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May 1 Video Message Reminds Community About ‘Horns For Hope,’ Free Mask Distribution



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UPDATE: Due to a technical issue, this report may have republished on The Newtown Bee's website on May 23. It was originally published May 1, 2020.

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In his latest video outreach message May 1, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal reminded the community about the planned “Horns For Hope” celebration scheduled for Saturday evening, May 2. The first selectman also welcomed Deputy Emergency Management Director Maureen Will to update local businesses on a protective mask distribution effort.

The series of video messages, now numbering 11, is being produced in partnership with The Newtown Bee.

View the video below:

Rosenthal invited residents to participate in paying tribute to frontline essential workers, emergency responders, and all local households for their resilience during the coronavirus emergency. The effort is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Newtown, Newtown Community Center, and the Economic & Community Development Department.

Participants can show appreciation “for neighbors, essential workers, first responders, small business owners, churches, and volunteers,” according to information from the Chamber, by making Thank You signs and decorating yards or windows; hanging a flag; and then taking pictures of the effort and posting on social media with #NewtownCT.

Beginning at 7 pm for five minutes, residents will hear local church bells ringing and calls to prayer followed by emergency sirens and horns celebrating community helpers. Then, from 7:15 to 7:20 pm, residents are invited to join in the clamor by being “as loud as you can to give thanks.” Chamber liaison Helen Brickfield said families are welcome to give thanks by making noise either indoors or out.

“All that matters is families and households sharing in this community celebration of resilience,” she said.

Regarding mask distribution, Will — who is also Newtown’s Director of Emergency Communications — said May 1 marked the first day of the effort which is designed to provide small businesses the essential masks to outfit employees as the state moves toward a phased and appropriate reopening sequence, slated to begin May 20.

She explained that the masks are being provided as part of an initiative supported by the state, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) and its affiliate CONNSTEP. The free face coverings are being released to eligible, essential small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Eligible essential small businesses can request up to two free face coverings per employee by filling out the form at ctcovidresponse.org/request-masks-for-ct-small-business.

Governor’s Friday Briefing

In a departure from his regular late afternoon routine, Governor Ned Lamont held his daily press briefing at 10:45 am Friday. During that briefing, Lamont and State Office of Policy & Management (OPM) representative Melissa McCaw delivered sobering information about projected state budget hits related to the virus situation in both the current and 2020-21 fiscal cycles.

Lamont said up until the coronavirus began impacting Connecticut a few months ago, the current budget was “on track.” He also credited the fact that Connecticut has one of the most robust rainy day funds across the nation, which will provide great flexibility as officials grapple with current and future year COVID-related deficits in both the current and 2020-21 budgets.

A current projected $900 million state budget deficit could be offset somewhat if there is another federal aid package, the governor said, although that aid is by no means assured. Part of the current year deficit, however, will be offset by $370 million in promised federal funds scheduled to arrive in state coffers after July 1.

Lamont said ultimately, his preference is to craft a way to hold “residents and service providers harmless.” As of July 1, a projected deficit of $2.3 billion is expected, and the governor said due to reduced driving and a severe drop in gasoline prices that helps fortify the state transportation fund, he anticipated that fund reserve would be gone as early as the end of the 2020-21 fiscal cycle.

McCaw said residents and businesses should anticipate a combination of downward revenue adjustments and rescissions or budget cuts would be implemented to bring the next fiscal year budget in line.

Early projections indicate budget reductions would need to offset about $415 million in revenue losses, while revised revenue estimates could offset another $100 million in projected deficits next year.

Following the previous evening’s briefing, the governor released the most updated list of COVID-19 positive cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

According to the data, Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, 139 Toddy Hill Road, with 154 beds, had logged five positive cases, and no related deaths on site. Maplewood at Newtown, 166 Mt Pleasant Road, with 104 beds, was reported to have seven confirmed and three suspected COVID-19 positive residents.

State COO Josh Geballe said these data represent the only reports of their kind available across the nation.

On Thursday, Lamont announced his 34th Executive Order — 7GG — which enacts the following provisions:

Extension of payment time for sealed ticket revenue due to the state: Allows sealed ticket distributors, who must make quarterly payments to the state, to provide uncollected money from this quarter in next quarter’s payment. Many sealed ticket purchases are nonprofit organizations that have closed as a result of the ongoing emergency, thereby making it difficult for sealed ticket distributors to collect revenue due to the distributor for the first quarter of 2020.

