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Selectman's Latest Code Red Aims To Reassure Frazzled Community



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A few hours after First Selectman Dan Rosenthal produced his video outreach COVID-19 Clip for The Newtown Bee's YouTube channel Friday, he broadcast a Code Red message in which he empathized with frazzled residents facing the front end of a virus pandemic that could be affecting the community and region for weeks if not months to come.

Rosenthal was joined on the video message by Health District Director Donna Culbert, who said Saturday afternoon that she was expecting to hear about additional positive COVID-19 cases in Newtown or the other district towns of Roxbury and Bridgewater.

View the video here:

As of Saturday, the state reported a total of 1,524 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported among Connecticut residents. To date, 205 have been or are hospitalized, and 33 have died, 20 in Fairfield County.

Code Red Candor

It may be an oft used cliche, but the first selectman hearkening back to a popular Bill Murray film seemed appropriate given the challenges already faced by members of the community as the tally of positive coronavirus cases in Newtown approached 20.

"This morning when I was waking up I thought of the movie Groundhog Day where everyday is like the last. I don’t say this to make light of the seriousness of our present situation, except to say I am sure people are feeling a little fatigued by all of this and that is completely normal," Rosenthal said.

He extended appreciation to municipal workers and school district personnel, who he said continue "to put our community first, despite what I am sure are their own health concerns. Our Emergency Management Team ties together all critical public safety functions for the town and there has never been a moment through storms, power outages and now a pandemic that I have ever seen their dedication waiver."

As coronavirus cases in town climbed from one last Sunday to 16 Friday afternoon, the first selectman said "the number of cases are still what I would call a lagging indicator and understate what is likely more widespread infection in our town. As such, not to sound like a broken record, we need to continue to keep space between us, avoid large groups, and wash our hands regularly."

Rosenthal said he was "particularly sensitive to the toll this has taken on many of you both personally and professionally."

"While I wish I had all the answers, programs for individuals and businesses are coming together with great speed," he said. "Our Human Services and Economic and Community Development Departments, among others, continue to post useful information to the town website, which is easily accessible under the COVID directory on the home page."

The first selectman closed his message requesting residents "please keep checking on your neighbors and supporting our local businesses. Small things are big things to these folks right now."

"Finally, as we head into what I hope is a nice weekend for all of you and your families, let us remember that there are people who are very sick in our community and across our country," Rosenthal concluded. "Let us also remember that there are people running to this 'fire' to protect us."

Lamont Fires Back

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont fired back Saturday as the Associated Press (AP) reported President Donald J. Trump, speaking in Norfolk, Va., a few hours earlier, said he was considering a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, though it was not clear whether he had the power to order state residents to stay put.

In a statement just before 4 pm Saturday and two hours later at a daily press briefing, Lamont said, "our state has already called on residents to stay at home.

"Further, if interstate travel is absolutely necessary, our state has directed travelers to self-quarantine to prevent against further transmission of the virus," the governor continued.

Lamont said he had already spoken with a "high level" official at the White House after the president's statement and subsequent Tweet. He characterized the president's remarks as "thinking out loud," and that the White House contact said the President was "looking at hot spots like Louisiana and Detroit."

Lamont said he reminded the Washington liaison of what happened in Wuhan Province where the COVID-19 virus apparently originated, saying a lockdown threat resulted in a "mass exodus of people."

He said he prefers to work with regional governors on coordinated actions to help control and mitigate the virus cases in the Northeast.

New York Gov Andrew Cuomo, who criticized the federal government’s response as his state became the country’s virus epicenter, said the issue had not come up in a conversation he had with Trump earlier Saturday.

“I don’t even know what that means,” the Democrat said at a briefing in New York. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable, and from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing ... I don’t like the sound of it.”

The AP reported that the federal government is empowered under the law to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states, but it is not clear that means Trump can ban people from leaving their state. It has never been tested in the modern era — and in rare cases when any quarantine was challenged, the courts generally sided with public health officials.

Executive Order 7O

Late Friday, as his office confirmed that 1,291 state cases were identified among more than 8,400 tests already conducted, Lamont released the details of his latest Executive Order.

