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Rosenthal, Culbert Release New Video Message As State COVID-19 Cases Near 1,300



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Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and Health District Director Donna Culbert ducked outside Friday, March 27, to record the latest in a series of video outreach messages to the community as positive cases of COVID-19 ticked up to 16 in Newtown and are approaching 1,300 statewide.

Culbert, whose district includes Roxbury and Bridgewater, each with one confirmed coronavirus case, said she continues to be concerned as residents are sheltering in place using proper disinfecting and distancing protocols with loved ones.

Rosenthal, who exhibited appropriate social distancing in the video, also reminded residents to utilize necessary guidelines and precautions when gathering in very small groups. The video series is being produced in partnership by the town and The Newtown Bee as a public service.

In his March 27 press update, Governor Ned Lamont said a total of 1,291 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported among Connecticut residents — 173 patients were hospitalized, and 27 residents have died (15 in Fairfield County, six in New Haven County, three in Tolland County, two in Hartford County, and one in Middlesex County).

More than 8,400 tests have been reported to date.

Lamont said he was told Friday at about 4:45 pm that the President has signed the federal CARE Act, which is about $1.5 billion coming to the state for immediate response to the virus situation. Lamont also said a loan program offered just a few days ago to help small businesses sustain through this still early stage of the virus spread is on hold after being doubled to $50 million, and applications were being cut off at 6 pm on Friday.

Jeffrey A. Flaks from the Hartford Health system said all health systems are working in partnership.

“We all wear the uniform of the State of Connecticut, that becomes critical in a state like this,” he said. Flaks described state healthcare workers as “heroes everyday,” and observed that while residents are sheltering in place and distancing, health care workers — including more than 1,000 retired doctors and nurses, as well as medical support and nursing students — are running into medical centers and volunteering to serve Connecticut’s affected residents.

He added that supply chain coordinators both at the state and individual health care levels are doing great work trying to obtain and distribute critical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“We’re in this together, and we’re doing what we do in a responsible way,” Flaks said.

Late Thursday, Lamont signed another executive order — the 15th since he enacted the emergency declarations — that builds upon his efforts to encourage mitigation strategies that slow down transmission of the virus.

Executive Order 7N

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

*Restricts all social and recreational gatherings to no more than five people: The order modifies the governor’s earlier executive order placing limits on the amount of people who can participate in social and recreational gatherings and reduces that number to no more than five people, through at least April 30 unless otherwise modified.

This order includes, but is not limited to, community, civic, leisure, or sporting events; parades; concerns; festivals; plays or live performances; conventions and similar activities; except that religious, spiritual, or worship gatherings will remain subject only to the prohibition of 50 persons or more. This does not apply to government operations, private workplaces, retail establishments, or other activities that are not social or recreational gatherings.

*Restricts restaurant payment and pickup operations: Where reasonably practicable, the order requires restaurants, eating establishments, and any bars that remain open for sales of food for off-premise consumption to limit entrance of customers or third party delivery personnel into their locations to the minimum extent necessary to pick up and/or pay for orders, use touchless payment systems, and require remote ordering and payment.

The order does not require businesses to acquire or use ordering or payment technology that they do not already have, does not prohibit drive-through ordering and pickup, and does not prohibit in-person payment or cash payment where this is no reasonable alternative. Previously issued guidance for hospital and business cafeterias remains in effect.

*Further restricts retail operations: The order requires all retail establishments that have been allowed to remain open and permit customers inside to take appropriate and reasonable measures to ensure customers maintain six feet of distance between each other and to manage any resulting lines to maintain such distance while people are waiting to enter.

It also requires these establishments, where reasonably practical, to employ touchless payment technology if they already have such technology available and the customer has such technology available.

*Requires firearm transactions to be conducted by appointment only: The order requires all retail businesses that sell firearms, ammunition, and other similar components or supplies to conduct all transactions by appointment only in order to limit person-to-person contact as much as possible, effective immediately.

Appointments must be limited in order to allow a six-foot distance between any customers and staff in a store, and only customers conducting such transactions will be allowed in the store.

*Suspension of tax on single-use checkout bags: The order temporarily suspends certain state statutes in order to suspend any tax on single-use plastic checkout bags at grocery stores and other retail businesses.

