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COVID-19 CRISIS: Lamont issues exec order to limit public gatherings to 250; confirmed cases reach 6

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) State Laboratory has identified three additional presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, Gov Ned Lamont announced today. To date, the State Laboratory has tested a total of 95 individuals. Six of the individuals have tested positive and 89 have tested negative.

Of the three new cases, one is a resident of Stamford who is a female in her 60s and recently returned from a trip to Italy. She is currently hospitalized at Stamford Hospital. Another case involves a young woman in her 20s who lives in New York but was seen as an outpatient at Greenwich Hospital. She is recovering at home. The third positive case involves a child who lives in Stratford and is currently at home recovering. That child had been exposed to another known positive case.

The governor has also issued an executive order – the first since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak – that takes the following actions:

  1. To promote social distancing in order to minimize COVID-19 exposure, the governor is ordering a prohibition on all gatherings across the state with more than 250 people. This order applies to gatherings for social and recreational activities. They include but are not limited to: community, civic, leisure, sports, parades, concerts, festivals, movie screenings, conventions, fundraisers, and similar activities.
  2. As many school districts have made the decision to close schools due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Lamont is ordering the state law requiring schools to be in session for at least 180 days to be modified. The governor’s emergency order will require that schools be in session for 180 days or by June 30, 2020 at the latest. This means that if a school has not been in session for a total of 180 days by June 30, the school district has the authority to make that date the last day of the school year.
  3. The order modifies visitor restrictions in all nursing and convalescent homes in the state by clarifying what visitors must be allowed and providing the Commissioner of Public Health the authority to issue more detailed rules regarding visitation to protect the health of residents.
  4. Authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to extend licensing renewal deadlines to reduce large crowds at DMV branches throughout the state, and relaxes restrictions on certain trucks carrying relief supplies.
  5. Relaxes attendance rules for police academy trainees to account for the impacts of COVID-19.

In addition, The Connecticut Department of Transportation is continuing to take precautions in response to COVID-19. Those actions, which began last week, are being conducted for all CTrail Hartford Line, CTrail Shore Line East, and New Haven Line (Metro-North) commuter rail services, as well as all CTtransit and local transit district bus services throughout the state. These measures include:

  • Nightly sanitizing of all trains and buses including an interior wipe down of high contact surfaces using enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols recommended by the CDC.
  • Station operators have increased cleaning of stations using CDC-recommended cleaning products and methods.
  • At the busiest train stations — Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven — touch points such as door handles, escalator handrails and elevator buttons are being wiped down multiple times each day.

Lamont also said that Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman is working with the Small Business Administration and banks to roll out a slate of low-interest loans to help them during this period.

Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist with the DPH, said the department is working with the state’s acute care hospitals to establish clinical labs to augment the testing going on at the state lab. Yale New Haven Hospital will be the first to go online, he said.

As for hospitals offering alternative sites on their campuses for testing, to alleviate that burden on physicians, emergency departments and the like, Cartter said Greenwich Hospital is the only one to do so to date, but that another one would probably be announced later today.

The doctor estimated that 10-20% of the state’s population will contract the infection within the next one to two months, and repeated his warning that the virus could abate during the spring and return in the fall.

He said he expects a continued spread into Litchfield and New Haven counties, as well as possible incursions from Connecticut’s eastern neighbors, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“When this is all over,” Cartter said, “probably about 70% of our population will have had this.”

Meanwhile, the University of Bridgeport, Western Connecticut State University, and Fairfield University are the latest county-based schools to move all classes online in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Bridgeport announced that all students on campus must vacate by noon tomorrow and are required to take with them any materials needed for their coursework.

All classes at its main campus and at its Waterbury campus will be moved online beginning Saturday and lasting through at least March 27.

Fairfield University President Mark Nemec said all of that school’s programs and classes will be online starting March 16 and continuing through March 29.

Admittance to the school’s library, recreational complex and other common areas will be restricted; events with more than 100 people will be postponed or canceled; athletic events will be closed to the public; and daily Mass will be suspended after today until further notice.

In addition, Western Connecticut State University in Danbury will run all of its classes online from March 23 through April 3. Residence halls will close on Friday at 5 p.m., with students required to remain off campus until April 4.

The moves follow Sacred Heart University’s decision earlier this week to move all its classes online beginning on March 11 and yo cancel all major events on campus through March 29.

All four universities have cautioned that there are no known or suspected cases of COVID-19, nor anyone with symptoms requiring action, on their campuses.

Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport has also moved its classes online, while Norwalk Community College is closed for the remainder of this week, as a student is self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms after potentially coming into contact with someone who has the virus.

Norwalk’s offices will reopen on March 16, with classes resuming on March 23, following spring break.

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