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UPDATE: Connecticut reporting 194 COVID-19 cases, including first involving New London County resident

Thirty-five additional COVID-19 cases since the previous day brought the state's total to 194 on Friday, including the first case involving a southeastern Connecticut resident, a 44-year-old East Lyme woman.

A fourth fatality also was reported Friday, a Fairfield County resident.

In addition, Westerly Hospital announced a physician associated with the hospital had tested positive and was being monitored at home.

Gov. Ned Lamont delivered the Connecticut update during a news conference in Hartford, adding that 40 of the state's infected patients were currently hospitalized, and the state was conducting close to 1,000 tests a day, far more than the 20 a day it had been weeks ago.

"The number of infections reported is a reflection of the fact that more people are infected, and also a big reflection of the fact that we're testing so many more people," he said. 

The governor called for all nonessential businesses to close, announcing a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" policy aimed at ensuring social distancing. The policy, similar to those being put in place in New York and other states, calls for residents, particularly those over the age of 70, to remain at home and for retail businesses to close. Lamont said grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations can stay open. Major construction projects, such as school projects, can continue, he said, and major manufacturing facilities, including defense contractors, can continue to operate.

He said he had discussed the situation with the likes of Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat and had urged them to send home all nonessential workers and enforce social distancing among those who keep working.

"It's tough medicine, the right medicine," Lamont said.

The governor said his office has been working closely with hospitals as they prepare for an expected onslaught of COVID-19 patients. He acknowledged that they will have to cope with a nationwide shortage of respirators, gowns, gloves and other protective gear worn by doctors, nurses and other health care workers. He said Connecticut has received a small allocation of such equipment from the federal government and has distributed it to hospitals.

"If company out there that has access to PPE (personal protective gear), we'll buy it if we can. We'll pay top price," he said. "If any company has the ability to manufacture the equipment, we'll order it"

In New London, Dr. Oliver Mayorga, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's chief medical officer, said L+M's supplies of protective gear were sufficient for now. L+M is not currently treating any COVID-19 patients, a circumstance that's expected to dramatically change, he said.

"We are preparing for an increased amount of COVID-19 patients, which requires that we maintain supplies until we start seeing them," Mayorga said.

L+M nurses who declined to speak on the record said many were working without such protective gear as N95 respirator masks that protect the wearer from airborne particles and liquids.

East Lyme woman, cadet test positive

The East Lyme woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is the first confirmed case reported within the jurisdiction of Ledge Light Health District, the local health department for nine southeastern Connecticut municipalities.

"Positive cases of COVID-19 within our jurisdiction have been expected, as community transmission of the virus continues to occur in Connecticut," Stephen Mansfield, Ledge Light's director of health, said in announcing the case, which was confirmed by the state Department of Public Health. "LLHD staff will assure that all appropriate CDC protocols regarding positive cases and potential contacts are followed."

Additionally, a Coast Guard Academy announced that a cadet who traveled to Europe over spring break has tested positive for the disease.

The 20-year-old male, who is in his third year at the academy, was visiting Spain with six other cadets and a civilian friend when they were ordered to return to the U.S. after President Donald Trump's suspension on European travel. The civilian also tested positive for the virus and arrangements are being made to test the other cadets, who are not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.

Upon returning home to Florida from Europe, the male cadet became symptomatic and sought treatment and screening. He is self-quarantining at home. The other cadets who were traveling with him also are quarantined at their respective homes.

All cadets are required to inform the academy if they test positive for the virus.

As of Friday, the academy only had the one positive case. However, the number of cadets, faculty and staff who are self-monitoring has spiked from six people two days ago to 56 people as of Thursday, Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly said in a video message Friday. "Folks, this is real. We know that. We see that across the nation and as the nation begins to ramp up the testing and the evaluations that are being done, we're going to see those numbers continue to go up," he said.

"Our thoughts and wishes for a full and speedy recovery are with these cadets, their friend, and their families. The academy's medical staff will be in daily contact to ensure the well-being of our cadets and the local health department is fully aware and engaged in treatment and monitoring of these cases," Kelly said.

Cadets have not been on campus since earlier this month. Their spring break started March 9, and they were ordered by Kelly on March 13 to remain home for additional two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. On Friday, Kelly announced that cadets should not return to campus at the end of the month, and that he would provide more information early next week. Faculty has been working to enable remote and online training and learning starting Monday, he said.

In the case of the physician associated with Westerly Hospital, Patrick Green, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement, "Westerly Hospital is well prepared and has taken every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all patients, staff and employees. As part of Yale New Haven Health, Westerly Hospital also has access to some of the nation's leading specialists in the field of infectious diseases and prevention."

Green asked that the privacy of the physician be respected "during this challenging time."

Ledge Light said its main objective is to slow the speed of the virus.

"The single best way to slow the speed is to practice social distancing. LLHD recommends that all individuals limit any unnecessary person-to-person contact until further notice," Mansfield said.

Ledge Light is working with local and state partners to prepare for widespread community transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Residents and businesses are urged to access up-to-date information from reputable sources, including Ledge Light's website, llhd.org, and its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Day Staff Writer Julia Bergman contributed to this report.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com 


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