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Gov. Ned Lamont Annouces Coronavirus Relief Fund


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he is allocating $15 million from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which utilizes federal CARES Act money, to fund innovative workforce programs that will provide job training to more than 1,000 displaced workers in the state and connect them to high-growth, in-demand jobs.

“This pandemic has drastically impacted the lives and livelihood of so many people in our state, and these workforce development programs are being expanded so that we can provide displaced workers with the skills needed to match them with in-demand jobs,” Lamont said. “Our administration is committed to offering meaningful and lasting support to the workers of Connecticut so that our state and our economy emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

The Governor’s Workforce Council, with the support of the recently formed Workforce Development Unit in the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), will utilize the funding on 19 programs that offer participants access to supportive services, including childcare and transportation, as well as a general training subsidy and job placement services that connect participants with full-time employment.

 In selecting programs for investment, the Governor’s Workforce Council prioritized programs aligned to current in-demand jobs with strong career pathways across several industries, most notably healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing. In total, approximately 1,100 participants will receive training and employment opportunities from this initiative.

“COVID-19 has accelerated many of the changes that have been reshaping our economy,” Garrett Moran, Chairman of the Governor’s Workforce Council, said. “The money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund was an instrumental first step in not only getting residents back to work, but getting them back to work in careers that are pandemic-proof for the future.”

Kelli Vallieres, executive director of DECD’s Workforce Development Unit said the program hopes to get people back to work.

“This statewide program is a great example of how Connecticut can leverage its strong workforce partners, such as our Regional Workforce Development Boards, community colleges, and local training providers, among others, to create industry-aligned programs aimed at getting Connecticut residents back to work,” Vallieres said.

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Hartford HealthCare to Do COVID-19 Tests in Hartford


HARTFORD — Hartford HealthCare is relocating and expanding their testing site to the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

That’s because officials are planning for an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases. And the garage will be used to accommodate 4,000 people a day, officials said. This new site will open Nov. 9 seven days a week.

The move by Hartford HealthCare will double the number of patients tested for COVID-19.

“Testing is absolutely crucial and it’s centers like this, as we now advance really to our first winter, where this testing capability becomes absolutely critical,” said Jeffrey Flaks, President, Hartford HealthCare.

“The more quickly we know who has the virus, the more we can support them,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Those choosing to get tested will get thier results in about 24 hours.

Since March, Hartford HealthCare performed 382,000 tests, officials said. Consequently, some Hartford residents are concerned about the flood of patients entering the small city.

Hartford Health spokesperson Tina Varone said that residents should not be concerned about the spread of the virus due to the move to increase capacity for tests at the Convention Center. The test site will be drive through only. No one will be required to exit cars and walk around.

Hartford HealthCare has 930 mobile testing sites.

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Lamont Issues New Fines for Wearing No Mask


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont announces Monday that there are new fines aimed at residents, who undermine the state’s masking and gathering mandates during the novel Coronavirus.

Based on these new rules, residents could be fined $100 for violating the mask mandate, $250 for attending a large event and $500 for organizing a large, unsanctioned event.

Currently, the state has capped events at 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.

According to Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, the order was issued on Tuesday and went into effect at midnight on Thursday.

According to Geballe, the new fines were created out of a collaboration between state and local officials, including local law enforcement and health departments.

While Connecticut was able to flatten the curve, the state’s positivity rate has climbed over one percent again to 1.2 percent in recent days as more colleges and schools reopened, a fact that Lamont said figured in his decision to sign the new executive order.

“I think the numbers are still trending in the right direction,” Lamont said

Municipalities have struggled with enforcement of the state’s coronavirus-related mandates since the pandemic began.

Geballe said that it is a challenge to enforce these rules in a realistic sense.

“There wasn’t really much that was being done, because many people viewed[a misdemeanor charge as excessively harsh for failing to wear a mask if you couldn’t socially distance,” Geballe said. “So they asked for this new tool, an infraction that was a bit of a step-down enforcement.”

Geballe said that decisions to make stricter rules were always on past discussions.

“It’s come up over and over again, to the point where we felt it was an appropriate thing to do,” Geballe said.

As of Sept. 19, 2020, there have been 55,527 positive cases of the virus and 4,492 deaths with 77 patients currently hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Gov. Lamont Fines Residents for COVID Travel Violations


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Two residents were recently fined Monday for a violation of the state’s requirements from COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.

Both travelers, who came back from Louisiana and Florida, were fined $1,000 for failing to fill out a public-health form required of passengers landing at Bradley International Airport and the Louisiana traveler was fined an additional $1,000 for refusing to self-quarantine for 14 days, officials said.

Lamont said that safety is the number one priority and anyone who opposes these rules will be disciplined no matter what.

“I hate to do it, but we’re going to be serious and show people we are serious about this, and to date it’s made a difference,” Lamont said, in a press conference.

Anyone arriving from a state with a daily positive COVID test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or has a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average must fill out a disclosure form and, under most circumstances, self-quarantine for 14 days.

