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COVID-19 LATEST: Reopen CT Advisory Board announced as state’s death toll passes 600

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Gov. Ned Lamont shared some details of what he called “The Reopen Connecticut Advisory Board” at today’s briefing, as the state’s COVID-19-related deaths exceeded 600.

According to the Department of Public Health, Fairfield County’s COVID-19 positive cases jumped by nearly 500 since yesterday, to a total of 6,004, with another 22 hospitalizations for a total of 710. The county recorded another 14 deaths to bring that total to 262.

Lamont said that the county’s increase was due in part to a surge in Bridgeport infections and hospitalizations.

Statewide, 44,309 tests have been conducted, yielding 13,381 positive results. There are 1,760 people now hospitalized, and 602 deaths.

Josh Geballe, the state’s COO, said there are now about 1,800 available beds for coronavirus patients outside of hospitals, with about a third of the hospitals’ beds also available. “Our hospital system is coping well, certainly in lower Fairfield County,” Geballe said.

Lamont said that the current PPE (personal protective equipment) situation is also good, with “a couple hundred thousand” N95 respirators now being distributed around the state, an initiative underway to sanitize and reuse 80,000 to 90,000 face masks, and enough ventilators to meet current demand.

REOPENING THE STATE
The governor frequently said that any reopening of the state would be done deliberately and carefully, to mitigate chances of a second wave of infections. He said that locations such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong may have relaxed their social distancing efforts too soon. Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s confirmed cases grew from 149 and 226, respectively, on March 15 to 1,005 and 2,532 yesterday.

Earlier this afternoon, Lamont joined Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, John Carney of Delaware and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island to announce their plan to take a regional approach in planning the reopening of the economy and the restoration of activities in the wake of the pandemic. Lamont said during the briefing that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has also joined the partnership.

As reported earlier, each state will have three representatives on a task force that will use facts, data and science to help formulate a plan to get the economy up to speed. They plan to begin working toward devising a plan tomorrow.

Ko

Lamont said the state’s “Reopen Connecticut” board will be headed by Indra Nooyi, the former PepsiCo CEO and member of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center; Dr. Albert Ko, chairman of the epidemiology department at the Yale School of Medicine; and Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff.

The governor said the group will focus on attracting “the best and the brightest” to the advisory panel, with Nooyi focusing on business leaders, Ko on health care and scientific officials, Mounds on working with other governors, and Geballe on working with the state’s legislative leaders. Lamont said the rest of the board will be announced soon.

Also involved with the regional group will be former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Zeke Emanuel, head of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, the governor said.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) sent Lamont a letter today ahead of the multistate announcement stating: “While I am glad that you are both talking about getting people back to work and seeking input and ideas from various sources, I hope that you will talk to Connecticut legislative leaders before making any decisions or promises.”

Lamont insisted at the briefing that he has been doing just that, and repeated that the concerns expressed in Fasano’s letter about a “one size fits all” approach to reopening the economy will not take place.

“There’s no ‘one size fits all’ even in the state of Connecticut,” the governor said.

IRS CHECKS ON THEIR WAY
The first wave of stimulus relief checks were deposited into some Americans’ bank accounts over the weekend, according to the IRS. The agency said it will roll out a tracking tool called “Get My Payment” by April 17, which is designed to give people an estimate on when they can expect a deposit or a check in the mail. It will also let users update their direct deposit information with the IRS.

The agency expects to transmit 60 million payments via direct deposit, using the banking information it has on file for taxpayers’ 2018 or 2019 tax returns, followed by a second wave of payments to those Social Security recipients who did not file 2018 or 2019 returns and receive their benefits through direct deposit.

Early next month, the IRS will begin mailing paper checks to households, at a rate of 5 million per week. The paper checks will first go to the households with the lowest adjusted gross incomes, and continue upward.

Individuals with adjusted gross income below $75,000 will receive $1,200, while married couples filing taxes jointly who earn less than $150,000 will receive $2,400, along with $500 for each qualifying child.

TRUMP NOT FIRING FAUCI
“President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley announced this afternoon, after Trump retweeted a former Republican congressional candidate’s attack on Fauci, including the hashtag “#FireFauci,” over the weekend.

The original tweet was apparently in response to an appearance on CNN yesterday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Obviously you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci said. “Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.”

“Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump,” Gidley said, going on to charge the media with “maliciously push(ing) a falsehood about his China decision in an attempt to rewrite history.”

According to some reports, Fauci had criticized Trump’s suspending travel to and from China. Fauci had, in fact, supported that decision.

As of this writing, there are more than 572,000 positive cases and over 23,000 virus-related deaths in the U.S., and more than 1.9 million positive cases and in excess of 118,000 deaths globally.

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