing and to wear masks.

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Hartford Police Seize Bags of Heroine


Hartford are still investigating a recent drug best that includes a discovery of more than 1,200 bags of heroin.

Last Friday, Police seized 1,397 bags of heroin after a recovering a stolen car from Massachusetts. Before the bust, police chased the suspects on foot. 

The suspects include two 18 year-olds, who were arrested.

Also, officers seized 14 grams of crack cocaine and $4,740. 

Hartford Police Drug Raid

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Hartford Launches Emergency Funding


HARTFORD — Hartford on Tuesday joined community-based organizations to launch a $1 million grant program to help about 100 small businesses with cash.

Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, HEDCO, Inc., and Capital for Change launched a $1 million Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program that will provide a grant of up to $10,000 to make lease or mortgage payments, pay salaries, make vendor payments, pay taxes, or pay for other eligible expenses.

Officials said the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program is aimed at small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining funding from other federal or state initiatives, with a particular focus on providing assistance to small businesses owned by women and people of color, located in low-income neighborhoods in Hartford.  

Many small businesses hire locally, hence the need to support them, city officials said.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and we are proud to join with these partners to get them critical support during this unprecedented time,” said City Council President Maly D. Rosado.

The program will be administered by Capital for Change and applications will be accepted online beginning on May 4, 2020.  A link to the application will be available at Coronavirus.Hartford.gov.  

Grant awards are expected to be made on or before May 22, 2020.  Program dates are subject to change.

Beginning on April 27, 2020, interested businesses can access technical assistance to ensure they are prepared to submit an application.

Organizations providing technical assistance include the Blue Hills Civic Association, the Upper Albany Merchants Association, the Spanish American Merchants Association, HEDCO Inc., the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford, the Minority Construction Council, and the Hartford Chamber of Commerce.

In order to be eligible for the grant, businesses must: (a) be located within the City of Hartford, (b) be able to provide at least one federal tax return, (c) have positive revenues not exceeding $500,000 for the submitted tax years, (d) have an EIN and/or DUNS number, if applicable.  Other eligibility requirements will be available in the grant application.  

In an effort to make grants available to as many business owners as possible, principal owners of multiple businesses will only be eligible for one grant.


“This pandemic has devastated small businesses, and we want to do everything we can to help our small businesses here in Hartford survive, reopen, re-hire, and start growing again,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.  “All too often, small businesses in communities like Hartford don’t have the banking relationships, the connections, or the ability to access federal grants or loans, and this partnership is aimed at helping those small businesses that are most likely to be left out.”


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Opening the Economy: Data-Driven and Public Health Approaches


By Jagdish Khubchandani

Policymakers around the world are in a triangular tug of war between fighting COVID-19, economic rehabilitation, and ensuring societal normalcy, well-being, and health. There are no easy answers or cookbook recipes and each question among the how, why, and when to open the economy is more daunting to answer than the other one. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that we cannot make decisions based on social, cultural, religious, or economic preferences alone. Also, decision making cannot be an absolute top-down approach, but a regionally driven strategy with citizen engagement. A few suggestions for our leaders and the public:

*        Analyzing regional data on COVID-19 such as number of cases and deaths, racial/ethnic distribution of the disease, age and gender groups most affected, and social and medical history of those who are affected will help define the unique nature and extent of disease spread among communities and to strategize for customized prevention priorities. We need more testing based on population density so that the maximum number of infected people can be quarantined to break the chain of spread (the 3 T model= trace, test, treat).

*        The key data points to consider in making a decision on opening the economy should be: number of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries mapped by the smallest geographic unit; the total population of the region with sociodemographic distribution; the number of primary care and emergency services; the number of hospitals and healthcare facilities, COVID-19 testing capacity, and healthcare-related assets available (i.e. materials, devices, and human resources).  Throughout the process, ensure protection of frontline healthcare workers.

