Home Economy COVID-19 UPDATE: Deaths at 19 as wait for fed aid continues

COVID-19 UPDATE: Deaths at 19 as wait for fed aid continues

Gov. Ned Lamont reported this afternoon that seven more Connecticut residents have died of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19. Connecticut now has 875 positive cases. Fairfield County has 546 positive cases, with 47 of those patients hospitalized.

David Lehman
DECD Commissioner David Lehman visits Cherry Street Lofts in Bridgeport last year.

While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that the rate of hospitalizations there has slowed in recent days, Lamont warned that “this is still incredibly infectious.”

Metro-North Railroad is now running at about 5% capacity, Lamont said, which he took as a sign that social distancing as a strategy to combat the virus is working.

Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist with the Department of Public Health, repeated his belief that “thousands” of residents are now infected, and again declined to guess at precisely when the crisis might peak in the state. Should social distancing methods continue to be observed, he said the abatement “could” begin to become evident within 10 to 12 weeks.

Danbury Hospital, which due to the infection rate in Fairfield County has been particularly hard hit, has added a field hospital to treat incoming patients, but “there is still a lot of capacity in our other hospitals,” the governor said.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is still being sourced from parties other than the federal government. Lamont said Chief Manufacturing Officer Colin Cooper has been in touch with a parachute manufacturer about possibly designing some PPE for intermediate use.

Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Commissioner David Lehman said that the state’s $25 million small business “bridge” loan program is about to be officially deployed. Targeted at companies with up to 100 employees, as well as nonprofits and sole practitioners, the loans will come with 18-month terms at 0% interest, and capped at $75,000.

The loans’ amounts will be based upon each recipient’s three months of operating expenses, including payroll. Lehman said that more details would probably be available tonight, and that a dedicated website is expected to launch tomorrow.

“We will start taking applications and processing tomorrow,” he said.

The state Department of Labor is facing an approximately three-week backlog in processing the roughly 100,000 unemployment claims filed over the past week. State COO Josh Geballe said that part of that backlog is due to the implementation of a new processing system, which has been taking place for the past several months.

Geballe said the Labor Department is adding staff, including recent retirees, to work through the backlog “as quickly as possible.”

The U.S. Senate was planning to vote this afternoon on the $2 trillion aid package, although as of 4:30 p.m. that had yet to take place. The 500-page bill reportedly includes $500 billion for large corporations, a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and $150 billion for state and local governments.

It also includes a $340 billion supplemental package to address the outbreak, including $117 billion for hospitals, $45 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, $30 billion for education, and $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics and other medical needs.

Individual Americans will be eligible for $1,200 in direct payments, and additional $500 payments per qualifying child so long as their annual income does not exceed $75,000, or $150,000 if a household files joint returns. Unemployment insurance is also being increased, while payments on federally-held student loans are being temporarily suspended.


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