- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - As the number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to decline, Connecticut surpassed 4,000 deaths from the virus on Thursday, prompting Gov. Ned Lamont to warn residents not to become complacent about social distancing.

The Democrat said he’s worried that people are becoming “casual” about the risk of contracting the coronavirus, noting the number of tests conducted across the state is lower than he would like.

“I see the flareup in Charlotte, I see the flareups in Phoenix, Arizona, I see what’s going on around the country, along with South Korea. Israel just had to close down their schools,” he said. “Which is why we are being so careful as we reopen.”

The next major phase of reopening will happen on June 20. That’s when indoor dining at restaurants, movie theaters, tattoo parlors, spas, gyms, fitness studios and nail salons will be among the businesses allowed to open their doors. Also, the state is “targeting” June 20 to possibly allow up to 50-person outdoor events, such as weddings, said Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe. Larger events may be allowed a month later.

Given the recent protests against police brutality and the partial reopening of Connecticut’s two large tribal casinos, Lamont said the next two weeks “will be somewhat telling” in terms of whether there will be any flare-ups of the coronavirus. Geballe said the administration remains in contact with groups forecasting potential positive cases and deaths using various models, including a Yale School of Public Health researcher who warned late last month there could be thousands more deaths by September if Connecticut reopened too quickly and the amount of interactions between people is similar to early March.



“We’re not going back to that time anytime soon,” Geballe said. “We’re all going to be wearing face coverings (and) taking measures to ensure public health for the foreseeable future. And so we don’t see any of those extreme scenarios as likely, but that’s again, dependent on all of us doing our part, to wear the mask, to keep our social distance and to obey the rules.”

As of Thursday, there have been more than 43,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Connecticut and 4,007 deaths, an increase of 18 since Wednesday. Of those deaths, 2,542 were nursing home residents with confirmed or probable cases of COVID and 337 assisted living residents who had confirmed or probable cases. Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized declined by 33 to 373.

The state reports nearly 280,000 tests have been reported, an increase of about 5,000 since Wednesday. Lamont has said he wants about 100,000 tests administered weekly by the time Connecticut begins the second phase of reopening, planned for June 20.

For most people, the virus causes 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 or lead to death.

In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:

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FRONT-LINE WORKERS

Connecticut lawmakers, front-line workers and others on Thursday called on the General Assembly and the governor to do more to help and protect those who’ve provided essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time for us to act,” said Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, chairman of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, told a crowd that gathered on the state Capitol steps.

The requests are wide-ranging. There were calls for hazard pay for front-line workers and presumptive eligiblity for workers compensation benefits. Also, some health care workers and employees at highway rest stops said they still lack personal protective equipment or PPE.

Lamont said the state has secured enough PPE for nursing home workers and his administration is “having conversations” about worker’s compensation benefits and other COVID-related issues.

No specific date has been set for the planned special legislative session, but lawmakers are considering June or early July.

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REIMBURSING CITIES AND TOWNS

Lamont announced Thursday that Connecticut plans to set aside $75 million from a $1.48 billion allotment it’s receiving from the federal government to help reimburse the cities and towns for their COVID-related expenses. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities noted the amount is “far less than the amount recommended by the federal government.”

But Melissa McCaw, Lamont’s budget director, noted the $75 million will ultimately leverage additional funding - about $200 million to $250 million - for municipalities through a matching program with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Besides the money for cities and towns, the state is spending $125 million of the $1.48 billion to help nursing homes; $250 million on COVID testing; $100 million on PPE; at least $65 million for increased state agency costs; $25 million for higher education expenses; and $10 million for housing services. The state has received other allotments from the federal government as well.

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MORTGAGE RELIEF

More than 45 banks and credit unions in Connecticut have agreed to extend their participation in the CT Mortgage Relief Program, which helps consumers facing financial hardships during the pandemic. The program was set to expire on May 31. It will now run through July 30.

“While the state continues its progress towards safely reopening, Connecticut residents continue to be impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic,” said Lamont, in a written statement.

Provisions such as a 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments, no new foreclosures for 60 days, and no credit score changes for those who access the relief, will continue through July 30. The mortgage relief program only applies only to mortgages owned by the participating banks and credit unions.

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