Waiver of notarization requirement for embalmer’s affidavit accompanying death certificates: Permits licensed embalmers who are filing a death certificate for a person who had a communicable disease at the time of death to state on a form that the body has been disinfected in accordance with the Public Health Code by providing a signed statement under penalty of false statement instead of a notarized affidavit. This allows licensed embalmers to more quickly file death certificates with registrars of vital statistics without the in-person contact required for an affidavit.

Temporary suspension of controlled substance registration: Temporarily suspends the controlled substance registration requirement for out-of-state health care workers who are rendering temporary assistance in Connecticut in accordance with an order from the Department of Public Health.

Modification of state contracting statutes to facilitate the emergency procurement of essential services: Temporarily waives certain state contracting statutes in order to expedite the procurement of critical services, which may include diagnostic testing for COVID-19, that are urgently needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic or that will result in disruptions of care for vulnerable populations during this emergency period.

Modification of state contracting authorities to facilitate the emergency procurement of essential services: Temporarily waives certain state contracting statutes in order to expedite the procurement of critical services, which may include diagnostic testing for COVID-19, that are urgently needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic or its effects.

Extension of existing contracts to prevent gaps in necessary services: Permits the amendment or extension of the renewal deadline of any expiring contract for services until September 30, 2020, provided that the failure to provide an extension would compromise the continuity of state agency systems, operations, or critical services to vulnerable populations.

On Thursday, the Connecticut Judicial Branch announced that effective immediately, parties who have an agreement may have their family court cases resolved without having to go court. An executive order by Governor Lamont made the expansion possible.

Under the new procedures for family cases, parties with full written agreements in family court matters may request approval of their agreements without having to go to a courthouse for a hearing. The procedure is available to request the entry of final judgment in any action for custody, visitation between parents, dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or any final order on any motion in such a case, as long as the parties are in complete agreement and file all necessary documents.

HUSKY, Medicaid, Unemployment

The Connecticut Department of Social Services is preparing to implement new coverage for uninsured children and adults in the HUSKY Health program as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This will include:

Medicaid for the Uninsured/COVID-19: Uninsured state residents of any income level may be eligible for free Medicaid coverage of COVID-19 testing and testing-related provider visits. This new federally-funded Medicaid coverage group will cover both citizens and qualifying non-citizens for testing and provider visits incurred between March 18 and the end of the public health emergency.

HUSKY Health providers are advised to retain records regarding COVID-19 testing and testing-related provider visits for eligible individuals, starting March 18 and through the duration of the public health emergency, for purposes of Medicaid reimbursement. The Department of Social Services expects to issue more detailed guidance on this new coverage group, including processes for enrollment and claiming, by mid-May.

At that point, individuals who received care on or after March 18 and were eligible for coverage at the time services were provided will be able to receive retroactive coverage.

Emergency Medicaid for Non-Citizens/COVID-19: Connecticut residents who meet financial eligibility requirements but do not qualify for full Medicaid due to their immigration status, including undocumented individuals, are eligible to receive Medicaid to treat an emergency medical condition. COVID-19 testing and testing-related provider visits are emergency visits that will be covered by Emergency Medicaid. Emergency Medicaid is not a factor in federal immigration "public charge" determinations.

The Department of Social Services expects to issue more detailed guidance, including processes for enrollment and claiming for testing and testing-related services, by mid-May. At that point, individuals who received care within the prior three months and were eligible for coverage at the time services were provided will be able to receive retroactive coverage. HUSKY Health providers are advised that coverage for hospitalization will be handled through existing processes for Emergency Medicaid coverage.

Lamont additionally announced the Connecticut Department of Labor launched a new system Thursday for self-employed to apply for federal unemployment benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program. Federal guidelines require that self-employed individuals, including independent contractors and “gig” workers, first apply through the Connecticut unemployment system located at filectui.com.

Anyone in crisis or facing issues making ends meet or experiencing stress or anxiety can also call the 211 infoline or consult its companion website 211ct.org.

For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ, other guidance and resources, and a way to ask questions, Newtown residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.

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 Newtown’s own COVID-19 web page: 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.

Please check in regularly, share, and follow the newspaper’s hyperlocal coverage at newtownbee.com through the remainder of this public health emergency.

An employee of Five Guys Burgers & Fries hands off an order to a customer, April 29. The South Main Street eatery, like dozens of others across Newtown continues to serve food and drinks via curbside service only.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
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