*Prohibits employers from requiring employees to place items in customers’ reusable bags: The order prohibits employers of any grocery store or retail business from requiring their employees to bag items into a customer-provided reusable bag. Customers are still permitted to use reusable bags, but they may need to bag their own items.

*Suspends 21-month limit on Temporary Family Assistance: The order modifies certain statutes and regulations to exclude from the 21-month time limit on receipt of Temporary Family Assistance all months of such assistance received during the public health and civil preparedness emergency. Suspending the time limit for this program will help families get the time and resources they need to get back on their path to self-sufficiency after the emergency is over.

*Suspends school testing assessments for the 2019-2020 school year: Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major disruption on schools, the order waives all annual student assessment test requirements for the current school year.

Other Key Developments

During the press conference, Lamont lamented the federal government being slow to respond in relation to ordering ventilators for hospitals, leaving states like Connecticut facing back orders. State COO Josh Geballe said there are under 1,000 respirators in Connecticut today, and most are being used for two patients at a time.

Geballe said infection rates are consistent through the ages, but hospitalizations skew extremely high for those over 65 or have other health issues. The Governor added that younger people need to realize even though the intensity of the infection may be proportionately less in their demographic, the role they can play in communicating COVID-19 is high.

On March 26, Lamont also submitted a request to FEMA for a presidential major disaster declaration for the State of Connecticut. If the disaster declaration is approved, Connecticut residents may have access to additional resources to support childcare, crisis counseling, and other needs identified as a result of the pandemic.

The Connecticut National Guard has deployed two climate-controlled tents on the grounds of the West Haven VA Medical Center for use in dealing with potential future patient overflow. The Guard is in the process of delivering two similar tents to the Newington VA Medical Center.

These tents are in addition to the deployment of Connecticut Department of Public Health mobile field hospitals that were set up this week on the grounds of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford and Danbury Hospital. A third mobile field hospital is being prepared for deployment at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown.

In an effort to assist with the shortage of PPE, the Connecticut Department of Correction’s Correctional Enterprises of Connecticut Unit has developed a prototype — for mass production — of a cotton fabric face mask intended for use in situations where N95 respirators or surgical masks are not available.

Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew N. Mais is calling on insurers to immediately institute an extension of coverage for personal delivery drivers in light of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department is requesting that all insurance companies that offer auto and motorcycle liability insurance coverage in Connecticut immediately expand coverage for the personal use of vehicles for certain commercial purposes. This will ensure delivery workers have adequate protection while using their personal car or motorcycle to deliver food and medicine.

Scams And Resources

Finally, BBB Serving Connecticut is already getting reports on BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) about government impostors calling and texting about the checks. Watch out for these phony phishing attempts that ask for personal and banking information in order to receive your check.

Victims receive a message or see a social media post claiming that they qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant. They click the link and are taken to what seems to be an official website asking to enter personal information and/or banking details. It’s “necessary” to verify your identity and process your grant.

One variation is a Facebook post telling seniors about a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link leads to a website claiming to be a government agency called the "U.S. Emergency Grants Federation" (phony, of course).

The site requests your Social Security number under the guise of needing to verify your eligibility. In other versions, scammers claim that you can get additional money – up to $150K in one case – or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.”

No matter what the message, don’t click, says BBB. In addition to taking your money, these sites also can also download malware to your device and use your information for identity theft.

Culbert at the Newtown Health District reminds residents that online resources and information is available. Stay informed by visiting:

*Town of Newtown COVID-19 web page: newtown-ct.gov/covid-19-information-newtown-residents-and-businesses

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

*CT Department of Public Health: portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus

*World Health Organization: who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

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.

The Newtown Bee is continuing to provide and mirror information and messages coming from local and state agencies on a daily and sometimes hourly basis at newtownbee.com.

Residents can also review all prior COVID-19 updates and follow the newspaper’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages for breaking local and state reports.

Hardly a rush hour: Traffic was light on Main Street near the flagpole when this photo was taken at 7:48 am, Friday, March 27. Travel has been easier than usual, and accidents are well below average numbers with so many businesses currently closed or on shortened hours, and so many people working from or staying home.  —Bee Photo, Hicks
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