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

Suspension of license renewals and inspections by the Department of Public Health:

The order modifies certain state statutes to authorize the Commissioner of Public Health to waive licensing, renewal, and inspection requirements as she deems necessary to ensure the provision of adequate healthcare during the COVID-19 emergency.

Modifies health care provider identification badge requirements:

The order modifies certain state statutes to allow healthcare providers to provide direct patient care at a health care facility or institution, with the permission of such facility or institution, using the identification badge from their own healthcare facility or institution.

The order also permits the Commissioner of Public Health to establish policies and procedures regarding badging of COVID-19 response personnel should she deem it necessary to rapidly move staff due to the need for mass care in circumstance of limited resources.

Waives the registration requirement for alcohol-based hand sanitizers and medical devices:

The order modifies certain state statutes to permit the compounding of alcohol-based hand sanitizer production and the production of medical devices, including personal protective equipment, or PPE, used to assist in the treatment of COVID-19, without being required to register as a manufacturer.

This provision reduces red tape to allow manufacturers such as distilleries to convert to producing hand sanitizer and allows manufacturing of critically needed medical equipment by non-traditional manufacturers, as long as federal guidelines are followed.

Waives Birth-to-Three family cost participation fees:

The order authorizes the Commissioner of Early Childhood to waive the fees required to be paid by the parents or legal guardians of children eligible for remote early intervention services such as the Birth-to-Three program.

Child Care Incentives

Also on Friday, The Office of Early Childhood announced that support for child care services funded by the agency will continue throughout the COVID-19 crisis, providing a critical step to keep child care programs financially stable through this difficult time. Funding streams include School Readiness, Child Day Care, Smart Start, and Care 4 Kids, serving children ranging in age from birth through age 12.

In addition, the agency is releasing up to $4.5 million in Public Health Emergency Response Grant Funds to incentivize and support public and private programs that re-open or remain open to provide child care for children of health workers and first responders. These funds are available only during the period in which Governor Lamont’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order remains in effect.

This funding will keep programs intact and able to serve the state’s essential workers during this unprecedented public health emergency. The commitment further ensures that as families return to work, there will be child care available to support the state’s workforce.

It is also noteworthy that many of these programs provide two meals per day under the Child and Adult Food Program, and this, too, is a critical function to maintain. The agency is also distributing a flier to essential workers containing information on how they can obtain needed child care throughout this emergency period.

Read the flier by CLICKING HERE

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Sibongile Magubane — acting under the authority of a recent executive order signed by Governor Lamont — approved a request from licensed driving schools in the state to provide online classroom training to their students during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) also announced a series of changes to rail service following what the governor repeatedly stated was a 90-95 percent decline in ridership.

The changes include:

New Haven Line: Beginning Monday, March 30, the New Haven Line will operate on an hourly schedule, with extra trains during peak times weekdays. This is approximately 50 percent less than a normal weekday schedule. The New Canaan Line, Danbury Line, and Waterbury Line will also operate on a reduced schedule.

Hartford Line: Beginning Monday, March 30, the Hartford Line, including both CTrail Hartford Line trains as well as Amtrak trains, will run on a new special weekday schedule. The new schedule will be posted on the Hartford Line website and at Hartford Line train stations.

Shore Line East: Shore Line East will continue to operate on a weekend schedule seven days a week.

All rail customers are encouraged to pre-purchase their tickets before boarding.

Bus service throughout the state continues to operate on a weekday schedule with some exceptions. In all locations statewide, customers must board from the rear door (when available) with the exception of persons in wheelchairs and others who require driver initiated mechanical assistance to board.

In addition, the Connecticut Department of Public Health is asking health care 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

Those who are struggling with mental health during this crisis, DPH assures that you are not alone. Text SHARE to 741741 for free, 24/7 support from the Crisis Text Line.

At the federal level, US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and his staff published a summary of the COVID-19 relief package which breaks down the major provisions of the bill and answers frequently asked questions.

View the summary by CLICKING HERE

Stay informed by visiting:

*Town of Newtown COVID-19 web page by CLICKING HERE

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by CLICKING HERE

*CT Department of Public Health by CLICKING HERE

*World Health Organization by CLICKING HERE

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.

Newtown Police Department has protocols in place to protect officers and staff members. The public is being asked to not visit 3 Main Street unless necessary, and to call first when possible, among other new procedures set up during the COVID-19 pandemic.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
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