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UPDATE: Third CT resident with coronavirus is from New Canaan; legislature approves $5M to fight disease

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A third person has tested positive for COVID-19 – an elderly man who lives in New Canaan, according to Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist with the Connecticut Department of Health, at a news briefing today.

The man – the first positive Connecticut patient with no known exposure to the virus – is being treated at Norwalk Hospital.

Cartter said that to date, the state has tested 74 residents, with three testing positive; another 16 tests are expected to be completed today.

Widespread contagion in the state is “only a matter of time,” Cartter said. “We’re just at the beginning of this.”

To make testing more widely available, DPH is working on getting alternate sites approved at local hospitals at locations around the state. Those hospitals will work with commercial testing labs by Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp to complete the testing. Additional information on those testing sites is expected to be announced in the coming days.

Connecticut COO Josh Geballe said that, with the continuing global shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers and others who need to be in the presence of someone who may be infected with the virus, the state has made an emergency request from the Strategic National Supply for a total of 540,000 additional N-95 protective masks.

Geballe said that $7.1 million in federal funding to fight COVID-19 is on the way, but could not provide more specifics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced it will send the state about $7 million to support response efforts.

In addition, Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew Mais issued a notice on Wednesday to all travel insurers conducting business in the state. The notice instructs insurers to accommodate travel cancellation requests under the terms of the policies taking into account the seriousness of the circumstances and the civil preparedness and public health emergencies issued by Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has approved a combined $3 billion in new state borrowing over two years, including $5 million in borrowing to combat coronavirus. Republican leaders maintained that the money should not have been borrowed, but instead have been taken from the $2.5 billion rainy day fund.

Earlier in the day, Norwalk Community College announced it was closing for the remainder of the week, as a student is self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms after potentially coming into contact with someone who has the virus.

“At this time, the student and their family are showing no signs of illness,” Norwalk Community College Chief Executive Officer Cheryl De Vonish said in announcing the decision to close. “They are self-monitoring at their home for 14 days per federal and state guidelines.”

The closing, which went into effect after classes ended last night, will allow for classrooms and offices to be deep cleaned and disinfected, De Vonish said.

College offices will reopen on March 16, with classes resuming on March 23, following spring break.

In addition, Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport announced it will move all its classes online for the rest of this week. That move follows the announcement earlier this week that the University of New Haven in West Haven and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield have canceled in-person classes, with SHU moving all its classes online beginning on March 11 and canceling all major events on campus through March 29.

An elementary school in Stratford has closed after a student had contact with someone with the virus, and Westport has closed all its schools after some students and parents had similar exposures.

That news follows yesterday’s announcement at a news briefing that Lamont has signed declarations of civil preparedness and public health emergencies in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

coronavirus COVID-19 Connecticut
Image of the coronavirus courtesy the CDC.

A public health emergency gives the state power over quarantine, while a civil preparedness emergency provides the governor with wide-ranging powers over state institutions, allowing him to restrict travel, close public schools and buildings and more, something that was likened at the briefing to preparing for an incoming hurricane.

All schools in Region 14 have been closed because one of the state’s two patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus lives in Bethlehem and has children in that school system. During the Tuesday briefing, Geballe identified that patient, who is being treated at Bridgeport Hospital, as a female in her 60s who apparently picked up the disease during a trip to Nevada.

Geballe emphasized that no children within the district were symptomatic of the virus.

Geballe further said the state is working actively with 10 hospitals around the state to establish alternative sample-collection sites, such as drive-thru operations, which do not require admission to emergency departments.

As testing efforts ramp up, Geballe said, “We’ll see a lot more positive tests.” He underscored, however, that “80-85%” of those afflicted with the virus “will self-recover at home.”

Just two staffers are conducting the tests at the state’s testing lab in Rocky Hill, she said, but DPH is planning to add another seven in the short term. That will improve the number of daily tests completed from about 19-20 to 50-60, she said.

Connecticut currently has two COVID-19 testing kits, each of which can test between 500 and 600 people. Geballe said a request has been made to the federal government for two more kits, but would not estimate when they might arrive.

Lamont applauded state and municipal leaders from both parties for uniting against the virus, saying that the postponement and/or cancellation of large-group events net positives for community health.

He also estimated that passenger traffic on Metro-North has been down by 25%, “which may not be such a bad idea right now.”

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