The death of Minnesota resident George Floyd took center stage at Gov. Ned Lamont’s daily briefing today, as confirmed COVID-19 cases passed the 15,000 mark and deaths are nearing 4,000 statewide.
Floyd died on May 25 from asphyxiation after white Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder, knelt for over eight minutes on his neck. It is unclear whether three other officers present will be formally charged.
The incident has resulted in large, sometimes violent protests in major cities around the country, though no major looting or property damage have taken place in Connecticut.
Lamont said he has spoken with the Connecticut Black and Puerto Rican Caucus about the need for hiring more police officers – as well as teachers – of diverse backgrounds. “Thankfully, we have not seen that violence, we have not seen that looting, here,” the governor said.
State Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection James Rovella echoed those remarks, saying that his department has spoken with police chiefs in the state’s major cities and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association about how best to proceed.
Noting that to date there have been few major confrontations between the public and law enforcement in the state, Rovella acknowledged that several arrests were made over the weekend. He also said he disapproved of several incidents over the weekend involving the shutting down of various highways by large groups of protesters.
“We respect your right to protest,” Rovella said. However, he added, “Those highways are very dangerous places for the protesters, the pedestrians, the motorists, the highway officers, and the DOT people who assist us.”
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut (D-5th) appeared via Zoom to voice her distress over the situation. She noted that her husband, police detective Milford Hayes, always immediately identifies himself as a law enforcement officer upon being pulled over by police, lest the situation spin out of hand. Both Hayeses are African-American.
Jahana Hayes described the Floyd incident as “not just a murder, but an execution.”
Lamont said he was alarmed during a conference call today between the nation’s governors and President Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
“What’s the matter with you guys?” Lamont said the federal officials has asked them. “If you don’t run over, you’re going to get run over. How come you’re not ‘dominating the battlefield’?”
That, Lamont said, “is not the Connecticut way.”
Asked if he felt the Trump administration was trying to politicize the incident, Lamont responded: “God, I hope not. I can’t think of anything more cynical than that. Broadly speaking, militarization of this situation is not the right thing to do.”
State erects health warnings near casinos
As he indicated he might on Friday, Lamont has ordered electronic signs to be placed near Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun warning of potential health hazards of entering the casinos.
The signs, placed along Routes 2 and 32, include such messages as “Don’t Gamble w/COVID” and “Avoid Lg. Indoor Gatherings.”
The casinos officially reopened today, in defiance of Lamont’s preference that they wait until later in the month.
“Mohegan Sun has implemented new health and safety measures for your protection due to a contagious virus that causes COVID-19, a potentially fatal disease,” according to wooden signs that casino placed inside its entrances. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for COVID-19. There is always an inherent risk of COVID-19 exposure at any public location. By visiting Mohegan Sun you voluntarily assume the risks related to COVID-19.”
Signs at various spots inside Foxwoods carried a similar message.
The state has now conducted 259,320 tests and recorded 42,740 positive cases, with 454 hospitalizations and 3,964 deaths.
Connecticut also issued more detailed hospitalization data, which revealed that there have been 9,559 admissions and 7,124 discharges, as well as 1,981 deaths. Those fatalities only include those who died in an acute care hospital.
Fairfield County has now recorded 15,003 confirmed and 706 “probable” COVID-19 cases; 990 confirmed and 298 “probable” deaths; and 157 current hospitalizations.
Bridgeport has the most cases in the state with 3,252, followed by Stamford (3,046), New Haven (2,410), Hartford (2,161), Norwalk (1,930), Waterbury (1,810), Danbury (1,726), West Haven (1,008), Hamden (929), New Britain (908), Stratford (776), Meriden (751), East Hartford (729), Greenwich (697).
The fact that most of those numbers are actually fewer than when last reported was attributed by the Department of Health to the increased precision in determining confirmed cases, and that the data does not include 233 cases pending address validation.
Meanwhile, Trump has evidently shifted his focus away from the pandemic. In an interview with STAT News published earlier today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked whether he was in frequent contact with Trump on the numerous efforts at producing a vaccine.
“No,” Fauci said. “We used to have task force meetings every single day, including Saturday and Sunday, and about 75% of the time after the task force meeting, we’d meet with the president. So I was meeting with him four times a week back, a month or so ago.
“But as you probably noticed,” Fauci continued, “the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately. And certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.”
According to a Morning Consult national tracking poll, Americans’ approval of how Trump has handled the health crisis has sunk to an all-time low. Just 41% of registered voters polled on the subject between May 29-June 1 said they approved of his management of the pandemic, while 53% said they disapproved. The survey polled 1,989 registered voters and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
Morning Consult said that more Republicans and independents are moving to the “disapprove” category, while a large majority of Democrats have long disapproved of his performance.
As of this writing, there are about 1.8 million positive cases and more than 104,500 virus-related deaths in the U.S., with over 407,500 recovered. Globally, there are over 6.2 million positive cases and almost 374,000 deaths, with nearly 2.7 million recovered.