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New COVID-19 cases inch up, hospitalizations hold steady

The office of Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday reported an additional 101 COVID-19 cases, five deaths, two hospitalizations and 8,171 coronavirus tests performed over the previous day, bringing the totals to 47,209 cases, 4,348 deaths, 90 hospitalizations and 543,636 tests.

By comparison, day-over-day reported cases were up 57 on Tuesday and 75 on Wednesday, while hospitalizations were respectively up 14 and five. Tuesday was the first day since March with no new coronavirus-related deaths, and Wednesday saw five deaths.

In New London County, the number of confirmed cases reported rose by 11 to 1,257, while probable cases remained unchanged at 62. Also unchanged were confirmed and probable related deaths, at 76 and 26, respectively, and hospitalizations, at three.

In his briefing Thursday, Lamont indicated he's not concerned about changes in numbers but said a red flag would be if numbers went up suddenly "like a hockey stick." But, he said, "we're not going to let that happen."

The governor also highlighted Connecticut's change in real gross domestic product from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, numbers the Bureau of Economic Analysis released Tuesday. It declined in all 50 states but Connecticut's 4.6% decrease was the smallest decrease in New England.

Lamont attributed that in part to keeping manufacturing and construction open.

State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona was on the call, and spoke about wanting to work with teachers who have concerns and fears about reopening schools in the fall. The department is conducting a survey to see how many students plan on returning to in-person classrooms, and he expects the results to be out in two or three weeks.

Lamont reinstates Small Town Economic Assistance Program

The governor's office also announced in a news release Thursday that Lamont is reinstating the Small Town Economic Assistance Program, which funds infrastructure improvements for towns ineligible for urban action bonds. The program has been inactive since 2016.

Lamont is opening a new round of grants totaling $15 million in an effort to help towns with their COVID-19 response, the news release said. A special provision in this round will support towns with expenditures related to construction and renovation of facilities that is part of their pandemic response.

"Simply put, some of our small towns need to modernize their infrastructure so that we can support efforts to grow the economy but lack the property tax base they need to fully fund these projects on their own," Lamont said.

The grants can cover costs for land, design, architectural planning and contract services. The governor's office said the application period begins July 13, towns must apply by Aug. 14 and projects should be announced in mid-September.

The Connecticut Council of Small Towns applauded the move.

Executive Director Betsy Gara said in a news release that STEAP grants are "critical to assisting the state's smaller communities in revitalizing main streets and downtowns, upgrading critical infrastructure, and enhancing parks and other community facilities."

e.moser@theday.com




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