Hwang Calls On State Officials To ‘Listen’ While Guiding Schools Toward Reopening
As Newtown’s COVID-19 cases and losses seem to have nearly stalled with just one new confirmed case and no additional virus-related deaths in the past week, a curious push/pull situation is developing statewide as Governor Ned Lamont paused Phase 3 re-openings while concurrently releasing a 50-page guide to help school districts navigate a return to classroom instruction in the coming weeks.
According to the latest state information updated July 8, Newtown’s positive coronavirus case count was adjusted to 239 from last week’s total of 241, and related deaths have remained static for more than two weeks at 42. Regional Health District Director Donna Culbert explained that the state continues to make slight adjustments to the data being tracked and supplied to her office.
“We have seen a case where someone was infected by another family member traveling back from one of the states on the tri-state travel advisory, and another case where a positive family member transmitted the illness to someone else in their home,” Culbert said. “I understand the protection fatigue that people are experiencing, but we all need to keep our guard up, keep social distancing in mind, wear your mask — and it’s so important that we all be kind to each other.”
As of July 7 at 8:30 pm, the total of COVID-19 cases reported across Connecticut is 47,108, including 45,129 laboratory-confirmed and 1,979 probable cases. Eighty-eight patients are currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and 4,343 state residents have been lost to the virus. Of those combined positive cases, 16,859 were tallied in Fairfield County, which has seen verified and suspected virus-related deaths reach 1,378.
Hartford County continues to lead the state in virus deaths this week with 1,382, surpassing Fairfield County by just a few for the second week — although its number of positive cases stood at 11,835 by Tuesday evening. Statewide, 4,084 of those lost to the virus are over age 60, and of those, more than half (2,603) are over age 80.
This week also marked the first day in nearly four months where no COVID-related deaths were reported, but that only lasted until the following day when a handful of new deaths were logged.
To date, more than half a million state residents (535,465) have been tested for COVID-19 according to the governor’s office.
More States Restricted
As cases of coronavirus continue spiking and accelerating across the country, Lamont this week added Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma to the list of states affected by a regional travel advisory posted by Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York last month directing incoming travelers from states with a significant community spread of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for a 14-day period.
The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
Lamont already shut the door on a full-scale reopening of Connecticut bars in mid-July, though he said a formal announcement would not come before the end of this week, after The Newtown Bee print edition went to press.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I think the bars are going to have to take a pause right now,” Lamont told reporters during a pre-holiday weekend briefing at Hammonasset Beach State Park. “I’m just looking around at the rest of the country.”
The governor hinted on June 29 that he was considering scaling back Phase 3 of Connecticut’s economic reopening from the pandemic, and specifically reassessing bars. Besides reopening bars and amusement parks in mid-July, the administration’s plan currently calls for limits on indoor gatherings to grow from 25 people to 50, while the limit on outdoor gatherings would jump from 100 to 250.
Lamont continued to stress that Connecticut, and several of its neighboring states in the Northeast, have made great progress in stemming coronavirus spread through social distancing and other public health measures.
“We’re open because of each and every one of you doing the right thing,” Lamont said, referring to the more than 140 state beaches, parks and forests that opened for the Fourth of July weekend.
School Reopening Plan
While some states are reassessing plans to allow even limited in-person learning for elementary and secondary school students, Lamont is moving forward with a recommendation that Connecticut schools return to their classrooms five days a week this fall.
With one of the lowest infection and hospitalization rates in the nation, Connecticut’s back-to-school plan is contingent on those rates staying low. While calling for “regional consistency” in school district plans, the guidance released by the Connecticut Department of Education on Monday also says districts should have contingency plans for “blended” learning — a mix of in-school and online classes — and all-remote learning.
“My number one principle metric was the public health lens, just like we said about reopening our businesses, nothing makes any sense unless people feel like they’re safe, and they are safe,” Lamont said.
Reacting to the back-to-school plan, State Senator Tony Hwang issued an advisory July 8 that said, in part, “students, teachers, parents, caregivers, and school officials alike need clear and consistent communication in logistics and public safety. Local input and flexibility to implementation are integral for any back to school plan to succeed.
“When it comes to implementing the state requirements, there is a clear difference between getting local input and listening,” the senator wrote. “I am constantly engaged with local and state educational advocates and remain vigilant on the front line to get these conversations started. I will continue to advocate for towns’ educational excellence and ensure educational budgets are made whole as they prepare to take on all these additional costs.”
Hwang said he will be working with the municipalities in his district, including Newtown, to make sure the state’s new requirements are workable.
“I will bring their challenges and concerns to the commissioner and so these policies can be implemented in a way that is logistically and financially reasonable,” Hwang added. “Every school and shareholder should feel confident in reopening this fall. Public health and safety for students, teachers, and staff are non-negotiable.”
read the state's reopening plan by CLICKING HERE
Nursing/Assisted Living Study
On July 7, Lamont announced that the Connecticut Department of Public Health has selected Mathematica Policy Research to conduct an independent, third-party review of the response to COVID-19 within the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Last month, the governor announced that he was ordering the review to be conducted, and soon thereafter proposals were solicited from third-party experts.
Mathematica is expected to provide the state with a final report of its findings by the end of September. The analysis will be made available to the public.
“Our nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19,” Governor Lamont said. “The tragedies that occurred deserve a thorough examination and we have an obligation to those who live in those facilities, their families, and the incredible professionals who care for residents to provide answers as to what could have been done differently to mitigate the spread of the virus. Timeliness is a critical factor when it comes to this review, and we know that Mathematica will provide a thorough, detailed, and actionable report. We must learn everything we can from our experience over the last few months so we can apply that knowledge to implement best practices in our long-term care facilities as we prepare for a possible second wave of the virus.”
Among its many goals, the research team is tasked with identifying significant circumstances that may have favorably or unfavorably impacted the severity of outbreak in affected care facilities. Mathematica Policy Research will also review and complete an overall assessment of State response to the pandemic in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut.
Operating under a $450,000 contract, Mathematica Policy Research is expected to conduct its review by looking at data and interviews/consultation with the Department of Public Health and Department of Social Services; members of the legislative and executive branch; residents and families; long-term care facility experts; and long-term care facility staff.
For those seeking a change of pace from restrictive sheltering practices, limited local travel, and access to entertainment, as of July 8 all campgrounds at Connecticut state parks had opened for the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic and to help maintain social distancing, all campers are required to make reservations in advance of their stay.
Walk-in campers will not be permitted this season. Campers are also reminded to wear a face covering when coming into the office to check in for their reserved campsite. For more information about the operations of state campgrounds and to make a reservation CLICK HERE
CT Mirror content by Keith Phaneuf and Ana Randelat is included in this report.