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Stonington man dies from COVID-19 as cases in the state soar

Connecticut's COVID-19 cases shot up by 1,091 Friday, with Gov. Ned Lamont's office attributing the spike in the number to a catch-up in data entry and the Department of Public Health's implementation of new reporting methods.

"This increase does not reflect a change in the trajectory of the outbreak," the governor's office said in its daily coronavirus report.

Nevertheless, Lamont told reporters at his daily briefing at the state Capitol that the state's 4,915 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than half of them involving Fairfield County residents, were evidence that southwestern Connecticut qualifies as a "hot spot" of the disease and worthy of greater federal assistance.

Twenty additional deaths associated with the disease were reported Friday, bringing Connecticut's toll to 132. New London County's count grew to 40 cases and three deaths, up from 29 cases and one death the day before.

A 94-year-old Stonington man has died of COVID-19, the first such death in the town, Ledge Light Health District confirmed Friday afternoon. It wasn't clear where the third death occurred.

"I know I am joined by many when saying our thoughts and prayers are with this individual along with his family and friends," Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said in a news release from Ledge Light. "As we mourn this loss, we ask all residents to please continue to take every possible step you can to keep yourselves and each other safe."

Ledge Light Director of Health Steve Mansfield said the death is "a sad reminder of the need for adherence to social distancing measures; it is crucial in helping to reduce the spread of the virus and limit the number of people who are infected."

The death was the first to occur in the jurisdiction of Ledge Light, which covers East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington and Waterford.

Norwich reported its third person to test positive for COVID-19, a woman in her 30s, City Manager John Salomone said. A 43-year-old Norwich man had died of the virus earlier this week, the county's first death connected with the pandemic.

Earlier Friday, Groton Town Police said Ledge Light had confirmed another positive case of COVID-19 in Groton, a 22-year-old woman.

"Positive cases of COVID-19 within our jurisdiction have been expected, as community transmission of the virus continues to occur in Connecticut," a Ledge Light Facebook post states. "LLHD staff will assure that all appropriate DPH protocols regarding positive cases and potential contacts are followed."

The police previously announced positive cases of COVID-19 in Groton, the first a 52-year-old woman announced on March 22; the second a 60-year-old woman announced on March 25; and the third a 57-year-old man announced last Friday.

Separately, Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold announced his town now has three confirmed cases. If residents must go to the store, he urged them to send one family member, follow social distancing protocols and consider using gloves.

Electric Boat's President Kevin Graney announced in a companywide memo Friday that six employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, one of the employees works at a Navy facility in South Carolina, another works at the EB's facility in Quonset Point, R.I., and the rest are Groton-based employees. The company announced its first confirmed case Tuesday.

"By adhering to social distancing and practicing good self-protection, we can help to keep everyone who works at or supports Electric Boat safe and healthy, while we meet our obligation to continue our work as an essential part of our nation’s defense," Graney said in the memo.

Projecting needs and calling for volunteers

Lamont displayed graphs based on projections of the county-by-county dates of anticipated hospitalizations in the state, curves that mitigation efforts are supposed to "flatten." He said the varying apexes, or peaks in the curves indicated where the state's needs — hospital beds, ventilators and other equipment — would be greatest.

While the number of hospitalizations in Fairfield County, where the coronavirus outbreak first showed up in Connecticut early last month, could peak in late April, the high point of a much flatter curve representing eastern Connecticut is projected to occur nearly a month later.

"It's a good time to be in eastern Connecticut," Lamont said.

The region's outlook reflects the greater time it's had to practice social distancing and take other precautions, but mostly its population density, which is far less than Fairfield County's.

At the statewide peak of the outbreak, Connecticut could need up to 12,000 hospital beds and 4,000 ventilators, according to the governor. The state has about 7,000 beds, about 4,000 of which are ready to accommodate COVID-19 patients. More beds could be provided by nursing homes whose infected residents could be moved to facilities designated for that purpose.

According to Friday's coronavirus report, 48 of the state's 216 nursing homes have had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19; 221 nursing home residents have tested positive for the disease, with 80 requiring hospitalization. Twenty-three have died.

In southeastern Connecticut, residents of Harbor Village Health and Rehabilitation in New London and Bayview Health Care in Waterford have tested positive.

The state has a little more than 1,000 ventilators at its disposal, having received 50 of them Friday in a shipment from the federal government. State manufacturers are ramping up production of the machines, Lamont said.

First responders in state Region 4, which covers most of New London and Windham counties, on Friday received deliveries of protective masks and gowns from the national stockpile. Departments picked up their allotments at the distribution point at American Ambulance in Norwich. Norwich Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Merchant, who attended the distribution, said the NFD received a case of 30 gowns and a case of 30 masks.

Testing for COVID-19 has picked up following a lull, with state companies helping to improve the technology involved. Abbot Laboratories has come up with a test that provides results within 15 minutes and has made it available at Stamford Hospital, Lamont said.

While the state has sought out volunteers with health care experience, Lamont on Friday urged residents to volunteer at food banks, homeless shelters and services that provide deliveries to the elderly.

"During times like this, it is critical that we come together as a community — as a family — and support our neighbors in this response effort," he said in a statement. "Our frontline providers at food banks, meal delivery services and shelters need extra help right now, and this is why we are asking for more volunteers to step forward."

Volunteers must be 18 or older, the governor said, and no one should volunteer who is over 60, showing symptoms of COVID-19 or lives with or cares for someone in either of those categories.

Day Staff Writers Erica Moser, Kimberly Drelich, Claire Bessette and Julia Bergman contributed to this report.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com







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