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Health District Reports 13 Active Newtown COVID Cases



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Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert told The Newtown Bee late Wednesday afternoon, March 25, she was now monitoring 13 identified residents testing positive for the novel coronavirus that is sweeping the nation and the globe.

“We also have 34 cases presenting with symptoms, that tested negative,” Culbert said, warning Newtown residents that “while this test information is helpful, it is not truly reflective of the level of COVID in our community. I don’t want people to think this is an accurate reflection of the proportion of cases in Newtown,” which has approximately 27,000 residents.

Culbert said seven of the current positive cases are male, and six are female. She was reviewing tests that had been administered between March 16 and March 23.

In a conference call with State Epidemiologist Dr Matthew Cartter, Culbert said state models show that social distancing practices in place “should flatten the curve, but we’re still in the acceleration phase.”

Statewide, Governor Ned Lamont reported March 25 that a total of 875 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Cases have been reported in all eight Connecticut counties.

Lamont said 113 patients were hospitalized, and 19 residents have died (12 in Fairfield County, two in each Hartford County and New Haven County, and three in Tolland County). The state public health lab, along with hospital and commercial laboratories have administered more than 5,898 tests.

The governor said the state activated its second mobile hospital at Danbury Hospital on Wednesday, and that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) orders are coming in. He added that one company that manufactures parachutes may be able to repurpose its manufacturing system to make protective masks, and that Litchfield Distillery is making and offering free hand sanitizer — “just bring your own container,” Lamont said.

During the March 25 press session, Dr Cartter said he is monitoring supply lines for ventilators he hopes will be coming into the state, however, “there will probably never be enough ventilators.” He added that two patients can share the same ventilator.

Cartter also told reporters Wednesday that the number of COVID cases is doubling every three to five days, and he believes he state is still “seeing the tip of the iceberg.” He said based on influenza pandemics that have seen a ten percent infection rate in Connecticut between October and April, if ten percent of state residents are infected with the coronavirus, as many as 300,000 people could be affected.

With the hopeful outcomes of enhanced social distancing in mind, the Newtown Police Department, in conjunction with the Parks & Rec Department, issued a memo stating, “During these trying times filled with anxiety we ask that everyone adhere to the advice of our governmental officials.

“We cannot stress the importance of social distancing. Our town parks, Dickinson, Treadwell, and the Skate Park are closed,” the memo continues. “The Fairfield Hills Campus walking trails remain open, but we cannot stress strongly enough the need to not congregate and keep the social distancing guidelines in mind. We understand the need to get out of our homes and get exercise and fresh air.”

The C.H. Booth Library also released a package of information late Wednesday with information and links to resources for those impacted by the pandemic. See Page A11 of this week’s Newtown Bee or go to the library’s website (chboothlibrary.org) to access or sign up for this e-mailed resource list.

Latest Executive Order

On March 24, Lamont signed another executive order — the 13th since he enacted the emergency declarations — that builds upon his efforts to encourage mitigation strategies that slow down transmission of the virus.

Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7L enacts the following provisions:

*Extends the cancellation of classes at public schools statewide through at least April 20: To promote and secure the safety and protection of children in schools related to the risks of COVID-19, the order extends the cancellation of classes at all public schools statewide through April 20, 2020. The governor notes that this date could possibly be extended further. Private schools and other non-public schools are encouraged to follow the same schedule.

*Orders the early opening of the fishing season, effective immediately.

*Suspends restrictions on the re-employment of retired municipal employees: To enable municipalities to meet critical staffing needs caused by COVID-19 with skilled and experienced employees who require little to no additional training, the order modifies state statutes to allow certain retired employees who are in the municipal retirement system to work without any hourly or duration limitation while also continuing to receive retirement allowances.

*Exacts flexibility to maintain adequate medical marijuana access for patients: The order modifies the state’s medical marijuana program to improve patient access and address staffing shortages in facilities. This includes permitting patients to be certified via telehealth; extending expiration dates for patient and caregiver registrations; allowing dispensary facility staff to move work locations among facilities and, with approval of the state, make adjustments to staffing ratios; and waiving the fee normally charged if someone loses or misplaces their registration certificate.

*Extends the time period for nursing home transfers: The order extends the time allowed for an applicant to transfer from a nursing home where they were temporarily placed after their nursing home closed from 60 days after their arrival at the new facility to “not later than one year following the date that such applicant was transferred from the nursing home where he or she previously resided.”

*Enacts flexibility in availability and registration of vital records: The order authorizes the Commissioner of Public Health to conduct birth, death, and marriage registration, in order to assist local registrars of vital statistics in carrying out their duties as may be required, and to issue any implementing orders she deems necessary.

*Suspends in-person purchase of copies of vital records at the Department of Public Health: The order suspends the requirement that the purchase of vital records at the Department of Public Health be available in person, and limits those requests to online or mail.

*Modifies the requirement that marriage licenses be obtained in the town where the marriage will be celebrated: As municipal offices around the state are closed or have selective hours due to the COVID-19 crisis, the order permits those seeking a marriage license to obtain it in a different municipality than where it will be celebrated.

Recruiting Health Professionals

Additionally, on March 24, Commissioner Coleman-Mitchell sent a memo to all healthcare providers outlining strategies for the conservation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as well as guidance on COVID-19 testing strategies.

To boost the corps of health care professionals available, the state DPH is asking healthcare professionals, such as retired nurses and doctors, to consider volunteering their services at a medical facility in Connecticut. Those willing to volunteer should fill out the online form located at ctresponds.ct.gov, and their information will be reviewed by staff at DPH who will connect the volunteer to a location in need.

Connecticut Insurance Department (CID) Commissioner Andrew N. Mais today sent a bulletin to every insurance company in the state calling on them to immediately institute a grace period for insurance premium payments in light of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The insurance commissioner is requesting that all admitted and nonadmitted insurance companies that offer any insurance coverage in Connecticut — including life, health, auto, property, casualty, and other types of insurance — to immediately provide customers with a 60-day grace period without interest or penalty to pay their insurance premiums.

Governor Lamont is reminding Connecticut residents who need health care that Access Health CT is running a special open enrollment period right now that closes on Thursday, April 2. Any uninsured person in the state is urged to contact the organization to begin the enrollment process by calling 855-365-2428, Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm.

For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ and other guidance and resources, residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.

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