Photo Credit: Yahoo Finance

*        The rates of increase or decrease in COVID-19 cases play a major role in estimating regional transmission patterns. If a geographic region does not witness a case for more than a week, that’s positive news. Once the 2-week mark is crossed without a positive case, plans to allow many essential human activities should be formulated and implemented. Additionally, regions should be classified as high risk, moderate risk, and low risk. Those regions that should qualify as high risk should exhibit high numbers and rates of cases or deaths that remain the same or increase over time (call them “hotspots”).

*        We should categorize and redefine services as: highly essential, needed, and wanted. Based on relative importance, we should use a staggered time-phased opening approach. These classifications should keep in view, for each service, the amount of human to human contact, needs and capacities, the potential for large gatherings, demand versus supply of the service, the cost versus benefit of these services, and preparedness at service facilities as it relates to practicing aggressive hygiene and sanitation measures and social distancing for the clientele served. There should be ways to enforce the use of temperature screening devices, masks, sanitizers, and social distancing for all clients.

Photo Credit: New York Post, Dow Jones

*        Increasing the base of health prepared and health trained people in the communities would be another asset. Rapid and swift measures to educate and train lay health workers, non-physician professionals, and accelerating volunteer health services could be a priority. Academic-community partnerships and the use of professional organizations to provide data and scientific services should be done as soon as possible. All of this can be done remotely by data transfer and coordination between regional healthcare facilities, health departments, and state or federal agencies. Existing data are assets that must be utilized.

*        The last strategy is to remain prepared for shutting services again based on real-time regional evidence on COVID-19. We must also estimate, how long after we open the economy will business and industries flourish and how much time it will take to bring normalcy to life (that would create another lag in reaching our full potential). Despite phased openings, we will still see fewer workers, fewer service demands, and lesser clientele.

It is time to utilize these strategies and aggressively prepare for the next phase- opening the economy and looking into the future. We have saved millions of lives by avoiding the disease and cannot lose our gains. However, we also have to be mindful not to lose lives due to other diseases, poverty, and psychological upheaval. Based on regional data and the unique nature of COVID-19 in a community, decisions should be left to counties and local governments on opening the economy. Such decisions should also engage regional healthcare providers, scientists, business owners, and representatives of the general public. We need to reappraise the values of our democracy- of the people, for the people, and by the people. Finally, it is high time, we think global and act local.

Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, PhD is a Professor of Health Science at Ball State University and has a doctorate in both Medicine and Public health.

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News Analysis: COVID Data Presents Blind-Spots


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Across the country, combating the spread of coronavirus has increasingly relied on data zeroing on each zip code in urban, rural and suburban towns. With such tight focus, local and state governments have been more effective at tracking trends, pivoting to new needs, and allocating resources where most needed.

Here in Connecticut, however, information that detailed is simply not available. Currently coronavirus numbers that make their way to local authorities from the state are not refined any further than the county and town level.

This lack may leave the most vulnerable and hard hit communities without the proper resources and, according to James Trostle, Professor of Anthropology at Trinity College and author of ‘Epidemiology and Culture,’ can hinder overall response efforts.

“This kind of information is called geo-located data,” Trostle says. “It provides an important way to look at the spatial distribution of both risks and infections. In fact, ‘place’ is one of the three core organizing principles in epidemiology, along with person and time.”

Thomas Nocera

Trostle, whose expertise is in medical anthropology and public health, believes that sharing of highly specified data can be one of the keys to successfully combating pandemics. Currently, the Connecticut Department of Public Health acts as a central corral point for COVID-19 data it receives from hospitals and other health facilitates. From there, numbers are input into a frequently updated database for relevant authorities on the ground to use as they develop strategies. But the lack of more detail may create a blind-spot of sorts for local health officials.

In Hartford, for example, Vasishth Srivastava, Mayor Bronin’s chief-of-staff, confirmed that the database does not allow them to see detailed demographic or geographic information, though they’ve been attempting to work out a plan to receive such data. In cities and states outside of Connecticut, however, access to that information has allowed officials to fine-tune responses.

