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Monday Morning Update: Local COVID Cases At 27, State Making Space For Medical Workers



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As Newtown’s count of positive COVID-19 cases rose to 27 Sunday, March 29, local Health District Director Donna Culbert affirmed to The Newtown Bee that there were no “clusters” of positive cases as some may have questioned or alluded to on social media late last week.

Culbert and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal continued their strong recommendations coming into the last few days of March to minimize travel, to disinfect and maintain regular hand washing, and to practice social distancing.

Rosenthal, as well as Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, had previously alluded that voluntary observation of safety and protective practices could become mandatory if state and Newtown residents continue to be found in groups or otherwise flouting recommendations.

Young people who have so far been more resistant, but not immune, continue to be a concern when it comes to possibly carrying the novel coronavirus home or to workplaces where it could infect older and more frail individuals.

Late Friday, the town released a resource guide for residents to provide a one-stop source of local information for Newtown residents. It can be reviewed or downloaded by CLICKING HERE

In other local news, Project Pizza on Church Hill Road announced via a Facebook post that it was closing Monday, March 30, and “donating our day’s production to Danbury, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Yale New Haven Hospitals.”

A company staff member told the newspaper the restaurant was producing 200 pizzas on Monday with staggered deliveries going out over the course of the day to the various medical centers.

“Together we stand,” the post stated, “Thank you to our front line [heroes] we appreciate all that you do!!”

Speaking with The Newtown Bee during a brief visit Monday morning, Skender Djokovic said he and his brother, Ethan, who are co-owners, were trying to think of a way they could do something to help on Sunday and decided to call to see if they could make pizza donations to regional hospital workers.

“They are our health care heroes, so it’s the least we could do,” Skender Djokovic said.

Just a stone’s throw up Church Hill Road, the owners of Reverie Brewing Company announced they had brewed a “Small Business Relief IPA” that will be packaged and available for sale this week in 16 oz 4-packs.

Proceeds from the beer will be distributed to Newtown small businesses impacted by the mandated government shutdown. The beer will be available for sale at Reverie Brewing Company, located at 57B Church Hill Road, and select local package/grocery stores this week.

Owners Ryan and Mark Broderick and head brewer Frank Lockwood said they wanted to “help give back to those who have given us so much so that they are still around after we are through these hard times.”

Any Newtown business that has been drastically impacted by the government shutdown and meets some of the below criteria, can fill out a grant form by CLICKING HERE to apply for some Small Business Relief supplied by the sales of this beer.

Businesses are urged to apply soon as space is limited.

“There will be only one payout per business and if we brew another relief beer, selected businesses for this production run will not be eligible,” the brewery owners said in an e-mail to The Newtown Bee.

Between Saturday and Sunday, an additional 469 Connecticut residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,993. To date, more than 11,900 tests have been conducted in Connecticut among both state and private laboratories.

Approximately 404 people have been hospitalized, and there was another fatality due to complications of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total number of fatalities to 34 (21 in Fairfield County, 6 in New Haven County, 4 in Tolland County, 2 in Hartford County, and 1 in Middlesex County). It should be noted that the increase in hospitalizations reflected in today’s report reflects a change to provide the most up-to-date information from the Connecticut Hospital Association.

The distribution by county is based on where hospitals are located, not where patients reside.

Lamont / Trump Call

On Sunday, Lamont visited a manufacturing company in Guilford that committed to quickly turning out about 100 new ventilators that would be distributed to state health care centers. Each ventilator from Bio-Med Devices, Inc can be used to sustain up to two patients requiring these critical and life sustaining devices.

According to a pool report from the visit that limited the number of press and photographers, the company will be making ten ventilators a week for at least the next ten weeks for the state of Connecticut. They are in the process of hiring more employees, and when production can ramp up there will be more sold to the state.

Following a roughly 45-minute tour of the manufacturing company, Lamont remarked on what he called the “musings” of the president on Saturday about considering a tri-state quarantine, which turned into a “strong travel advisory” from the White House by late Saturday night.

“When the president said he was thinking about a mandatory quarantine for New York City including Jersey City and including Fairfield County, the three governors got together to say, what does this mean? Are you thinking about a lockdown? What do you mean? Words matter,” Lamont said. “This is the commercial and financial hub of the United States, global capital of the world. Be careful when you talk words like that.”

Lamont said by Saturday evening, with good interface with the White House, he talked to the president and vice president, reaching an agreement on what he referred to as a “transit alert, slowing things down, making sure that anybody who crosses the border has to have that 14-day quarantine. Something that Gov Cuomo, Gov Murphy, and myself will be able to enforce and will make a dramatic difference.

