Connecticut marked another grim COVID-19 milestone today, adding another 65 deaths to bring the total to 1,036. Fairfield County recorded 19 fatalities to bring its sum to 425.
At today’s briefing, Gov. Ned Lamont tried to take some comfort from the fact that the state’s average number of coronavirus admissions – which he called “our best leading indicator” – declined from about 120 a day to roughly 60 a day across April 1-15.
Another 2,340 tests were conducted since yesterday, bringing that figure to 55,462; they netted 925 more positives for a total of 16,809. Hospitalizations grew by just 20 for a sum of 1,946.
Fairfield County added 10 hospitalizations for a total of 797.
Stamford has the most positive cases in the state, with 1,713, followed by Bridgeport (1,121), New Haven (932), Norwalk (844), Danbury (828), Waterbury (822), Hartford (567), Greenwich (370), Hamden (359) and Stratford (351).
Lamont noted that the state’s first rapid COVID-19 testing center opened today in New Haven. The drive-up center will provide free testing by appointment only – via online scheduling – in a partnership between the state and CVS Health.
Open seven days a week, the site will run 750 to 1,000 tests a day, with the first 100 reserved for first responders, four of whom tested positive today.
At-home saliva tests and antibody tests will also soon be in significant circulation, Lamont said.
Responding to reports that a Danbury food bank had run out of food this week, the governor insisted: “The food supply in our state, our country and our food banks is strong.”
DECD MONEY ON THE WAY
The state’s fiscal ability to deal with the avalanche of unemployment claims could be in danger of running out, the governor said. Should that happen, he said he would look to the federal government to prop that system up either by a grant – which he said he prefers – or with a loan at a “very low interest rate.”
The $50 million Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program, which has lain stagnant since March 27 – one day after it was launched – when its system was overwhelmed by some 5,200 applications, is finally moving forward.
Processing of the small-business loan applications proved too much for the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and Connecticut Innovations, who have spent the intervening weeks seeking a fintech partner. That partner has apparently been found, according to DECD Commissioner David Lehman, although its identity has not been made public.
Now with the proper technology in place, the loans should start arriving within the next two weeks or so, Lehman said.
To qualify, state-based businesses and nonprofits must have 100 or fewer employees, and have been profitable prior to March 10, among other conditions. Loan amounts are up to the lesser of either three months’ operating expenses or $75,000. The maximum amount allowed is $75,000 at 0% interest.
STAMFORD HEALTH UPDATES
Earlier today, during a teleconference hosted by Women’s Business Development Council President and CEO Fran Pastore, the governor reported that the state’s hospitals’ practice of moving personnel and gear back and forth has “helped us stay above water. Nobody’s been turned away.”
Stamford Health President and CEO Kathy Silard said that, as of this morning, her facility had recorded 369 in-patient admissions and 60 deaths. However, she noted, there have also been 187 COVID-19 patients discharged to their homes.
The hospital’s activities – which have included expanding from 305 to close to 500 beds, the National Guard’s repurposing of the hospital’s Wheeler Building into an alternative care site, and the U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force’s supplying 85 clinicians – have given it plenty of room to breathe, Silard said.
She expressed some concern over the relative lack of incoming patients without the virus. “We have room for you, your family, your neighbors,” she said, “if you need COVID-19 care or any other care.”
Silard also said she sees “glimmers of hope” in the fact that, for the past few days, in-patient cases have remained relatively steady at about 140 a day. “That’s stabilizing, and our ICU admissions are stabilizing,” she said.
Both Silard and Lamont again stressed, however, that social distancing and other mitigation efforts must remain in place, at least for now. “Social distancing is the thing that makes the difference,” Silard stated. “We need to sit tight. Early optimism is just that – early optimism.”
More and better testing are necessary before the state can seriously think about reopening at least some parts of the economy, she said. “The testing situation was very fluid” at the start of the outbreak, Silard said, “but it’s advancing rapidly now.”
Stamford is one of the first hospitals in the state to receive Abbott Laboratories’ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which amplifies a single piece (or few copies of a piece) of DNA to diagnose a patient in about 15 minutes.
The Abbott tests have proven to be less than 100% accurate, she allowed.
As of this writing, there are about 685,000 positive cases and over 34,500 virus-related deaths in the U.S., and more than 2.2 million positive cases and in excess of 151,000 deaths globally.