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COVID-19 UPDATE: 27 deaths; Peak could possibly come by 2nd week in April

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Gov. Ned Lamont reported at his press briefing today that there are now 1,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 173 persons hospitalized, and 27 deaths in the state.

The state has conducted 1,900 tests over the last 24 hours, with 279 positives, Lamont said – the largest single-day number of positive results, but also the lowest percentage, 15%, “in awhile.”

The governor said that the number of hospitalizations indicate “the beginning of the surge” that has long been expected. Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks, also in attendance at the briefing, said that current models indicate that the coronavirus peak in the state could take place around the second week of April.

COVID-19 coronavirusPersonal protective equipment remains a major source of concern. Flaks said that Connecticut’s health care systems are spending up to 10 times the value of the original product to build inventory – a situation that Lamont said was “unconscionable,” and which could have been avoided had the federal government acted more swiftly as the situation worsened overseas.

While President Donald Trump’s signing late this afternoon of the $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package should address the protective equipment shortage, Lamont said it would probably be three-plus weeks before that money arrives to the state.

As it stands, 3,000 thermometers that were expected to have arrived have been pushed back to next week, while gowns and other protective items have been delayed until next month, the governor said.

In addition, the state is still waiting for the 1,500 ventilators it has requested from the federal stockpile, and has 932 ventilators on hand now.

On the plus side, Lamont said Stanley Black & Decker has donated 75,000 surgical masks to Hartford HealthCare, and that over 1 million surgical gloves have been donated by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.

While those tribes are scheduled to reopen their casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, respectively – on April 1, Lamont voiced confidence that they would “do the right thing” and delay those openings.

The governor said he believed that about 1,000 nurses have returned to active duty, and encouraged more donations of equipment and money via the 2-1-1 emergency hotline or by visiting ctresponds.ct.gov.

Josh Geballe, the state’s COO, said that statewide there are just over 6,800 beds available, equal to a 39% vacancy rate. Nursing homes that have been closed are being reopened for possible use, and dormitories at schools like Sacred Heart University are also standing by.

Meanwhile, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman announced this afternoon that the state was suspending its Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program after just one day after a flood of applications were received. As of 6 p.m. today, applications will no longer be received, but Lehman said the program would soon relaunch with twice the funding, at $50 million.

TRUMP SIGNS STIMULUS BILL INTO LAW
Trump signed the stimulus package late this afternoon, declaring, “This will deliver urgently needed relief.” Surrounded only by Republican lawmakers, Trump thanked members of both parties for putting Americans “first.”

His signature came a few hours after The U.S. House of Representatives easily approved the package, though that was not without drama.

Most of that drama came from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), who attempted to force a recorded vote requiring lawmakers to register their positions individually. Massie also objected to how much the rescue effort would add to the U.S. debt, which already totals more than $23 trillion. The presiding officer, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland), ruled that the recorded vote was not necessary and the bill passed by voice vote.

Massie found few allies in the House or in Trump, who tweeted: “Looks like a third rate Grandstander named Rep. Thomas Massie, a congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay.”

Freshman Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Michigan) also supplied some spectacle by putting on pink latex gloves and shouting beyond her allotted one minute, saying she was speaking “not for personal attention but (to encourage you) to take this disease seriously.”

“We have to go into this vote eyes wide open,” said freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). “What did the Senate Majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history. Shameful.”

“The option that we have is to either let them suffer with nothing or to allow this greed and billions of dollars which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars to contribute to the largest income inequality gap in our future,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) responded by saying, “We’re not underwriting bad business practices, we are priming the pump. Ultimately, we are laying the foundation for rapid economic recovery. This bill is not only a rescue package, it is a commitment. A commitment that your government and the people whom you elected to serve will do everything We can to limit the harm and hardship you face.”

As of 4 p.m. Friday, there were 97,028 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 585,040 confirmed cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins data.

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