In New York, like in Connecticut, analysis of geo-located data revealed that poor and minority neighborhoods had far higher rates of infection. That initiated a quick and forceful response which included the opening of new clinics and testing facilities in these areas. The worrying revelation that vulnerable communities were bearing the brunt of the virus’s effects is by no means isolated.

Illinois and North Carolina have also dug deeper into their data and identified higher rates of infection linked to ethnicity and income in particular areas or neighborhoods. By scaling down the data, authorities in these states hope to have a better chance at staying a step ahead of the ever-changing patterns of infection. Not doing so though can seriously hinder responses.

“Ignoring, or failing to collect, place-based data like zip code or census tract or latitude/longitude,” Trostle claims, “makes it difficult – if not impossible – to see how important location might be in the growth or distribution of any particular epidemic infection.”

Strategies that meticulously map out infections are nothing new when it comes to combating diseases. In one well known effort, the father of modern epidemiology – John Snow – painstakingly traced the source of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854. According to Trostle, Snow did this by walking “door-to-door and counting cholera cases house-by-house.”

Snow’s efforts were groundbreaking at the time. Today though, the precedent for tracing cases as locally as possible is a well-proven method in the fight against pandemics.

By responding to small scale hotspots, authorities better their chances of avoiding larger pools of infection in the future. As of now, cities across Connecticut will have to wait for that level of information as no plans currently exist to refine data and provide deeper location information, according to a spokesperson in an email from the state’s Department of Public Health. 

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As New COVID-19 Deaths Grow, Lamont Considers Executive Order On Masks


By Patrick Skahill, CTPublic Radio

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday that he is considering an executive order spelling out when and where Connecticut residents should wear face masks in response to the ongoing pandemic.

Despite a few flickers of hope that Connecticut was rounding the bend on COVID-19 cases, Lamont said Wednesday that virus infections continue to grow, with nearly 200 newly reported deaths.

“If you can keep your social distance, you don’t have to wear a mask,” Lamont said. “If you’re walking down the block and you’re by yourself, that’s fine. If you get to a crowded group, wear a mask. If you go into a store … wear a mask.”

Lamont said the masks don’t need to be medical quality face coverings. A cloth bandanna or handkerchief will suffice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance recommending people wear face coverings in certain situations to protect others from contracting COVID-19. Evidence shows asymptomatic people may be able to spread the virus to others, the CDC said.

“This is the way that we can get this virus — stop it dead in its tracks — and help this state get moving again,” Lamont said.

As of Wednesday, nearly 2,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut. The state reported an additional 197 deaths, which Lamont said was attributable to a numerical backlog in reporting — not a one day death spike.

Still, hospitalizations are growing. In New Haven County, the number of people hospitalized from COVID-19 surpassed 600 on Wednesday.

As he works to contain the virus in New Haven, Mayor Justin Elicker signed an emergency order Wednesday that will require the use of face coverings in essential retail businesses, including grocery stores, big-box stores or wholesale clubs, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and package stores.

Elicker’s order also specifies that business owners may refuse customers not wearing facemasks. The order will go into effect on Friday morning.

“Wearing a mask is an important way to protect your neighbors, family members, and others from contracting COVID-19,” said Elicker, in a statement. “We are fast approaching 800 positive cases in the Elm City … Please stay home as much as you can and stay safe.”

Millions In federal aid slated for Connecticut airports 

While Bradley International Airport remains open and domestic flights are operating, the Connecticut Airport Authority, which runs Bradley, said many of its airline partners have reduced schedules or dropped their flights completely. To help mitigate similar stoppages nationwide, the government released a multi-billion dollar relief program aimed at shoring up operations at U.S. airports impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Aer Lingus, Air Canada and Spirit Airlines have temporarily stopped all operations from Bradley,” said the CAA’s Ryan Tenny in an email Wednesday. “Our other airline partners continue to adjust operations on a daily basis…we are currently experiencing over a 95% decrease in passenger traffic.”

Roughly $28.5 million of the federal aid package will go to Bradley, according to a joint statement from Connecticut’s congressional delegation. The money can be used for airport capital expenditures, operating expenses such as payroll and utilities, and debt payments.

