Saturday, February 24, 2024


Health and Fitness

A COVID Surprise: Reopening Can Be Harder Than Closing

By Mark Pazniokas

The governor is getting squeezed from both sides of a new divide in politics: Connecticut was surprisingly unified on the question of closing schools and stores in the interest of public health, but Lamont’s incremental easing of restrictions, beginning May 20, are criticized as both too much and too little.

“I appreciate the ongoing concern that people have, but I think we’ve got the right balance going forward,” Lamont said today. “Right now, I think you have a sense we put public health and public safety first and foremost. And whatever we do, we’re doing very cautiously.”

Democratic state senators, including two who have appeared with Lamont at his daily briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic, released a letter today challenging whether the state is ready for what Lamont calls “baby steps” to a new normalcy.

“Reopening is essential – but to do it while the first wave of the pandemic is still raging will not lead to a second wave, it will simply add fuel to the first wave, delaying our eventual recovery,” wrote the nine lawmakers.

Coleman-Mitchell is Out as Commissioner of Public Health

By Mark Pazniokas

Gov. Ned Lamont has removed Renée Coleman-Mitchell as commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, a reflection of concerns that first arose last year during a school vaccination controversy and came to a head during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Image
Renée Coleman-Mitchell at the news conference in March when the governor declared a public health emergency. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for

The governor’s office announced her abrupt exit in a press release today that offered no characterization of her departure, neither calling it a firing or a resignation. But sources acknowledged the departure was sought, making her the first of Lamont’s top appointees to leave involuntarily in his 16 months in office.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the commissioner of social services, will add DPH to her portfolio until a successor to Coleman-Mitchell is chosen. Gifford is a physician who has a master of public health degree in epidemiology.

The emailed announcement was awkward, leading with the news of Gifford’s appointment, not the departure of the state’s top public-health official in the midst of a public-health crisis. It offered no reason for the departure. The statement included quotes from Lamont and Gifford; none from Coleman-Mitchell, who could not be immediate reached for comment.

Charting Westport’s COVID-19 Crisis Image
In order to get a better understanding of the progression of COVID-19, the disease of the coronavirus, in Westport, WestportNow asked Melanie Lust, a former editor of the Staples High School newspaper Inklings and a journalism major at Northwestern University, to prepare these charts. The information is based on her research and interviews with state and local officials. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Melanie Lust for

Westport COVID-19 Cases Unchanged at 261

Westport’s COVID-19 case count was unchanged at 261 while the death count also remained unchanged at 19, state officials said today.

Hospitalizations statewide and in Fairfield County were again down. Hospitalizations statewide were at 1,242, down 59 while the Fairfield County number was 403, down 21 in the last 24 hours.

The statewide death toll was 2,967 up 35, while in Fairfield County it was 1.024, up seven. The number tested was 130,292, up 6,623.

The statewide case count was 33,554, up 570 while the Fairfield County number was 13.236 up 236.

As Jobless Rate Soars, State Sets Rules for Reopening Businesses

By Gregory B. Hladky and Mark Pazniokas

Retailers, hair cutters, offices and other businesses shuttered in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic are about to get detailed guidance on changes they must make before reopening on May 20, the first steps toward what state officials warned today would be a slow economic recovery.

Gov. Ned Lamont and his advisers outlined some of the granular details about what the new normal will look like in Connecticut hair salons and stores on the same day that the U.S. Department of Labor reported the loss of more than 20 million jobs in April, pushing the U.S. jobless rate to nearly 15 percent.

David Lehman, the state’s commissioner of economic and community development, said he had no immediate estimate on what the May 20 openings might do to improve employment in Connecticut, where more than 400,000 jobs were lost in the instant recession caused by COVID-19 closure orders.

“My expectation is that it’s going to happen very slowly,” Lehman said.

