Home Economy COVID-19 LATEST: Fairfield County passes 100 deaths; More testing coming online

COVID-19 LATEST: Fairfield County passes 100 deaths; More testing coming online

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Fairfield County’s coronavirus-related death toll has reached 101, Gov. Ned Lamont announced today, though he said he was trying to draw some solace from the fact that an anticipated major spike in cases has, so far, not arrived.

Instead, Lamont said, the numbers are going up in a linear way, with both Fairfield and Hartford counties showing steady, but not overwhelming, increases in infections and deaths.

Statewide, of 3,416 tests since yesterday, there were 1,231 positive results, with 79 new hospitalizations and 17 deaths. All told, there have now been 26,686 tests conducted, 6,906 positive cases, 1,221 hospitalizations and 206 deaths.

Although “When New York City sneezes, Connecticut catches cold,” the governor said that the state’s infection rate has not been going up quite as quickly as Gotham’s. Lamont wondered whether that is due to social distancing, a less dense population, and/or other factors.

“Some of our worst case scenarios saw 20% of people going to the hospital,” he said. “In fact, the hospitalization rates may be a lot lower than that.”

Lamont said that he hopes to have data on how many people who were hospitalized have since recovered and been discharged by Wednesday.

The 50 ventilators promised by the federal government have finally been received, the governor said, and have been primarily circulated in the southern part of the state, where most of the infections have been detected.

Fairfield County’s hospitals in particular are “bending but not breaking,” Lamont said, acknowledging that previous estimates of the number of beds needed may prove to be incorrect. “Don’t tell the White House,” he quipped.

Lamont further noted that a conversation today with Vice President Mike Pence’s task force had revealed that “the next day may be the next year,” a reference to the time period after the crisis has passed. “There may be rolling pandemics over a period of time,” he said.

NURSING HOMES, PRISONS AND SCHOOLS
Most nursing home patients have been divided between COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 free residences, Lamont said. In addition, 1,500 beds across 14 hotels have been freed up for sheltering the homeless.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Rollin Cook reported that, since March 1, 727 prisoners – all guilty of what Lamont described as “very minor” offenses – have been discharged from Connecticut’s 14 correctional facilities to halfway houses or other “safe homes.”

As of March 26, the state’s prison population fell below 12,000 for the first time since 1993, Cook said.

The state’s schools may remain closed through the end of the school year, the governor told WICC-AM this mornng, as the pandemic is likely to extend “into June.” As things currently stand, schools are tentatively scheduled to reopen on April 20.

Earlier today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that state’s schools, as well as its nonessential businesses, will remain shuttered through at least April 29.

MORE TESTING COMING ONLINE
Following Lamont’s April 3 announcement that Stamford genomics-testing company Sema4 would begin running tests, the company announced today that it is now doing so and that it has the capacity to analyze 6,000 COVID-19 tests per week and return results within 24 to 48 hours.

Sema4 is also involved in several COVID-19-focused research programs and plans to utilize its whole-genome sequencing to track the evolution and spread of the virus, combined with multidimensional patient data to build predictive modeling for clinical outcomes.

“After delivering accurate testing results to hundreds of thousands of patients every year, we are ready to apply our clinical expertise and substantial laboratory resources to the COVID-19 crisis, giving much-needed information quickly to our provider partners and their patients,” Sema4 founder and CEO Eric Schadt said.

The company’s COVID-19 tests have been validated in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization and are processed in the company’s Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-licensed and Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)-compliant laboratory. Samples are collected by a health care provider via nasal or oral swab, and testing is offered with no out-of-pocket cost to insured patients. The state of Connecticut will cover testing costs for uninsured residents.

Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds said at the briefing that more testing devices should also be received by the Department of Health from Abbott Laboratories later this week.

The Connecticut Department of Labor is now facing 20 times the number of claims over the past two weeks than it received during the last recession, Lamont told WNPR. As a result, “We’ve tripled the staff there in the last couple of weeks, bringing people out of retirement, reassigning them to different parts of DOL,” he said.

Even so, the state plans to accelerate the delivery of unemployment checks so that they arrive “within two weeks,” as opposed to the current five-to-six weeks, Lamont told WICC. All payments will be retroactive, he added.

Also today, the governor, in partnership with the Connecticut Broadcasters Association (CBA), announced the launch of the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” public service announcement campaign, telling Connecticut residents they have to stay home in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The ads will be placed with CBA members stations across radio and television, and they will also be translated into Spanish.

The campaign will feature multiple ads throughout the month of April and will air multiple times daily on participating member stations.

 

D.C. DEVELOPMENTS: TRUMP PREDICTS “HORRIFIC” WEEK
During a nationally televised briefing on Sunday, President Donald Trump said that this week, “The U.S. will reach a horrific point in terms of death, but it will be a point where things will start changing for the better.”

By tomorrow, 3,000 military and public health workers will have been deployed across the nation, Trump said, adding that nationwide more than 1.6 million coronavirus tests have been conducted.

Trump also said the country has stockpiled about 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug which has not been clinically proven to be safe or successful in treating coronavirus.

Navarro

Although Trump has been pushing for doctors to prescribe the drug for the past few weeks – “What do you have to lose?” he philosophized during Saturday’s briefing – Dr. Anthony Fauci has been less enthusiastic, maintaining that arguments in favor of trying the drug to treat COVID-19 are based on speculation and not fact.

That reportedly led to a confrontation on Saturday between Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and U.S. Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro in the White House’s Situation Room, with the latter insisting that some unidentified paperwork in his possession represented “science, not anecdote.”

This morning, Navarro appeared on CNN to explain his qualifications for making such judgments.

“My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I’m a social scientist,” he said. “I have a Ph.D. And I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it’s in medicine, the law, economics or whatever.”

As of this writing, there were over 352,500 positive cases and almost 10,400 virus-related deaths in the U.S., and over 1.3 million positive cases and more than 73,500 deaths globally.

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