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Newtown Resident, Health System CEO Joins Governor's Health Response Team



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On Monday afternoon, Governor Ned Lamont was joined at his daily press briefing by a group of hospital leaders including Newtown resident and Nuvance Health CEO Dr John Murphy, who is part of the governor's new Health System Response Team.

At the same time, Attorney General William Tong and the state's Consumer Protection Department issued warnings about new federal relief scams sweeping the state.

Locally, Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert said her roster of coronavirus cases in Newtown has increased to 29, and she is monitoring two each in neighboring district towns of Roxbury and Bridgewater.

Dealing with two new local cases since the weekend, Culbert said as she was "hearing all the news about what to expect in next few weeks," she continues imploring Newtown residents to "do all the right things - we can't get tired of it."

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he was relieved the local numbers did not appear to be escalating as fast or proportionately as in neighboring communities, but he also acknowledged that the lengthy prospect of social isolation is very hard on Newtown residents.

Nonetheless, he backed his health director's recommendation in the face of an alternative that would be forced upon the community, versus being recommended.

"I think the next few weeks matter a lot," Rosenthal said. "People seem to be taking the social distancing seriously, but not everyone is."

The first selectman implored residents, "as hard as it is, it's on us to help manage the capacity of our healthcare system. How long we have to do that depends on our actions now."

As of March 30, Governor Lamont's office reported a total of 2,571 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Connecticut residents. At least 517 patients are currently hospitalized, and 36 residents have died.

In his afternoon press update, Lamont said Fairfield County is still leading the state with 1,445 cases and 21 deaths, but adjacent New Haven County was rapidly increasing with 373 cases and a half-dozen deaths to date.

Tapped For Response Team

Lamont used the press conference to introduce his new Health System Response Team, which includes longtime resident Dr Murphy. Dr Murphy previously led Danbury Hospital as its CEO prior to the formation of the Western Connecticut Health Network, which is now Nuvance Health and includes facilities in the hot zone of Westchester County, New York.

Dr Murphy was asked to serve beside Jeffrey Flaks, President and CEO of Hartford Healthcare, which includes Backus Hospital, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, St Vincent’s Medical Center, and Windham Hospital.

The response team also taps the expertise of Marna Borgstrom, CEO Yale New Haven Health: Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital, and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

The three will serve as co-chairs.

In coordination with the Connecticut Hospital Association and the state’s other hospitals, the health care leaders will advise the governor, the Department of Public Health, and the rest of the state’s Emergency Support Functions in the Unified Command structure on the proper allocation and distribution of needed resources, supplies, and personnel, throughout the duration of the public health emergency.

Their three systems represent close to 70 percent of the state’s hospital infrastructure across 14 acute care hospitals and numerous additional facilities, according to the governor. The CEOs will also work in close collaboration with the Connecticut Hospital Association to ensure that all hospitals are represented in discussions on resource allocations.

Lamont said the group had already been consulting on a regular basis prior to the confirmation of the first positive case in the state, and their work will provide the foundation of the plans and actions as the state’s health care system handles an expected surge of COVID-19 cases.

Dr Murphy stepped up immediately during the Monday press update, reminding those in attendance that it was National Doctors' Day, while heaping equal praise on nurses and all healthcare workers.

He said it is a significant source of anxiety for all healthcare professionals "walking into an environment where they could get sick."

"It's not a war zone but a stressful, complex, ever changing environment," he said.

Dr Murphy praised Gov Lamont's efforts to try and convince federal officials all the way to the President - to consider the virus hot zones in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut as a single COVID region, and not a "geographically defined phenomenon."

The Newtown physician also praised the concept of aligning every Connecticut health care facility under a single unified mission.

"This degree of collaboration allows us to address issues together, where before we would address them in isolation," he said, adding one of the primary missions is to manage the anticipated surge in virus cases by using health care facilities across Connecticut.

"As much as there is untapped capacity, we want to identify it and take advantage of it," Dr Murphy told reporters.

Rosenthal expressed appreciation for Dr Murphy, who took a call from the first selectman earlier Monday.

"Hearing how he's thinking about and managing this crisis, I cant think of a better person to serve," the first selectman said. "He is thoughtful and forward-thinking on how we'll manage through this - it gives me calm to know John's in the mix."

Federal Relief Scams

Attorney General William Tong and Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull warned Connecticut residents to be on the lookout for potential scams involving future stimulus checks from the federal government.

After the federal government enacted a $2 trillion economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General and Department of Consumer Protection are starting to receive reports of bad actors looking to steal Americans’ personal information and money.

“Now that the federal government has passed an economic stimulus package to bring relief to individuals and businesses, it’s important that we remain vigilant of bad actors,” said Attorney General Tong.

"Scam artists will use this public health emergency and much-needed relief as a way to profit off of the public’s fears and vulnerabilities," he added. "If you receive a text message, e-mail or phone call from someone claiming to be from the federal government, do not fall for it. Do your research before you click on a link or share information."

"We're urging consumers and families to be aware of scam artists that may be taking advantage of the news about the federal stimulus package," said Commissioner Seagull. "Remember, the government will never charge you in order for you to receive a check. If you receive an e-mail, call, or text asking you for personal information or money in exchange for your stimulus check, it's a scam."

Attorney General Tong and Commissioner Seagull are warning residents to look out for suspicious e-mails, text messages, or mail that ask residents to claim their potential government stimulus check and ask for personal information.

The officials request state residents follow these tips to prevent falling victim to a scam artist:

*The federal government will not ask you to pay money upfront to receive a stimulus check. No fees. No charges.

*The federal government will never call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card number. Anyone who asks for this personal identifying information is a scammer.

*No matter how the payment is disbursed, only a scammer will ask you to pay to receive it.

If you receive a suspicious phone call, e-mail, or text message, contact the Office of the Attorney General at 860-808-5000 or contact the Department of Consumer Protection at dcp.complaints@ct.gov.

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. Newtown residents can also 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

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 resident and Nuvance CEO John Murphy speaks during a televised March 30 press conference with Governor Ned Lamont, where it was announced he would serve as a co-chair to the state's new Health System Response Team.
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