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Local COVID Cases, Deaths Level Off As Salons Reopen; Group, Worship Guidelines Expand



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As the first day of June arrived, Newtown residents who may have gotten a little shaggier — or grayer — over the past couple of months without professional hair care were able to celebrate the permitted but regulated reopening of barbershops and salons.

The relaxing of rules that fell between Connecticut's official Phase 1 reopening May 20, and the next larger scale reopening of new business sectors June 20, came as Governor Ned Lamont also relaxed some standards on public gatherings including allowances for some indoor and outdoor worship services. These accommodations followed a continuing trend of more widespread coronavirus testing, and the continuing leveling off and declines in positive cases, hospitalizations, and virus-related deaths.

That leveling off was also noted by Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert, who on June 1 reported that COVID-19 had so far claimed the lives of 27 Newtown residents, and had infected a total of 213 since health agencies began compiling stats.

Statewide as of 8:30 pm on May 30, the total number of laboratory-confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 was 42,201. Four hundred eighty-one patients were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 at that point in time and 3,944 COVID-19-associated deaths had been tallied across Connecticut. By Saturday evening, Lamont's office reported that 250,046 state residents had been tested for COVID-19.

Fairfield County continued leading the state's positive case count with 15,549, and 1,277 deaths, while Hartford County's death count had surged to 1,250 — even though its case count was markedly lower at 10,296. The state's suburban to rural Windham County had conversely registered 384 positive cases and 14 deaths by Saturday evening.

As of May 28, the state reported Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care Center with 154 beds had reported 88 positive cases with six lab confirmed COVID-19 deaths and an added four suspected deaths. Maplewood at Newtown with 124 beds had registered 21 positive cases, five lab confirmed COVID-19 deaths and three additional suspected deaths. The Commons of Newtown with 56 beds reported six COVID-19 cases and no onsite deaths.

Expanding Gatherings, Economic Stimulus

On Friday evening following a press briefing where he was joined by several faith leaders, Lamont signed his 47th Executive Order No. 7TT enacting the following provisions:

Reopening of barbershops and hair salons on June 1: Permits barbershops and hair salons to resume operations on June 1, 2020, provided that they follow sector rules that have been issued by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Amended prohibitions on large gatherings: Relaxes the previously enacted limits on large gatherings. Effective June 1, 2020:

*Limits on all social and recreational gatherings are raised to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, subject to safety restrictions and existing orders and business sector rules.

*Limits on all religious, spiritual, and worship gatherings are raised to 25 percent of capacity of the indoor space or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is smaller, and to 150 people for outdoor gatherings, provided in each case that appropriate safety and social distancing measures are employed.

For any such worship gathering where participants remain in vehicles with windows closed and at least six feet of space between vehicles, there shall no numerical attendance limit, provided all other laws are complied with.

It was also announced Friday that Connecticut's Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) had extended the utility shut-off moratorium for non-residential customers in the state through July 1.

The separate utility shut-off moratorium for residential customers remains in place for the duration of the public health and civil preparedness emergency declared by Lamont. Both moratoriums apply to customers of all electric, natural gas, and water utilities regulated by PURA, and prohibit service terminations except in instances of public safety.

In addition, PURA continues to warn customers of a recent uptick in utility-related scams.

Customers should always use caution when receiving any solicitation pertaining to their utility bill and are encouraged to call their utility company directly with questions or concerns, according to a release. Connecticut’s regulated electric, natural gas, and water public utility companies are currently not terminating service due to nonpayment for as long as the emergency shut-off moratoriums remain in place.

In other news, BBB offices across the country have received an influx of calls from consumers questioning a prepaid debit card sent in an unmarked envelope stating it was their economic stimulus payment. Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut is urging consumers who receive these cards, not to throw them away — this is your economic stimulus payment.

According to the IRS, Nearly four million people are being sent their Economic Impact Payment by prepaid debit card, instead of paper check. The IRS website states:

"Some payments may be sent on a prepaid debit card known as The Economic Impact Payment Card The Economic Impact Payment Card is sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, managed by Money Network Financial, LLC and issued by Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank®, N.A.

If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” The Visa name will appear on the front of the Card; the back of the Card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. Information included with the Card will explain that the card is your Economic Impact Payment Card. Recipients can go to EIPcard.com for more information."

There have also been numerous scams popping up surrounding the distribution of the economic stimulus checks. Consumers can visit BBB.org/coronavirus for more information on how to avoid a stimulus check scam.

Lost Your Health Coverage?

Workers who lose health insurance as a result of job loss may not know they have options, but Access Health CT (AHCT) is helping people find the best coverage for themselves and their families. Losing insurance either from a furlough or a layoff is considered a "Qualifying Life Event," triggering a Special Enrollment Period for that individual and possibly their household. However, those who lost their insurance over the last two months may need to act quickly.

“We have increased our efforts in the community to help residents know they may qualify for a Special Enrollment if they lose their coverage because of job loss,” said Access Health CT Chief Executive Officer, James Michel. “People can enroll any time within 60 days of losing their job. But for those who lost their health insurance in early April, the deadline to enroll is approaching fast.”

To help residents maintain quality and affordable healthcare coverage, Access Health CT recommends comparing options on AccessHealthCT.com to COBRA coverage, as the marketplace may offer a better, less expensive choice, and is the only place where people can qualify for financial help to lower their costs.

Access Health CT is working closely with the Department of Labor and other entities to reach out to businesses that are in the process of reducing their work force. Access Health CT has an educational website that offers information and videos that describe in detail how to shop and enroll. Access it by CLICKING HERE

“Access Health CT is helping people find the right health insurance coverage at a stressful time when they lose their jobs," Michael continued. "Many people have never shopped for health insurance before and we don’t want them to miss out on the opportunity to select a better plan because they didn’t know about these options.”

In addition, Access Health CT has been offering educational webinars with important information about the marketplace, its health insurance plans and financial help. E-mail outreach@accesshealthct.com if you are interested in setting up a webinar.

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 the newly updated 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, at newtown-ct.gov.

Residents can also review all prior COVID-19 updates and follow the newspaper’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages for breaking local news and advisories.

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

Crowds were beginning to return to Holy Cow Ice Cream Shop on May 27, when this photo was taken. The longstanding Church Hill Road business actually reopened a few days earlier, in time for the Memorial Day weekend, with new protocols in place for employees and customers alike. Newtown Bee Associate Editor Shannon Hicks will have the scoop next week on how each of the town's ice cream stands are faring.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
A very positive (neon) sign: One week into Phase One of Connecticut's reopening process, the Open sign in the door of Newtown Florist had been turned back on. The longstanding business had been closed during recent weeks, but its sign shone like a beacon when this photo was taken on May 27. It is operating under temporarily limited hours and is asking all customers to wear a mask upon entering, but the business is up and running once again.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
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