New London County reaches 57 confirmed cases of COVID-19; state death toll is at 165
The number of COVID-19 cases swelled yet again Friday into Saturday afternoon, with Gov. Ned Lamont announcing that 5,276 state residents have tested positive for the disease and 165 people have died from it.
The new numbers showed an additional 362 state residents tested positive and an additional 33 died compared with totals released Friday. About 1,033 patients have been hospitalized.
In New London County, there were 57 confirmed cases as of Saturday, the governor’s office said, and 10 hospitalizations. The total of three deaths was unchanged from the previous day.
Groton City police announced Saturday morning that two city residents tested positive for the disease: a 39-year-old woman and 53-year-old woman. They did not have severe symptoms and were directed to self-quarantine as per the recommendation of the Ledge Light Health District, according to a news release from the police.
"Although these are our initial cases, they are unlikely to be our last," the release said. "We respectfully request of our residents to continue to socially distance, and keep our transmission low."
Groton Town police also announced the two city cases Saturday and said additionally that Ledge Light confirmed a 34-year-old man had tested positive for the virus. Town police said Ledge Light confirmed Friday that a 22-year-old woman had the disease, and earlier announced cases involving a 52-year-old woman on March 22; the second, a 60-year-old woman, on March 25; and the third, a 57-year-old man, on March 27.
Also on Saturday, Electric Boat’s President Kevin Graney announced he had tested positive for the disease.
In Waterford, a third case was confirmed at Bayview Health Care nursing home. Family members of facility residents received an email Saturday morning indicating staff members were notified Friday night that the resident has tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. It did not identify the patient's age or gender.
"This diagnosis brings the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections to 3 residents," the email said. "Two of them are hospitalized at this time, and this newly diagnosed resident is isolated and being cared for in the building.
An additional eight residents at the 127-bed facility have been tested, and Bayview is awaiting results from the state laboratory, according to the email.
A spokesman for the nursing home's parent company, Athena Health Care Systems, previously had said it would not be commenting on each new diagnosis of COVID-19.
As of Thursday, 48 of the state's 216 nursing homes have had at least one confirmed case, according to the state Department of Public Health. Eighty nursing home residents had been hospitalized statewide, and 23 died.
Area nursing homes with confirmed cases include Bayview and Harbor Village Health and Rehabilitation in New London, according to a list published this past Wednesday by the governor. Updated information was not available Saturday.
Lamont announced this past week that the state is planning to dedicate specific nursing homes to housing and treating COVID-19 patients. On Friday, he said the state would be providing an additional $600 per day in Medicaid payments per patient served to nursing homes that specialize in COVID-19 treatment. He indicated all nursing homes would be receiving a 10% increase in Medicaid payments to help meet the costs from this public health emergency.
The payment increase will be applied to employee wages, including staff retention bonuses, overtime and shift incentive payments, and to new costs related to screening of visitors, personal protective equipment, and cleaning and housekeeping supplies.
Staff members at Bayview said the facility is offering staff an additional $100 in hazard pay per shift.
Adjusting to social distancing
Saturday was the first sunny weekend day since Lamont issued an executive order authorizing the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to limit parking capacity at popular state parks and prohibiting walk-in visitors when parks are full, in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
DEEP had to turn away visitors from Bluff Point State Park in Groton, Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, Kent Falls State Park in Kent, Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and Squantz Pond State Park in Fairfield. As the parks closed, DEEP tweeted the information on the CTStateParks Twitter account.
DEEP Chief of Staff Lee Sawyer said by phone that a strong presence of park staff and Environmental Conservation Police was ensuring visitors practiced social distancing. DEEP will continue to evaluate the new procedures.
"For the most part, our observations are that people are coming in small groups and observing social distance," Sawyer said. "We're hopeful we're able to keep this opportunity for people to stretch their legs and get fresh air."
Connecticut has 110 state parks and 32 state forests, and Sawyer said visitors who arrive at a park that is full should consider another location. A full list of the state parks is available on DEEP's website, portal.ct.gov/deep.
The state Tourism Office has shifted its focus from its usual promotional activities to stress the governor’s order for residents to “Stay Safe, Stay Home.” To that end, CTVisit.com is featuring a number of activities that residents can do either in secluded locations or virtually from their own homes. This includes a list of restaurants, breweries and vineyards that are offering takeout and delivery services, and a collection of resources about Connecticut landmarks, museums and other attractions that provides educational opportunities for children while schools are closed.
The governor’s office said Saturday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency notified the state that it had approved the Lamont administration’s request to make less congested housing for domestic violence survivors eligible for reimbursement. It also will allow the reimbursement of 75% of costs associated with providing housing for first responders and health care workers who temporarily need a place to stay separate from their families, and for those who are homeless.
Demand for food remains high
As of Friday afternoon, Connecticut's public schools have served more than one million meals under the emergency meals programs, the governor's office said, with a total of 128 districts serving food at 407 locations.
Waterford officials and volunteers were collecting food donations Saturday at Town Hall. The event was hosted by First Selectman Rob Brule and Waterford Youth & Family Services to help the organization replenish the town's Interfaith Food Locker. Brule said the people wanted to do something to help their neighbors and the Board of Selectmen decided a drive-thru and drop-off food drive would be a good controlled environment for collecting donations. He thought the event would give people a sense of togetherness at a time when we are all practicing to be alone.
Saturday was the third and final week of the food drive. Over the past three weeks, it has provided over 1,000 meals and has been barely keeping up with demand. People still can make donations by dropping items off at the Youth and Family Services office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Day Staff Photographer Dana Jensen contributed to this report.
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