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Connecticut designates more communities as virus hot zones

New data showing that about 70% of Connecticut residents now live in communities experiencing spikes in coronavirus infections led Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday to give more municipal leaders the option of reverting back to the state's second phase of reopening, under which there are more restrictions.

The Democrat acknowledged being dismayed to see the state's positivity rate climb since Wednesday, calling it a “gut punch” for a state that has worked hard to do “the right thing for a long time” to control spread of the virus.

“I think we know what we’ve got to do to get through this. We’re going to see some progress on a local basis, and I hope we can take that statewide," Lamont said, referring to the local rollbacks, as well as weekly testing of nursing home staffers and other measures. “Obviously, we’re a small state in a big region and a lot of things are going on, but we are going to manage our way through this.”

The latest average positivity rate in Connecticut is 2.58%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Connecticut, The Associated Press calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project from Oct. 14-28.

Lamont's office on Thursday reported a one-day, 6.1% increase since Wednesday. The governor said he didn't believe it was an outlier.

“It’s a one-day number, but I think the trend line is clear. The trend line in our state is clear and our region is clear and our country is clear,” he said, adding that he was “not an alarmist” and believed the number will decline.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Connecticut has risen over the past two weeks from 1.5% on Oct. 14 to 2.58% on Oct. 28.

As of Thursday, the number of hospitalizations increased by 12 to 321 since Wednesday while the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by five to 4,609.

The governor’s office reported Thursday evening that New London County has seen 3,660 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far, an increase of 40 cases from data reported Wednesday, and 105 probable cases, an increase of 10. Confirmed and probable deaths related to the disease in the county remained the same at 106 and 34, respectively. Hospitalizations for the disease in the county decreased by four to 18.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had 11 COVID-19 patients Thursday, while Westerly Hospital had four.

Lamont said he is allowing leaders of cities and towns with 10 to 14 positive cases per a population of 100,000 people, the benchmark for an “orange alert,” to roll back the third phase of reopening just like communities with more 15 or more cases per 100,000 people, or “red alert” cities or towns. There are now 30 municipalities on red alert, with a big grouping in eastern Connecticut, and 53 on orange alert.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said monitoring of city sewage helped to identify a spike in cases in his city which is now on red alert, prompting him to extend remote learning indefinitely for students instead of going hybrid Nov. 9. Also, he plans to revert to the more strict capacity limits for restaurants and businesses and close City Hall offices next Wednesday.

“It is quite clear that most of the cases we’re seeing are driven by adults making sloppy decisions and adults in particular gathering in small groups, where they put each other at risk and put the larger community at risk because of it," he said.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced his city will also roll back to earlier restrictions for businesses, institute a curfew policy and deter gatherings.

Lamont said he has been talking to neighboring governors about working together on restrictions for restaurants and businesses, as well as winter sports, including youth hockey. Also, concerned about large gatherings at some restaurants in Connecticut, Lamont hinted the state might get tougher with those who violate the rules.

Legal Immunity

Despite calls from the Connecticut branch of AARP and others, Lamont said Thursday he is “inclined” to again extend his executive order, which provides civil immunity to nursing homes and hospitals for “actions or omissions in support of the state's COVID-19 response.” It is slated to expire Nov. 9.

“My instinct is right now, given all the complexity in and around a second round of COVID, I’d be inclined to extend that immunity,” he said.



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