Gov. Ned Lamont this morning announced continued good news regarding COVID-19 related hospitalizations, while acknowledging that the latest unemployment figures and general anxiety about the May 20 soft reopening remains.
Although other data was not yet available, the governor said that hospitalizations were down “about 70” – the largest single-day decrease “in some time” – which would put that figure at 1,033.
More than 29,000 people filed unemployment benefits claims last week, bringing that total to about 515,000 since the middle of March. Lamont said the state Department of Labor has processed more than 500,000 of those claims and paid out over $1.3 billion, including around $25 million for self-employed and gig workers.
Lamont said that the unemployment figures include a disproportionate number of women, minorities and children, and that the Department of Economic and Community Development is providing a special fund for those workers.
The governor further said that 60,000 small businesses around the state have received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and that some $100 billion is still available in that federal program. He encouraged businesses and nonprofits that perhaps have hesitated to apply to do so: “Somebody’s going to get that money,” he said, “why not Connecticut?”
According to the latest U.S. Commerce Department data, the nation’s retail sales dropped by 16.4% in April, following an 8.3% decline in March. Lamont said that while those numbers are sobering, reopening a majority of businesses at once would not be the answer. The substantial news coverage of crowded bars in Wisconsin, after that state’s Supreme Court voided the its governor’s “Safer at Home” orders, illustrate precisely what not to do, he said.
CVS Health Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Tom Moriarty appeared to reiterate not only that the firm opened 12 more drive-thru testing sites around Connecticut today, but that another 25 should be up and running by month’s end.
Moriarty further noted that CVS has recorded a 20% increase in virtual mental health visits compared with the same period last year. As a result, the company is offering expanded services and resources to all patients, regardless of whether they are insured by Aetna, which it acquired in 2018.
Addressing some mixed messaging over whether asymptomatic customers are being encouraged to be tested, Josh Geballe, the state’s COO, said that only the most vulnerable – including those living in close urban dwellings, first responders, nursing home patients and staff, and correctional facility inmates and staff – should be tested.
Those who have, or believe they have, been in close contact with someone with the coronavirus should also be tested, he said. While the state is not encouraging testing for the asymptomatic “worried well” – those who are not suspected of having contracted the virus, but are anxious about the possibility – it probably will begin to do so at a later date, Geballe said.
As of this writing, there are more than 1.4 million positive cases and over 86,000 virus-related deaths in the U.S., with over 253,000 recovered. Globally, there are about 4.5 million positive cases and in excess of 302,000 deaths, with nearly 1.6 million recovered.