Lamont: “COVID-19 Coming Up the Coast Pretty Quickly”

“We thought it might get worse before it gets better, and I’m afraid that we were right,” Governor Ned Lamont said during his news briefing on Tuesday, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic impact in Connecticut.

Lamont said there were more than 200 new infections since Monday, bringing the State’s total to 618 infections, with about 62% of them in Fairfield County, and the first cases reported in New Haven County have been reported.

Dormitories are being opened up at Southern and Central CT State University to possibly house nurses and doctors on the front lines so they don’t worry about going home and infecting their families.

Lamont was asked about mixed messages between President Donald Trump who said said he wanted the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” and Gov Cuomo who said during a news conference in New York City’s Javitz Center, “We’re not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own.” Cuomo said his state now has more than 25,000 cases. “The rate of new infection is doubling about every three days.”

Lamont said he sided with Governor Cuomo. “We have a healthcare crisis.”

“We know it’s coming up the coast pretty quickly right now,” Lamont said.

“We’re going to get through this,” he added. “But you’re not going to get your economy back on its feet until we solve this public health crisis. I don’t want to mislead people that it’s going to be just another couple weeks and you go back to business as usual. That’s a mistake I think the federal government has been sending that wrong message for too long.”

New infection hot spots popping up on Long Island, Westchester and Fairfield County are being linked to people departing New York City and spreading the virus.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx on Tuesday advised people who have passed through or left New York City to self-quarantine in their homes for 14 days.

“About 56% of all the cases in the US are coming out of that metro area,” Birx said. “And about  60%  of new cases are coming out of the NY metro area.”

In his 4:00pm news briefing on Tuesday, Lamont said he was grateful to Indra and Raj Nooyi, residents of Greenwich, who made a donation of high-quality, take-home books from Scholastic to provide reading and writing instruction to more than 185,000 prekindergarten to 8th grade students learning from home.

Indra Nooyi is the former CEO of PepsiCo. She is co-director of AdvanceCT, a nonprofit that works to engage, retain, and recruit businesses and advance overall economic competitiveness in Connecticut. Raj Nooyi is president of AmSoft Systems.

Also the Partnership for Connecticut is donating 60,000 laptops to students in under-resources high schools so they can access distance learning. Laptop distribution will prioritize students demonstrating the most need.

As the devices are in great demand nationwide, and it is not expected that the entire amount will be received in one delivery, but likely in batches over the next month.

The laptops dovetail with promises from internet providers to abide by the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Major cable providers including Altice, Comcast, Frontier and Charter will for the next few months waive late fees and not terminate service due to inability to pay bills due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The pledge also means providers will open all WiFi hotspots to the general public.

Also on Tuesday Lamont toured a mobile emergency field hospital on the grounds of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford. The hospital assembles in hours and can be ready to triage and treat hundreds of patients during a public health emergency.

Ottilie Lundgren from Oxford, was 94 when she died of anthrax in 2001. The facility can be deployed quickly in an emergency. As of Tuesday it has a flexible configuration of 25-bed units to provide triage and treatment anywhere in the state in the event of a mass casualty.

Lamont said as of Tuesday, there had been generous donations of personal protective equipment including 30 N95 masks from an anonymous donor, 68 N95 masks from Kilbourn Farms in Simsbury, 40 N95 masks from a private donor in Redding and 160 N95 masks and nearly 40,000 nitrile gloves from the Mohegan Sun.

Tuesday also brought Governor Lamont’s 14th executive order, 7-L, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Per the order, instead of waiting until April, the State will open inland fishing to anglers starting Wednesday, March 25.

Anglers can get started fishing early as long as they practice social distancing.

The order notes that starting the season early avoids the crowds that accompany the traditional Opening Day of the fishing season. All other regulations for fishing remain in effect, including licensing, stamps, methods, catch-and-release areas, creel limits and length limits. Licenses and permits are available to purchase online.

7-L also suspends restrictions of reemployment of municipal retirees, noting that their return to work would mitigate staffing shortages particularly, police and public safety support.

Lamont said he anticipates staffing shortages in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program, which serves about 41,000 people diagnosed with debilitating conditions who rely on medical marijuana for palliative treatment. The order, 7-L, adds flexibility to maintain adequate access for patients and allows patients to be certified via telehealth and extends expiration dates for patient and caregiver registrations.

Order 7L also extends the cancellation of classes at public schools statewide through at least April 20.

The order includes guidance on conservation of personal protective equipment and testing strategies. Priority for testing will be given to test hospitalized patients, health care workers and residents of congregate settings with fever o 100.4°F or higher who have lower respiratory illnesses.

Also on Tuesday, the State’s Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais requested a 60-day grace period to pay insurance premiums without interest or penalties. This would apply to companies that offer any insurance coverage in Connecticut – including life, health, auto, property, casualty, and other types of insurance.

“A grace period will allow policyholders who may need help due to circumstances beyond their control additional time to pay and avoid a coverage lapse or cancellation,” Mais said.

Also, per Lamont’s update on Tuesday he said the Connecticut National Guard is providing logistical support to medical facilities across the state, so residents should not be surprised to see men and women in uniform in their communities.

Lastly, the Governor said on Wednesday he would roll out a new charitable initiative.