Letter: Yale Expert Sets Record Straight on COVID-19

To the Editor:

I am a Westport resident. I also have the privilege and honor of serving as the Chief Quality Officer for the Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Health System, the largest health care provider in the state of CT.

As a resident and public servant, I feel obligated to respond to Fred Kuehndorf’s letter to the editor entitled, “Letter: ‘Giving Into Fear’ Re Keep Beach Parking Lot Closed” posted on on Thursday, May 7, 2020.

Mr. Kuehndor’s interpretation of the publicly available data on the COVID pandemic, as well as his citations of various news blogs, are inaccurate and do not reflect the opinion of subject matter experts at Yale, or at any other health care organizations (i.e. CDC, WHO, DPH).

Unequivocally, COVID-19 is much more invasive and fatal than influenza. Preliminary data suggests the mortality rate of COVID-19 global is between 1-4%. 

Lamont Calls for More Testing as State Gets Closer to Reopening Some Businesses

By Keith M, Phaneuf, Gregory B. Hladky, and Jenna Carlesso

As the state prepares to ease restrictions and allow some businesses to reopen later this month, officials want 42,000 COVID-19 tests to be processed each week — a significant increase in data collection that will include testing every single nursing home resident and employee in Connecticut, as well as other vulnerable populations.

The lack of pervasive testing remains a key hurdle to resuming many operations. The state today reported the results of 4,727 tests. A day earlier, it reported the results of only 2,804 tests — a one day spike that does not yet indicate a sustained increase in testing.

“We’ve ramped up our testing quite a bit,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “But we want to get up to 42,000 diagnostic tests per week. That’s our goal over the next two weeks.”

Lamont said Connecticut so far has met some of the criteria required for certain businesses to reopen on May 20. He pointed to a 14-day decline in hospitalizations – figures reported today show a 30% drop since the state’s peak – and to adequate capacity in the state’s hospitals.

CT Joins Multi-State Buying Consortium for Protective Gear, Medical Supplies

By Jenna Carlesso

Connecticut will join six other states in forming a consortium to purchase protective gear, medical equipment and testing supplies — an effort aimed at saving money and preparing for a possible second wave of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Ned Lamont and leaders of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware will participate in the coordinated effort. The states will work together to identify the region’s needs, aggregate demand and stabilize the supply chain, officials said today.

“We just drove up prices by our own competition,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “It was a limited supply. It was primarily in China. And then you have 50 states and all these private entities and the federal government trying to buy from China. It made no sense.”

The seven states will coordinate policies over the inventory of personal protective gear — such as masks, gloves and gowns — and over the types of equipment each local government should have on hand for first responders or workers with private and nonprofit groups, officials said.

Coronavirus Hospitalizations Continue to Decline in Connecticut

By Gregory Hladky and Mark Pazniokas

The latest Connecticut statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic today showed a continued decline in the number of people hospitalized with the virus, but the number of fatalities in the state rose by 79 — bringing the death toll to 2,168.

Gov. Ned Lamont said the overall numbers were an extension of “the positive trend we’ve seen now for over a week.” Coronavirus hospitalizations dropped by 41 since Tuesday and there are now 1,691 victims of the disease in hospitals around the state.

But despite the falling statewide numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, officials in southeastern Connecticut reported seeing a slight rise in hospital cases in their region.

Lamont and other officials at his regular afternoon briefing reiterated that, despite the generally encouraging trends, Connecticut needs to go slow about reopening its economy.

Health District Explains COVID-19 Case and Death Counts

The Westport Weston Health District today issued a detailed explanation of the counting process for COVID-19 cases and deaths in Westport.

The latest information from the state today showed Westport with 233 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths unchanged in the past 24 hours.

The explanation was issued after local news media last week reported a jump in the death count as reported by the state Department of Public Health.

In a statement, Mark Cooper, director of the Westport Weston Health District, (WWHD) said: “There have been questions about the number of deaths in our communities and whether or not we are seeing ‘spikes’ in reported cases and deaths.