Louisiana and Florida are among the 34 states, as well as Puerto Rico, that are currently on the travel advisory list used by Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, three of the states hit the hardest by the pandemic, which now have low infection rates, according to state officials.

Recently, the state has had less than a one percent positive rate in recent weeks. Results released Monday for the past three days showed less than one percent of the 38,309 latest tests showed new infections, a sign of real progress.

The Department of Public Health issued the fines after investigations resulting from tips, at least in one case, from a co-worker, according to Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

According to Gebelle, 20,000 people have completed the COVID disclosure form, with another 1,000 filed each day.

Lamont applauded public health officials in Bridgeport for shutting down a half-dozen bars that were “masquerading as restaurants,” attracting large crowds.

Lamont said he appreciated everyone’s effort to slow the spread of the virus and encourages vigilance.

“Overwhelmingly, people are doing the right thing,” Lamont said. “For those who aren’t, please be on notice.”

Officials could not identify their names but were known to be from Windham and Harford counties.

Completing the COVID health form is required of anyone who has spent “24 hours or longer in one of these affected states within 14 days prior to arriving in Connecticut, and if you plan to stay in Connecticut for more than 24 hours,” Gebelle said.

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Some Businesses Ease Back Into Normalcy


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – At least one local business has reopened to a tepid response from the public after the restaurant has being closed for a few months to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Lynne Russell, one of the manager of Sorella’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street in Hartford, said that business has been random since they reopened.

“They have been people passing through and stopping for a bite to eat,”
Russell said.

According to Russell, there are guidelines implanted to lesson the spread
COVID-19.

“We are following all guidelines  put forth by the state which include
constant washing of tables, and masks,” Russell said.


The restaurant took “online classes In order to help with the new protocols
put in place,” Russell said.

These businesses, which have been opened to the public since June 22 with limitations, include restaurants, barber shops, libraries and sports facilities as part of the state’s phase two reopening plan.

Samantha Savran, association director of marketing at the YMCA of Greater Hartford, said that the facility has implemented guidelines as required by the governor.

“We now have temperature checks as well as continuous cleaning. social distancing measures and mask requirements,” Savran said.

Savran said that even during the coronavirus, kids have been enjoying their time at the “Y.”

“At our day camp we run at the facility, children have been having a blast,” Savran said. “They like playing with their peers in a different and more controlled environment.”

Savran said that the YMCA has been the go-to place to go for people dealing with stress during these pressing times.

“The YMCA’s purpose is to build stronger relationships with members,” Savran said. “Our wellness center has always had strong bonds with its members.”

As of July 14, 2020, there have been 47, 287 positive cases of the virus with 4,348 deaths in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Gov. Ned Lamont: Some Businesses to Reopen


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Three months after the global pandemic of the coronavirus, Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday scheduled several type of businesses to reopen.

According to Lamont’s office, barbershops, beauty salons and several kinds of retail stories will be opened in phase one of the plan, but they will follow specific rules as described to stave off the spread of COVID-19.

The first phase – which includes restaurants; offices; hair salons and barbershops; retail stores; and outdoor museums and zoos – is currently planned to take effect beginning May 20.

The governor stressed that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner – they are not required to open if they do not choose.

The protocols were developed by Lamont, members of his office, and the Department of Economic and Community Development, in consultation with legislators and recommendations made by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, which consists of several of the state’s leading medical experts and representatives of several business and industry groups.

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Most Americans Want to Reopen–Not


By Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.

Anyone who says that most Americans want to lift restrictions and reopen the economy is simply not following the data; much like the President is ignoring scientific and medical data on COVID-19. If you think the states should reopen and everybody you know agrees, well, think about this. An overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with you and with everybody you know.

This is where we are today. We have approximately 1,250,000 COVID-19 cases today and roughly 75,000 have died. Three months ago, we had 15 cases and one death. Still want to reopen?

A very recent Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 67 percent of Americans said they would feel uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78 percent would be uncomfortable at a sit-down restaurant. These were just two of eight places a big majority of Americans said restrictions should not be lifted. The other six were gun stores (70 percent), nail salons (74 percent), barbershops and hair salons (69 percent), gyms (78 percent), golf courses (59 percent), and movie theaters (82 percent). Grocery stores, whether well stocked or not, have remained open throughout the pandemic.

Governors in 30 states have begun to reopen at some level, possibly ignoring the fact that the U.S. has already surpassed 1.2 million cases, more than Spain, Italy, France, England, and Germany combined. The following are three highly reliable models of what Americans could expect, which hopefully will make those states reconsider.

In an article in USA Today, Jorge Ortiz reported that the U.S. has had an increase of at least 20,000 COVID-19 cases each day since mid-March. According to the New York Times, a CDC (Center for Disease Control) model projects the number could rise to 200,000 cases with 3,000 deaths per day.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected 134, 475 deaths in the U.S. by Aug. 4.

A new model from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania projected that 117,000 Americans would be dead by June 30 and if states fully reopened, the number of Americans dead would hit 466,000 by the same date.

The obvious is that many more people will die. The question is how many and whether you will be one of them. I hope not.

Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. is president of United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Inc.

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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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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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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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