“The impacts to our operations will likely persist for months to come,” said Kevin Dillion, executive director of the CAA in a statement. “This assistance is an essential piece of the solution.”

In addition to Bradley, Tweed-New Haven will receive roughly $1.1 million, and Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport, which is owned by the city of Bridgeport, will get about $150,000.

UConn Health using patient blood to fight COVID-19

As doctors continue to seek new ways to fight the novel coronavirus, UConn Health announced Wednesday that several employees who have recovered from COVID-19 are now in the process of donating their blood to help critically ill patients. The trial will test if the antibodies in that blood could potentially attack the virus and help patients who are sick with COVID-19 more rapidly recover.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved four healthcare systems for the study,including the Mayo Clinic and Trinity Health Of New England, which runs St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. UConn Health said Wednesday it’s joined the effort using a protocol developed by the Mayo Clinic.

“The use of convalescent plasma is not at all new to medicine, and can be traced back to the 20th century,” said Mauricio Montezuma, site principal investigator for UConn Health, in a statement. “Data on convalescent plasma in COVID-19 is limited; however, two small reports from China are promising.”

Before any donor blood would be transfused to coronavirus patients, it will be tested for several things, including virus-resistant antibodies, UConn Health said.

If the blood is suitable, the plasma will be donated.

Donors must have tested positive for coronavirus, be asymptomatic for 14 days, and have a subsequent negative test for the disease.

‘No cost’ life insurance offered to frontline healthcare workers

Medical professionals in Connecticut and Massachusetts who are risking their lives to providecare to patients infected with the novel coronavirus could soon be eligible for free life insurance, state officials said Wednesday morning.

The no-cost, three-year term life insurance policy would be for medical workers employed at a licensed hospital, an urgent care center, or with an emergency medical services provider. The workers must have exposure to COVID-19 patients.

The life insurance policy, which is offered through Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, would provide up to $25,000 in no-cost benefits if the worker is between the ages of 18 and 50. Workers between the ages of 51 to 60 will receive a no-cost $10,000 death benefit. Lab technicians, custodial staff, maintenance crews, cafeteria workers and security personnel will also be considered for coverage, according to state officials.

More details and information on enrollment availability is on the MassMutual HealthBridge webpage.

Support requested for domestic violence and sexual assault victims

A bipartisan group of 39 U.S. senators, including Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), is calling for more federal funding to be made available to support programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package already approved by Congress includes about $47 million for some domestic violence services, but no funding was allocated for sexual assault and domestic violence support programs operated by U.S. Department of Justice.

Local police and representatives of support services around the U.S. are reporting increased numbers of calls for help from victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The senators seeking more funding for such programs warn that “abusers are using COVID-19 to isolate their victims, withhold financial services and refuse medical aid.”

Murphy and Blumenthal, along with their colleagues, are asking that any additional relief legislation related to the pandemic include money for sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, transitional housing and other support services.

Connecticut seeking full federal disaster funding for pandemic costs

Gov. Ned Lamont and the state’s congressional delegation are asking that the federal government reimburse Connecticut for 100% of the state’s emergency spending relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald J. Trump has issued a federal disaster declaration for Connecticut as requested by Lamont, but that would only provide the state 75% federal reimbursement for state costs.

“The size and scope of this public health emergency is unprecedented,” Lamont said. “If approved, this request would bring much needed additional financial assistance to the state and our municipalities.”

In his request, Lamont said the state has already spent about $500 million on pandemic-related programs and services, money that wasn’t in the state budget. The governor said current projections are that Connecticut state government spending on COVID-19 issues “will at least triple to $1.5 billion.”

Relief requested for local farmers

As states across America adopt social distancing mandates aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19, the economic wiring of many local farms has unraveled.

Traditional buyers like nearby restaurants or schools have closed, and many farmers markets have shut down.

In response, the federal CARES Act sets aside $9.5 billion, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture will use to provide support to farmers across the nation.

