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Newtown COVID Cases At 33 As State Banking Officials Launch Mortgage Relief Plan

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As of March 31, Newtown Heath District Director Donna Culbert told The Newtown Bee she is monitoring 33 active COVID-19 cases in town.

Locally, Newtown State Rep Mitch Bolinsky is also reporting he is in a 14 day self-quarantine after attending his mother's passing at an area hospital Monday.

"Mom’s passing was sudden but, we’re grateful to confirm, not COVID related," Rep Bolinsky said in a release Tuesday. "I am well but doing a 14-day self-quarantine, as a precaution after being bedside with Mom at the hospital."

Statewide, a total of 3,128 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported. According to the latest information, 608 patients are currently hospitalized, and 69 residents have died while more than 15,600 patients had been tested for COVID-19 by March 31.

In addition to the deaths related to COVID-19 that have been reported to the Department of Public Health (DPH), Tuesday's update contains information on the number of deaths that have been reported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

Today, the OCME provided information on 14 additional COVID-19 related deaths that occurred during March 17-29. There were 16 COVID-19 related deaths on March 30, and three on March 31.

Fairfield County continues to far outpace other Connecticut counties with 1,870 confirmed cases and 38 deaths. As infections sweep northward along the coast and inland, New Haven County has jumped to 517 positive cases witha dozen related deaths.

Hartford County logged 393 cases and seven deaths, while Litchfield County was up to 121 cases and one fatality.

During Goveror Ned Lamont's daiy press briefing, State COO Josh Geballe announced new and separate surveillance information about state nursing homes. He said out of 216 nursing homes across Connecticut, 30 had confirmed at least one coronavirus case.

That represents active COVID-19 in 14 percent of state nursing homes. A total of 85 nursing home residents with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 have been identified of whom 42 (49%) were hospitalized and 11 (13%) have died.

When asked by one reporter what to say to those who were becoming more afraid as the spread of the virus intensifies, Lamont responded, "I'm scared as well - this is something unique in American history."

The governor also reminded anxious residents that "Everything we can control, we have the best people in the world working to get it done." Lamont also announced as of Tuesday, that the National Strategic Stockpile is empty, and that the state only received 50 respirators.

'So we're on our own now and scouring the world for PPE," Lamont said, adding the most heartbreaking thing he is facing is "asking front line responders to go to work without protective gear."

Mortgage Relief Coming

Lamont announced Tuesday that his administration has reached an agreement with over 50 credit unions and banks in Connecticut — with more expected to join soon — to offer mortgage relief to the state’s residents and businesses who continue to face hardship caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the agreement, the following relief policies are being offered by participating financial institutions:

A 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments: Participating financial institutions are now offering mortgage-payment forbearances of up to 90 days, which will allow homeowners to reduce or delay monthly mortgage payments.

The relief is currently only available for residential mortgages.

In addition, the institutions will:

*Provide a streamlined process for requesting forbearance for COVID-19-related reasons, supported with available documentation;

*Confirm approval and terms of forbearance program; and

*Provide the opportunity to extend forbearance agreements if faced with continued hardship resulting from COVID-19.

*Relief from fees and charges for 90 days: For at least 90 days, participating financial institutions will waive or refund mortgage-related late fees and other fees including early CD withdrawals.

*No new foreclosures for 60 days: Financial institutions will not start any foreclosure sales or evictions.

*No credit score changes for accessing relief: For those taking advantage of this COVID-19-related relief, late or missed payments will not be shared with credit reporting agencies.

The agreement, which was negotiated on behalf of the Lamont administration by Commissioner Jorge Perez at the Connecticut Department of Banking, builds upon similar initiatives that have been enacted in recent days in California and New Jersey, and has been endorsed by the Connecticut Bankers Association and the Credit Union League of Connecticut.

The Department of Banking will maintain updated list of participating institutions on its website.

Commissioner Perez who attended the governor's evening press session reminded residents that participating and newcomer banks to the program will require a day or two to establish the technical and call center infrastructure to process mortgage payment delay requests, and he urged residents to hold off on calling their banks until the program launch is official, possibly as early as the weekend.

The Department of Banking, along with the state’s banks and credit unions, is reminding residents that their money remains safe during the COVID-19 crisis and protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). No deposits have ever been lost under the protection of the FDIC and NCUA.

“This is a time when we need our entire financial services industry to come together to work tirelessly for the people of Connecticut, which is why I have asked the banks and credit unions to join forces and present one united approach which tells all of Connecticut, ‘We are in this together,’” Commissioner Perez said.

Coverage And Construction

Rep Bolinsky is advising Newtown residents that he Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that a new traffic pattern and roadway line striping are schedule to occur on Mile Hill Road (State Road 860) at Queen Street in Newtown tomorrow, April 1, 2020.

The roadway will remain open with one lane in each direction.

The new pattern is necessary to complete work for the replacement of a corrugated metal pipe conveying Deep Brook, which had collapsed and eroded the southern roadway embankment of Mile Hill Road. Replacement of the pipe is near completion, and this shift will return traffic to the original alignment.

He suggests residents visit the DOT's website to stay up-to-date on COVID-19-related transportation announcements, including updated rail times and construction updates.

In addition Rep Bolinsky reported that Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield on Tuesday announced that it is temporarily suspending its contractual telehealth certification requirements.

As it works to update its systems to reflect this change, Anthem says customers may receive a claim denial indicating that a provider is not certified for telehealth services. Over the coming days, Anthem will reprocess those telehealth claims with no action required on the part of the provider.

Additionally, Anthem will temporarily reimburse covered audio/video telehealth services received from in-network professional providers at the current in-office reimbursement rate. This change will remain in effect for the next 90 days, unless otherwise extended.

Latest Executive Order

Late Monday, Governor Lamont signed another executive order – the 18th 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. 7Q enacts the following provisions:

Requirement of limited group sizes in childcare: The order requires all childcare facilities to limit group sizes to no more than 10 children in one space. Any facility caring for more than 30 children must obtain approval from the Office of Early Childhood and demonstrate sufficient separation of groups within the facility. This applies to all childcare facilities, including those that are exempt from licensing requirements.

Enhancement of health procedures for all operating childcare programs: The order requires all children and childcare staff to be checked at the entrance of childcare facilities for any observable illness, including cough or respiratory distress, and to confirm temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. All staff must adhere to increased handwashing and health practices. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices shall be implemented. This applies to all childcare facilities, including those that are exempt from licensing requirements.

Authorization of remote notarization: The order eliminates all existing legal requirements to have a signature on any document witnessed by a third party, except in the case of a last will and testament. With respect to last wills and testaments, documents may now be witnessed remotely under the supervision of an attorney. In addition to removing witness requirements, any document required to be filed on the land records must contain a one-page certification, completed by a notary or commissioner of the Superior Court, reciting to the fact that the underlying document was executed pursuant to the executive order. The order also requires all town and city clerks to accept those documents for recording.

Also, Banking Commissioner Perez is reminding state residents to be on the lookout for potential scams involving future stimulus checks from the federal government. Suspicious e-mails, text messages, or mail may be circulating asking residents to claim their potential government stimulus check and ask for personal information.

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's Blue Colony Diner parking lot, normaly bustling with traffic, was virtually deserted March 30 around 2 pm, but like many of Newtown's dozens of other food service establishments — is continuing to survive by serving a stream of takeout customers. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck