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Infant Is State's Youngest COVID Victim, Governor Acts To Limit Grocery Store Crowds



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Governor Ned Lamont announced an infant less than seven weeks old brought to a Hartford area hospital is the state's youngest COVID-19 victim, giving him reason to reinforce to younger residents that they are not invincible to the virus.

And local Health District Director Donna Culbert said she is now monitoring 33 positive cases in Newtown, and has added new cases in the neighboring district communities of Roxbury and Bridgewater, bringing the numbers in each of those towns to three.

Lamont spoke to the press after touring a mobile field hospital quickly set up at Southern Connecticut State University by state National Guard troops who recently returned from two tours in Afghanistan. The governor said since Tuesday, there have been 429 new coronavirus cases registered and 16 more residents had died from the virus.

That brings the number of COVID-19 cases across the state to 3,557 with 766 patients hospitalized and 85 related fatalities. Fairfield County continues to surge with 1,986 positive cases — approximately 60 percent of those in the state — and 46 deaths.

Among 216 nursing homes in CT, 36 (17%) have had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. A total of 124 nursing home residents with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 have been identified of whom 52 (42%) were hospitalized and 13 (11%) have died.

Lamont said the Southern Connecticut State University’s Moore Fieldhouse and Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center conversions into health care facilities is similar to others being established in Stamford, and at Central CT State University. He praised the state's Guard troops for taking just hours to complete the unit at Southern being equipped to accommodate up to 200 patients who were recovering from acute COVID symptoms, but still required medical care.

Grocery Store Limits

In other efforts to try and minimize transmission of the deadly virus, Lamont said April 1 that his latest executive order would be directed, in part, at retail grocery operations. He said the order would enforce all stores allowing no more than half their legal occupancy of customers at any one time.

CT Mirror reported that state grocers said Tuesday they’ll limit the number of customers allowed inside their grocery stores.

The new guidelines will cap crowds at no more than 50% of a store’s local fire code capacity and will be enforced by store staff. The Connecticut Food Association said the goal is to encourage customers to limit grocery trips and, if at all possible, to go alone.

“We don’t think it leads to anything much different than what people are seeing,” said Wayne Pesce, president of the association, which represents a number of large grocery chains across the state. Pesce said some of the member stores agreeing to the changes include Stop & Shop, Big Y, ShopRite, Price Rite, Adams Hometown Foods, Geissler’s, Highland Park Market and IGA.

“We’ve all agreed that we need to do more to help limit the amount of people and help keep people safe,” he said. Pesce said stores will self-police the measures by assigning staff to count customers entering and leaving a store.

He said grocery retailers across Connecticut have been recovering from recent panic-infused spikes in consumer demand. And he doesn’t believe the capacity changes will lead to major access issues for most consumers.

Charity Connection Established

Earlier Wednesday, the governor announced a group of Connecticut-based philanthropists had established a charitable organization to raise new support for the state’s nonprofit organizations that are serving those impacted by the pandemic.

The Connecticut COVID-19 Charity Connection – also known as 4-CT – is an independent, 501(c)3 organization with the mission of bolstering the resources available to support the state’s frontline providers who are serving all areas impacted by the crisis. This 4-CT agency will provide financial support to ensure their services can meet increased demand and have a positive impact.

The founders of 4-CT are Don Kendall, who is serving as the organization’s CEO, and Ted Yang, who is serving as COO.

In announcing its launch, the charity has already raised $10 million from generous donors and is seeking to significantly increase these efforts in the coming weeks and months to further support to the state’s nonprofit community. Lamont, acknowledging the urgency of addressing the impact of the crisis on communities across the state, said the creation of this charity is an example of Connecticut ingenuity and generosity, and applauded the efforts of those who sought to bring it to fruition.

Those interested in making a contribution to 4-CT should visit www.4-ct.org. Lamont also touted the strong response across the state to the call for volunteers.

“We’ve had 1,000 medical volunteers – including retired nurses and doctors – sign up to help us battle COVID-19,” he said. “Our hospitals need critical care nurses and respiratory therapists, above all, and these volunteers are helping fill those vital positions. This week, we’ll be launching an additional effort to recruit non-medical volunteers where our communities need them most – in our food pantries, shelters, and to deliver meals to the elderly and homebound. I know the good people of Connecticut will step up and help take care of our most vulnerable residents.”

Educators Will Be Paid

Lamont's Tuesday Executive Order No. 7R enacts the following provisions, mostly focusing on statewide education concerns:

Continuation of funding for boards of education: The order requires the Connecticut State Department of Education to continue processing appropriated state grant funds intended to support boards of education through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, including ECS grants, payments for special education, and Choice programming. It also requires municipalities to continue providing funding to local boards of education as set forth in the approved annual school budgets.

Continuation of payment of public school staff: The order requires school districts to continue to employ, or restore to employment if already laid off, and pay school staff who are directly employed by the local or regional boards of education.

Preservation of student transportation services and special education providers: The order requires local boards of education and municipalities to negotiate amendments to contracts related to student transportation and special education services with the goal of continuing to make payments to transportation and special education providers so they may compensate their active employees, sustain the continuity of service when school resumes, and require the contracted company to attest and provide reasonable documentation of the fact that it is charging only the actual and reasonable cost of sustaining wage and health insurance payments for active employees and fleet.

Restrictions on entrance to state parks, forests, and other lands: In light of significant visitors to certain state parks in recent days, the order gives the commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection the authorization to ban visitors from entering state parks and other lands under the agency’s control after the property has reached a capacity adequate to supporting implementation of social distancing policies to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Curbside pickup of alcoholic beverages permitted: The order authorizes package stores and grocery stores to permit the sale of curbside pickup of all alcoholic beverages allowed by their permit type in any space adjacent to their permit premise and during the days and hours allowed for legal sale.

State GOP Initiatives

On March 31, Newtown State Rep Mitch Bolinsky said he signed a letter with House Republican colleagues offering proposals to Governor Lamont that would provide immediate relief to struggling businesses, idle workers, families, and taxpayers coping with the economic consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Bolinsky said these proposals reflect many of the problems identified by our constituents as they continue to cope with the crisis and protect their families and businesses from the threat it poses.

"Our proposals would provide relief where it matters the most," Bolinsky said, "by creating a business interruption compensation fund for Main Street businesses, reducing the penalty for late payments of property taxes, expediting licensing processes to place graduating nurses into the healthcare workforce, cutting red tape for first responders and healthcare workers applying for workers' compensation after contracting COVID-19, and much more.

"We have also asked the governor to find efficiencies within our state workforce by identifying underutilized employees and temporarily reassigning them to positions that are in high demand, such as the processing of unemployment claims," he added.

Residents can review the state GOP proposal 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. Newtown residents can get more details by visiting:

*Town of Newtown COVID-19 web page - CLICK HERE

*The state clearinghouse COVID-19 site - CLICK HERE

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CLICK HERE

*World Health Organization - CLICK 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.

CTMirror content was used in this report.

Governor Ned Lamont praised state National Guard troops who recently returned from two tours in Afghanistan after they converted Southern Connecticut State University’s Moore Fieldhouse into a health care facility in a matter of hours Wednesday. The mobile hospital, similar to those established at WestCONN's O'Neil Center, and at Central CT State University. will accommodate up to 200 patients who were recovering from acute COVID symptoms, but who still required medical care. — photo courtesy SCSU
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