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PPE and testing supplies on the way as CT prepares for May 20 soft opening

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PPE and testing supplies from the national stockpile are on their way, Gov. Ned Lamont said this afternoon, as the state continues to ready its May 20 soft opening.

Coronavirus image courtesy CDC. Illustration by Bob Rozycki

Statewide, Connecticut now has a total of 30,173 positive cases and 2,556 deaths, while hospitalizations have declined for 12 consecutive days to currently stand at 1,464. Additional data, including county and municipality numbers, were not immediately available, although Lamont noted that Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven counties are all on a downward trend. The state’s other counties have remained at a low rate of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Small businesses in Connecticut “did very well” in the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with over 30,000 companies receiving about $2.5 billion. “The loan sizes are smaller,” he said, “but that means more of our small businesses got access” to the program.

“Finally, the PPE is beginning to flow,” the governor said, with “a big shipment” directly to Connecticut’s nursing homes expected to take place over the next one to two weeks. Testing supplies are also expected to begin arriving, which will allow Connecticut to test about 2% of its population – 70,000 – over the next few weeks.

Lamont also said that talks are ongoing with “a major Connecticut company” that is expressing optimism about developing a vaccine for the virus.

Taking a dimmer view of the May 20 opening was state Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), a medical doctor with specializations in pulmonology and critical care medicine who serves as vice chair of the legislature’s Public Health Committee. “This disease spreads like fire,” he said, adding that a sudden influx of “10, 20, 30 patients will overwhelm any hospital.”

Even so, Anwar said, “Our ability to manage this disease is getting better. We’re putting a lot of the pieces of the puzzle together.” He further said that remdesivir, the highly touted broad spectrum antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences, “does give us a little bit of help,” and that hospital access to the drug will improve soon.

Joining Anwar was state Rep. William Petit, Jr. (R-Plainville, New Britain), a retired endocrinologist who serves as ranking member of the Public Health Committee. He said that businesses expecting to open on May 20, including restaurants and hair salons, are looking for “very specific advice, a specific list of things they must do” to provide safety for customers and staff.

Lamont said that talks continue with the Connecticut Restaurant Association and the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association – both members of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group – to be sure the appropriate protocols are in place; those should be available in about a week, he said.

A decision on whether K-12 schools will reopen before the scheduled end of the school year will likely be announced tomorrow by state Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, Lamont said, with an update for community colleges and universities probably coming later this week.

D.C. DEVELOPMENTS
In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Small Business Administration  Administrator Jovita Carranza, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) has asked that changes be considered for the department’s interpretation of the date that lenders are required to disburse PPP loans, or to provide such other flexibility as will allow an extended period of time for businesses to expend the funds and qualify for forgiveness.

Blumenthal

Blumenthal sent the letter after speaking with what he called “hundreds of Connecticut employers over the past several weeks” regarding concerns that they must use PPP funds within eight weeks to be eligible for loan forgiveness.

“Unfortunately, many employers have reported that the eight-week forgiveness window does not currently take into consideration businesses that will incur their greatest costs when state mandated stay at home orders are lifted and businesses are permitted to reopen,” wrote Blumenthal.

“For example,” he continued, “businesses owners in the restaurant and hospitality industries expect to face unprecedented costs to restart their operations and would greatly benefit from receipt of PPP funds during that period. If not, they run the risk of being unable to restock their inventory, comply with new health codes, retrain staff, and purchase personal protective equipment.”

“The current guidance around this program is needlessly restrictive for small businesses, and especially for local restaurants,” Connecticut Restaurant Association Executive Director Scott Dolch said. “The restaurant industry has been severely impacted by this crisis and we need the federal government to help, and one important way it can do that is by revising this guidance and allowing more flexibility on these dates.”

Report: Dramatic upturn in cases, deaths expected by month’s end
The New York Times reported today that an internal White House document it has obtained indicates that the federal government is expecting some 200,000 new coronavirus cases each day by the end of May, compared with about 25,000 daily cases now. Daily deaths in the U.S. – which now stand at about 1,750 – could reach 3,000 on June 1, according to the report.

“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting,” Deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere stated. “This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.

“The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with,” Deere continued. “The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions.”

The numbers
As of this writing, there are more than 1.17 million positive cases and over 68,000 virus-related deaths in the U.S., with over 158,000 recovered. Globally, there are about 3.6 million positive cases and over 250,000 deaths, with more than 1.13 million recovered.

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