Last week, senators Blumenthal and Murphy wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, advocating that a portion of that money go to local food producers.

Additionally, the senators said they want the USDA to issue direct payments to qualified local farmers that are equal to 25% of annual revenue, up to a maximum of $25,000.

“For those local food producers who can provide information regarding actual COVID revenue loss and added costs, additional disaster assistance should be made available,” the senators wrote.

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Hartford Hits Grim Reality With COVID-19, First Infant Death


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford has likely set a grim and new global record as it struggles to contain its own Coronavirus outbreak –  the youngest victim to die from the illness passed away in the city in April.

It is reportedly the first around the world.

Just shy of seven-weeks old, the infant girl was reported to be in an unresponsive state when rushed to St. Francis Hospital, according to officials. Though doctors and nurses tried desperately to resuscitate her, Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill confirmed the child’s death on Thursday in an email.

“The infant did test positive for the COVID-19 virus and an autopsy was done at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,” Gill wrote.

While medical officials say they can’t confirm the final cause of death until a necessary battery of tests is performed, the news has already rippled throughout the state. With the death of someone so young from the illness a rarity, Gov. Ned Lamont addressed the “tragic milestone” in a press conference.

“Probably the youngest person, ever, to die of COVID,” he recently informed viewers, “has died here in Connecticut.”

Urging people to continue practicing social distancing, Lamont joined an increasingly loud chorus of elected officials asking for the public’s help – including Mayor Luke Bronin. In a press conference Friday, Bronin announced a troubling new statistic: the 120 now-confirmed COVID cases in Hartford marks a 50 percent increase from just two days ago. In response, he said, his administration would be enforcing new, stricter measures.

“We are stepping up enforcement efforts to require social distancing,” he said. Specifically, inspectors will be “assessing compliance with social distancing requirements” at many stores still open throughout the city.

As the virus slowly burns its way through communities across the country, Hartford’s steady increase in cases has been thoroughly tracked and documented. While cases are spread widely throughout, pinpointed statistics on everything from the number of cases and deaths, to changes in the rate of infection, have been essential in informing the government’s response. Those statistics aren’t compiled in Hartford however. Instead they make their way through a web of hospitals and state officials before hitting the Mayor’s desk. Hartford’s Director of Health, Liany Arroyo, explained how that network functions in a statement:

“We receive information about cases and fatalities from the State Department of Public Health, which receives data from hospitals and laboratories. The numbers we get are directly from the State, which compiles information and inputs it into a statewide database which our local Health Department accesses multiple times a day.”

Analysis of that database has led city officials to embrace more stringent rules, concluding that the outbreak will get worse before it gets better. While Bronin hopes his new measures will eventually help decrease the number of cases, he struck a somber tone about the near future.

“We’re going to be in this for a while,” he said Friday. “We’re going to be seeing increases for a while.”

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COVID-19 Local, Resources for Hartford


The Hartford Guardian is working to keep you up to date about daily breaking news that educate and inform Hartford residents. Please check back as we continue to alert you of ways to cope with the corona virus epidemic.

Can’t get be at a hospital to test for the coronavirus? Take a telehealth test and find out if you have the virus. Click here: TELEHEALTH TEST FOR CORONAVIRUS.

FREE RIDES TO COVID-19 TEST SITES: Call 311 for more information or 860-757-9311.

Feel isolated at home? Lonely? Get together online for a virtual social soiree: Click here.

CLICK HERE FOR : HEALTH GUIDE ON THE CORONA VIRUS

Find out more about the city of Hartford’s effort to educate the public about the Coronavirus: See link here: https://coronavirus.hartford.gov/

MOBILE FOODSHARE: Foodshare.org/mobile

FOODSHARE 24 HOUR HOTLINE: 860-856-4321

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS : filectui.org

Check on Gov. Ned Lamont’s effort to help Connecticut residents stay up to date: https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus

COVID-19 RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) Updates

Covid-19 in Connecticut, Latest Data

Hartford Healthcare Updates

WHO daily report

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