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Officials Resurrect ‘COVID Clips’ Videos As Holidays, Potential Spreader Events Loom



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As Thanksgiving and year-end holidays loom with the potential for small gatherings to become COVID-19 superspreader events, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and Health District Director Donna Culbert have reactivated “COVID-19 Clips,” advisory videos produced in partnership with The Newtown Bee.

View the 15th in our COVID-19 Clips series below:

Locally, Culbert said she and her staff have been slammed with new cases — an average of ten per day, November 19-23 — with no signs of the pace returning to the daily low positivity numbers seen in Newtown for much of the summer. Since November 6, Culbert reported, local coronavirus cases have escalated from 376 to 547 on November 25.

And according to data tracking, that means Newtown went from a positivity rate of 1.8 on October 22 to a shocking 30.1 on November 24. By then, 10,218 Newtown residents had been tested for the virus.

“It wasn’t as much so during the spring, but we have many, many cases that are multiple family members in the same household now,” Culbert said. She said it really seems to be coming down to people making personal choices about wearing masks and taking protective measures like staying away from others who might be asymptomatic but shedding the virus.

In the brief clip, Rosenthal and Culbert reviewed the latest advisories, which include minimizing the number of visitors outside of immediate household members at Thanksgiving and subsequent holiday gatherings.

The statewide transmission situation has degraded to the point where, on November 24, Governor Ned Lamont announced that he signed an executive order increasing the amount that businesses can be fined for violations of the state’s COVID-19 sector rules and capacity limits to $10,000 per violation.

The governor said he is taking this action, which goes into effect at 12:01 am on Thursday, November 26, as the result of feedback he has received from municipal leaders, public health officials, and people from within the business community.

“The sector rules and capacity limits we’ve implemented are intended to mitigate the spread of this disease to the greatest extent possible,” Lamont said. “While the overwhelming majority of businesses in Connecticut have shown an incredible amount of leadership and have been fantastic partners in this front, we have seen a small number of businesses in flagrant violation of these public health rules, and that’s all you need to cause a superspreading event that leads to a large number of cases and hospitalizations.

Fines for violations can be issued by local health directors or municipal designees, with the support of law enforcement. Other fines that remain in effect for violations of the state’s COVID-19 rules include $500 for organizing an event over capacity limits, $250 for attending events over capacity limits, $100 for failure to wear a face mask or covering when in public, and up to $500 for violations of the state’s travel advisory.

The gathering sizes and capacity limitations that are exempt from this order, which include private gatherings at private residences, religious and spiritual gatherings, and graduations, shall continue to be subject to infractions for violations of sector rules and other COVID-related orders.

State Stats, Vaccine News

As of November 23 at 8:30 pm, the total of COVID-19 cases reported among Connecticut residents is 107,280, including 99,820 laboratory-confirmed and 7,460 probable cases. At that time, 891 patients were currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and the state had logged 4,881 COVID-19-associated deaths.

State Senator Tony Hwang, whose 28th District includes Newtown, said this week that he is staying apprised of the state and national happenings regarding the safety and efficient rollout and delivery of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

Hwang, as co-chair of the Connecticut Bioscience Caucus, joined Pfizer medical research officials in their update forum with State of Maine public health, medical staff and health care providers to better learn about the research and testing methodology and equally important, their process for delivery of vaccines throughout the world.

He was eager to learn what protocols Connecticut may (or may not) want to follow as Connecticut’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force prepares to establish guidelines and priorities for COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed and delivered throughout Connecticut.

Last week, Pfizer announced that they are making incredible progress developing a vaccine for COVID-19 and pending US Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization for approved medical vaccination use as early as early December.

“I applaud the research and development teams at Pfizer, BioNTech, and other BioCT operations who are leading the nation on establishing a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19,” he said. “I want to thank the US Food and Drug Administration for their efforts in expediting the Emergency Use Authorization approval process for these very important vaccines while not compromising on the quality of the medicine or testing requirements... This is an exciting but challenging time for the bioscience sector to implement a worldwide vaccine distribution plan,” Hwang continued.

This week, Connecticut US Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, along with 14 of their colleagues, joined a letter led by US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) urging congressional leaders to provide robust funding to ensure the swift distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as a part of any upcoming legislation to address the pandemic.

With the recent news of at least one COVID-19 vaccine possibly being available to be distributed within the next month, many state and local governments lack the funding needed to distribute the vaccine.

According to a recent letter sent by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Association of Immunization Managers to congressional leaders, a minimum of $8.4 billion is needed to distribute COVID-19 vaccines nationwide. Some experts even estimated that $10 billion is required in order to fund community vaccination clinics alone.

“For months, as states, territories, Indian Tribes, and other localities have been responding to COVID-19 and working tirelessly to keep their residents safe, they have also been preparing to undertake one of the largest vaccination efforts in our nation’s history,” the senators wrote. “To accomplish this, jurisdictions must recruit and train thousands of health care workers, modernize data systems and registries, stand up vaccination sites, develop communications and educational materials, and build and support the infrastructure needed to distribute multiple types and doses of COVID-19 vaccines, among other activities.

“To ensure that jurisdictions throughout the country are well positioned to immediately, efficiently, and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines as they become available, we respectfully request that any upcoming legislation to address the pandemic include robust funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts,” the senators concluded.

In other news, on November 20, Lamont signed his 81st executive order, No. 9M, enacting the following provisions:

DECD authority to enact rules for all sports activities: Expands authority of the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development to establish mandatory safety rules to all sports.

Renewals of certain permits extended: To promote compliance with pandemic-related restrictions on sales of liquor, extends the renewal period for certain liquor permits and refunds certain renewal fees already paid.

Extending authorization for online continuing education for plumbers and electricians: Extends to February 9, 2021, the time during which plumbers and electricians may satisfy continuing education requirements through online learning.

Extended deadlines for continuing education for plumbers and electricians: Extends to February 9, 2021, the deadline for electricians and plumbers to complete their continuing education requirements while allowing them to renew licenses according to original deadlines.

Maplewood of Newtown resident and pianist Beverly Guck plays “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” closing a brief set she performed on the piano Friday, November 20. Guck has been playing the lobby piano with some regularity in recent weeks. She often performs after lunch and/or dinner, according to Maplewood at Newtown Lifestyle Director Melissa Wutke. “She’s playing more and more often,” Wutke mentioned. “She fills our hallways with music, and people are coming out to enjoy it.” Clad in a face mask, just like those watching her, Guck never missed a beat. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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