Connecticut's COVID-19 toll climbs to 875, including 19 fatalities, Lamont says

Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday the "incredibly infectious" coronavirus had been detected in another 257 state residents since the previous day, raising Connecticut's toll to 875 while claiming seven more lives.

One of the newly confirmed cases involved a Lyme resident, Lyme First Selectman Steven Mattson announced shortly before the governor's daily briefing.

"The first thing I want to say, on behalf of the entire Lyme community, is that our thoughts and prayers for a complete recovery are with this individual, their family and their loved ones," Mattson said in a statement.

Overall, nine of the state's cases involve New London County residents, including two hospitalizations. Those numbers did not appear to include the Lyme case, nor a case in Groton and another in the Department of Correction, both announced Wednesday night.

Groton Town police on Wednesday evening posted on social media that a 60-year-woman is the second confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in the town.

"While it is certainly noteworthy to have another positive case, I want to remind everyone that there are likely others in our community that have not been diagnosed or tested," Groton Town Manager John Burt said in the message. "If you must go out, please practice social distancing by keeping a 6 (foot) buffer between you and others." He urged anyone who had recently arrived in town from New York to self-isolate at home or in a hotel for two weeks. "Those self-isolating should stay home, and not go to work, classes, or social gatherings for those 14 days."

DOC said Wednesday that a staff member at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Montville informed the department that he tested positive for the virus. The employee last entered the Radgowski section of the prison on March 21, and for that day and four days prior had minimal contact with inmates, DOC said. To date, no other staff or employee at the Montville facility has tested positive, according to the DOC.

The department announced its first staff member with the virus earlier this week, an employee assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. On Monday, DOC began screening everyone who enters its facilities and said it is denying access to anyone with a fever of 100.4 or greater. 

Nineteen people in the state have succumbed to COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, most of them older than 75 years of age, according to the governor. Twelve of the fatalities have involved Fairfield County residents.

"The rate of infection is up and we're not doing quite as many tests right now," the governor said. "We're still looking to do everything we can to make sure we have the reagents and the other devices we need to make the tests go, the PPE (personal protective equipment), so that's slowed just a little bit. But we're trying to do everything we can to add capacity."

The State Public Health Laboratory reported that it had tested 1,265 patients, with 180, or 14% of them, testing positive. Hospital and commercial laboratories also are providing testing. In total, nearly 6,000 tests have been reported to the state.

Earlier Wednesday, Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare's chief clinical officer, told reporters 27 COVID-19 patients were being treated in the Hartford HealthCare system, which includes The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. The largest number of patients, 17, had been admitted to Hartford Hospital, Kumar said.

No COVID-19 patients were being treated at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, which took samples from another 56 patients at its drive-up collection site Wednesday, a hospital spokesman said.

Lamont said the state had opened a field hospital in Danbury and that hospitals around the state were expanding capacity by postponing elective surgeries and repurposing space. He said many in the state were coming forward with offers of help, including a parachute-manufacturer that was being enlisted to design protective gear for health care workers and a Litchfield distiller that was providing free hand sanitizer.

More than just health concerns

Turning to the economic fallout from the pandemic, the governor said calls to the state's coronavirus 211 hotline increasingly centered on economic fears. He said people were worried about lost income, lost jobs and lost businesses.

Connecticut and the other states are starting to sift through the $2 trillion aid package Congress approved, which includes $100 billion for hospitals, $30 billion for education and $150 billion in block grants to the states, each of which will receive at least $1.25 billion, Lamont said.

David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, outlined the state's plan to target 5,000 small businesses of up to 100 employees, providing them with no-interest loans that won't have to be repaid for 18 months. The idea, Lehman said, is to provide businesses with enough cash to cover three months of payroll, rent and other operating expenses. He said funds would be disbursed through local banks.

Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist, said 10% of Connecticut's population, which would be about 350,000 people, could become infected with the coronavirus over the next eight weeks. He said modeling is being done to predict how many of those infected would be likely to require hospitalization.

Slowing the spread of disease through social distancing, or people keeping at least 6 feet of physical space between themselves and others, and other recommended measures should decrease the number of cases, he said.

Day Staff Writers Karen Florin and Kimberly Drelich contributed to this report.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com




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