“I really appreciate the White House working in collaboration with the governors to make sure the orders that come out are something that A) we can enforce, and B) it’s just so important at this point in time to speak with clarity and make sure there’s no confusion because confusion can lead to panic,” Lamont said.

Lamont said he was reassured by the White House that Connecticut is “going to get reimbursement under Title 32 for all the work that our Connecticut Guard, National Guard are doing, just like New York, just like California and Washington were getting.”

Lamont said one of the things he “appreciated about [President Donald Trump’s] musings out loud the other day, was he was thinking about this as a region. And that’s why it’s so important in terms of what he’s doing for us and the Guard, so we can [put] up more of our field hospitals, which I greatly appreciate, and also making sure that our emergency declaration is now recognized along with those other states.”

Ratcheting Up Respirator Production

During brief remarks from Bio-Med Devices president and CEO Dean Bennett, said he “hopes the company can produce as many as 1,000 (one thousand) ventilators a week over time. The company also makes a resuscitation device that fits into another product sold by General Electric, he said. “That also has been ramping up.”

Bennett said he hoped as his company ramped up production as necessary parts for assembly, including some from China, begin rolling in he could look forward to hiring a number of currently displaced workers. Lamont said the company’s commitment to their home state was especially important after a ventilator order from a federal stockpile was “diverted” elsewhere.

““We had our order within a strategic stockpile down in Washington, DC,” the governor said in remarks supplied by a designated reporter at the manufacturing plant visit. “We had 1,000 ventilators, 1,500 ventilations on order, ready to go. We have about 950 in the state right now. Agreed, shipped, ready to go. And guess what? We found out today, they said, sorry, we rerouted your shipment. Your case is not as urgent as other places right now.”

Lamont said state officials are “pushing hard, making sure that Connecticut gets what was promised, what we need. But in the meantime, it’s amazing companies like Bio-Med, right here. They’re committed to 100 ventilators for the state of Connecticut. They’ve been talking about as many as 500, even 1,000 ventilators if we can get the parts, and if we can put together the manpower.”

Later Sunday, the governor referred to the recently approved federal disaster declaration in his nightly briefing report, saying Sunday’s approval is for public assistance, meaning that impacted state agencies and municipalities in all eight counties will be reimbursed for 75 percent of the costs associated with their response and emergency protective measures.

The governor’s other request for disaster assistance, including individual assistance that could provide Connecticut residents with a number of critical benefits, such as expanded unemployment assistance, food benefits, and child care assistance, remains under review by the White House.

Executive Order 7P

Pursuant to Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7P, which was issued yesterday evening, Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell late Saturday night issued an order directing state, local, and private sector partners to transition the homeless population into alternative, less congested housing for the purpose of providing adequate social distancing between all individuals.

The goal is to decompress the current population by providing less populated settings.

The order also requires the development of non-congregate temporary housing for first responders and health care workers who are at reasonable risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 and cannot return to their usual residence because of the risk of infecting other household members.

FEMA has notified the State of Connecticut that it will reimburse the state and municipalities for 75 percent of the costs related to the non-congregate housing for the homeless population, as well as first responders and health care workers.

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.

Individuals who have general questions that are not answered on the website can also call 2-1-1 for assistance. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and has multilingual assistance and TDD/TTY access.

It is intended to be used by individuals who are not experiencing symptoms but may have general questions related to COVID-19. Anyone experiencing symptoms is strongly urged to contact their medical provider.

Newtown residents can stay informed by visiting:

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

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.

Skender Djokovic, pictured, and his brother, Ethan, who own Project Pizza at 75 Church Hill Road closed Monday, March 30, to produce about 200 pizzas they are delivering throughout the day to Yale New Haven, Waterbury, and Danbury Hospitals as a donation in support of the “health care heroes” on the front lines, supporting those most affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. —Bee Photo, Voket
Service Manager Keith Wilson tests a TV100 ventilator as President/ CEO Dean Bennett gives a tour of medical equipment manufacturer Bio-Med Devices to Governor Ned Lamont in Guilford on Sunday, March 29. The company has signed a contract to produce ventilators for the state at an initial quantity of ten per week for ten weeks and plans to add numerous new employees with the hope of meeting orders in excess of 1,000 per week as soon as possible, Bennett said. —courtesy event pool photographer Brian A. Pounds
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