Lamont says 415 state residents have tested positive for coronavirus, 10 dead

An additional 88 people in Connecticut have tested positive for COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and two more residents have died from complications related to the virus.

The number of positive cases in the state grew from 327 Sunday to 415, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday during his daily briefing on Connecticut's response to the pandemic. The number of fatalities grew from eight people to 10 over the same period.

Locally, there are four confirmed cases in East Lyme, Norwich, Montville and Stonington and fifth having been announced by Groton Town Police via Facebook. The latest case, in Stonington, involves a 72-year-old woman, according to First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough. It is unclear why the Groton case was not included Monday on the town-by-town update released by the state.

As of Lamont's 4 p.m. briefing, 4,500 people had been tested for the virus - 900 more since Sunday.

The increase in positive cases reflects both a ramp up in testing and the growing infection rate in the state, Lamont said.

The number of hospitalizations also continues to rise. Fifty-four people were hospitalized due to the virus as of Lamont's briefing. Lamont said current estimates show that about 15 percent of people who get infected with the virus end up hospitalized. Of those, about 5 percent require intensive care.

One bit of good news, Lamont said, is that hospitals are reporting the average time spent in the intensive care unit, or ICU, to be about two weeks whereas in China, where the first cases were reported, tended to be four weeks.

Dr. Matthew Carter, the top epidemiologist for the state Department of Public Health, said early results show that of those tested for COVID-19, only about 12% have tested positive.

"We're going through a lot of tests to get to that one," Carter said at Monday's briefing.

The majority of people getting tested are between 30 and 50 years old, he said, whereas those being hospitalized due to the virus tend to be between the ages of 50 and 80.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death.

The first priority continues to be to test people who need to be hospitalized as a result of the virus, Carter said, given the availability of tests and the limited supply of personal protective equipment, such as masks, N95 respirators, and gowns, at hospitals across the country. 

Carter said if someone has a fever and a bad cough, the assumption should be that the person has COVID-19. They should stay home and not get tested, unless their symptoms worsen. If hospital supplies need to be further rationed, Carter said "we will need to ration them for people hospitalized and those taking care of them and discourage outpatient testing." Though, he said, we're not there yet.  

Lamont said the state has identified 2,000 nursing home beds that could be made available to treat people infected by the virus. The state is also working with colleges to use dormitories on their campuses, now vacant since school is out indefinitely, for the intermediate care of patients who are out of hospital and intensive care units. The state is also seeking out hospital gear and equipment. Lamont urged the federal government to provide these supplies to "hot spots" such as New York City, Westchester County in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut, prioritizing region not one state over another.

Officials are harping on social distancing and other mitigation efforts to slow down the spread of the virus and to help prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, Lamont ordered all nonessential businesses in the state to close. David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Eocnomic and Community Development, said his agency has received several hundred requests for exemptions to that order. Staff is processing those requests and the goal is to provide general recommendations across industries, Lehman said.

In southeastern Connecticut, more testing is being done.

Dr. Kevin Torres, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s associate chief medical officer, said that by the end of operations Monday, he expected L+M’s drive-up specimen collection site to have taken swabs from some 250 patients since opening last Tuesday, including 50 Monday.

Five of the samples have come back positive, he said, adding that L+M is not currently treating any patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“People can be sick and not need to be hospitalized,” he said. “All of those who tested positive felt well enough to isolate at home.”

He said the state Department of Health is monitoring COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized, contacting them daily.

Westerly Hospital opened a collection site Monday and started taking samples from the hospital’s health care workers, as ordered by the Rhode Island Department of Health, according to Torres, who said other sites in Rhode Island are available to take samples from Rhode Island residents.

A physician associated with Westerly Hospital who tested positive for COVID-19 is “doing fine,” Torres said. In addition to the L+M and Westerly collection sites, Yale New Haven Health is operating drive-up stations at Bridgeport, Greenwich and Yale New Haven hospitals and expected to have collected samples of some 450 patients by the end of operations Monday.

Torres said the L+M collection site handled about 35 patients a day over the weekend and that demand for the service remains high. He said the site is booking appointments “a day or two out,” and that results are coming back within 48 hours. Most of the samples L+M takes are being sent to Quest Laboratories in California and, more recently, a Quest site in Chantilly, Va.

L+M hopes to be able to do its own testing in about two weeks, Torres said.

In a streamed press conference Monday morning, Dr. Jim Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical integration officer, said Hartford HealthCare had tested more than 1,000 patients, with 43 of them positive for COVID-19. Twelve of the positive patients are hospitalized at Hartford HealthCare’s seven hospitals, one of which is The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, though Cardon would not identify which ones.

He would not provide details of the patients, including age, gender, town of residence or condition. Cardon said Hartford HealthCare had experienced the first COVID-19 fatality “under our care,” calling it “a profound moment.”

As of 8 p.m. Monday, the state Department of Correction announced one of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19, the first for the department.

The employee was assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown and has been self-monitoring at home since March 18, the DOC said in a statement. The individual, whose name is being withheld, received confirmation of the positive test results on Monday. The affected individual last entered the Garner Correctional Institution on March 17.

The DOC said its health care administration will work in close collaboration with the state’s Department of Public Health to ensure all proper protocols are being followed, and to make sure staff are informed of any new developments.

Effective Monday, all individuals will have to pass a wellness screening, including temperature check, prior to being allowed to enter a Department of Correction facility.An individual with a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be allowed access a DOC facility.

To date, the DOC said no other staff member or inmates at the Garner Correctional Institution has shown symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus.

Day Staff Writers Brian Hallenbeck and Greg Smith contributed to this report.



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