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Lamont reports 24 more virus deaths since Saturday, four more EB cases

Gov. Ned Lamont reported Sunday afternoon that another 24 people have died from COVID-19 since Saturday and another 399 have tested positive for the virus.

The state reported 5,675 confirmed cases along with 1,142 hospitalizations, an increase of 109 since Saturday, and a total of 189 deaths. 

In New London County there was some good news as the number of confirmed cases, 57, and the number of hospitalizations, 10, remained the same. There was, however, one more death, raising the number to 4 in the county. 

Earlier Sunday, Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said that Ledge Light Health District has informed her that a 66-year-old man from the Pawcatuck section of town who died Thursday due to another health issue was later found to have been positive for COVID-19.

Chesebrough said the man's death is being termed "COVID-19 related." New London Mayor Michael Passero also said Sunday that Ledge Light had informed him of the death.  

The man died at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital after initially being taken to Westerly Hospital, Chesebrough said. 

It is the second Stonington death reported as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ledge Light on Friday confirmed the death of a 94-year-old Stonington man.

New London continues to have the most cases in the region with 11, followed by Stonington with six, Groton, Norwich and Waterford with five each, and Colchester with four. The other towns have between one and three cases, with North Stonington, Salem and Sprague having no confirmed cases. 

Coast Guard Academy spokesman Dave Milne said Sunday that a fifth cadet has now tested positive for the virus. The 20-year-old cadet, in his third year, had been on a spring break trip to the Netherlands and Spain. He is now in self quarantine at his home in Washington state. 

Lamont also signed a new executive order that protects health care professionals and facilities, including nursing homes and field hospitals, from lawsuits for acts or ommission undertaken in good faith to support the state's response to the virus. State law already provides similar protections for first responders.

The order also protects people who are uninsured or are treated by an out-of-network emergency services health care provider from "surprise bills and other significant costs." 

Electric Boat cases increase

On Sunday, Electric Boat President Kevin Graney told employees that the submarine builder now has 10 confirmed cases, four more than on Friday when the company announced that it had six cases. In his email, Graney referenced two new cases in Groton since his last report to employees.

Graney said one employee "works in Building 4 and has not been on company property since March 13. Our incident response team contacted employees who work near the individual or who came into close contact when this individual was reported sick. Because this individual has been out of the shipyard for more than three weeks, the risk for infection to others is considered minimal."

Graney said the "second individual works in building 7 and has not been on company property since April 2. This individual works in their own office and had minimal contact with others."

Graney tested positive for the virus on Friday after he said he developed a low-grade fever and nasal congestion. 

Graney told employees that since the pandemic began, "we’ve been modifying the way we work to keep you safe while we continue with our critical mission as shipbuilders. We’ve implemented social distancing protocols, enabled work from home for more than 2,000 of us, and implemented alternate work schedules including a second shift in New London to help spread our people out. Over the last week, we’ve been making preparations to dramatically reduce the number of people in the Groton shipyard. This plan will be put into place over the Easter weekend and will consist of blue and gold teams that will help spread us out even further. The Operations team is working through the details and I will provide you with an update in the coming days."

He added that the change will require a significant amount of planning and coordination.

"We’ve worked on this plan with our Union partners, who continue to work alongside us to prioritize the health and safety of all employees while delivering on our critical mission," he said going on to decribe two construction milestones slated for the coming week. "These are just two examples of work going on throughout our business as we confront this global pandemic together. Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication through this incredibly difficult time."

Graney also said that all employees should feel welcome to wear a face covering and the CDC offers some guidance on how to make one using household items.

"Last week, in advance of this new CDC guidance, I directed our safety team to procure additional masks that could be issued for use. We’ve ordered dust masks that cannot be used for production work or by health care workers. As you can imagine, these masks are in very high demand and we do not expect masks in sufficient quantities for about 10 more days. When these masks are received, we will make them available to as many employees as possible. We are also evaluating the use of our own sail loft to manufacture masks. We’re assembling some material now and I expect to be able to provide you with more information in the coming days," he wrote.

"We will continue to supply masks to production employees who cannot, by virtue of their work, maintain a safe social distance or who work in a setting where a mask is, under normal circumstances, required. These masks are approved by occupational health experts for use in production settings. They are in short supply and must be reserved for those team members who are required to wear one," he said.

"Be safe, stay healthy and please continue to take care of yourselves and your teammates," concluded Graney.

The submarine builder, like defense contractors across the country, has been deemed an essential business by both the federal and state governments. The company has about 17,000 employees, the majority of whom work in Connecticut.

Dozens of employees at EB have reached out to The Day in recent weeks to criticize what they see as slow action by the company in response to the virus, including poor communication at the outset, not doing enough to separate people who work in tight quarters, a sluggish rollout of work-from-home policies and difficulty getting approval from supervisors to work remotely.

Many of the employees said they have not noticed an increase in cleaning practices, despite the company saying it was doing so at "high touch points" such as door knobs and work surfaces. A lot of the employees also said they felt the company is placing business before the health and safety of its employees.

Staff writers Greg Smith and Julia Bergman contributed to this story.







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