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Lamont Says Connecticut’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations Dropped Dramatically

By Jim Welch

www.ctmirror.org

Hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic experienced the largest one day drop to date, Gov. Ned Lamont said today, while other public health data indicate positive trends are continuing as the state gradually reopens its economy.

Numbers released today show 577 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19, a drop of more than 70 people since Thursday. The governor said it was the largest one day decline to date. The state reported 203 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 41,762 total cases overall.

Lamont said social gatherings inside homes and other buildings can increase to 10 people and outdoor gatherings can increase to 25. The previous state guideline was to limit gatherings to five people.

“Outside is safer than inside,” Lamont said.

Nancy Wyman is Stepping Down as State Democratic Chair

Former Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman announced today she is stepping down on June 10 as the Democratic state chair, a position she took at the request of Gov. Ned Lamont after his election in 2018. She will swap jobs with Nancy DiNardo, a former state chair and current member of the Democratic National Committee.

“I’ve had an amazing career in Connecticut politics, and it has been an honor to continue to serve as party chairman. I am grateful to Gov. Lamont for giving me this opportunity, but it is time for me to step back from day-to-day operations,” Wyman said in a statement. “This is an extraordinary election year, and I hope to continue to support the party by stepping into Nancy DiNardo’s role on the DNC.”

Wyman, 74, a popular figure among Democratic insiders, helped Lamont resolve a post-election drama in 2018 over whether Nick Balletto would remain as state chair against the wishes of the governor-elect. Lamont and Balletto jointly introduced Wyman as the new chair on Dec. 13 of that year, ending an awkward struggle.

The job swap is subject to approval by the 72-member Democratic State Central Committee, which is likely given Lamont’s backing of the plan.

A Mayor and U.S. Senator Sit for a Public COVID-19 Test

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

New Haven — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal sat under a pop-up canopy on the New Haven Green, tilted his head back and submitted to a nasal swab for a COVID-19 test today. The moment was a photo op for a media-savvy senator and a public-service pitch for a state promoting testing as it slowly loosens restrictions on commerce.

WestportNow.com Image
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal gets tested with a nasal swab for COVID-19 by nurse John Grimes on the New Haven Green today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Cloe Poisson for CTMirror.org

“It isn’t the most comfortable thing to have, in effect, a swab on a stick inserted directly into your nose. It is a a pretty strange and awkward feeling, but it doesn’t hurt,” Blumenthal said. He smiled and added, “And I didn’t cry.”

Testing for COVID has become easier to find in Connecticut, but testing sites still are less elements of a cohesive system than a loose affiliation of hospitals, community health clinics, laboratories and medical entrepreneurs behind pop-up sites, like the one open today on the New Haven Green.

“I think we have a long way to go,” said Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven.

Finance Board Lowers Mill Rate

Finally some good news: Westporters are getting a tax break.

After keeping the mill rate flat at 16.86 for four years in a row, the Board of Finance tonight unanimously voted to decrease it to 16.71.

That translates into $16.71 of taxes for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value determined by the revaluation four years ago.

A prior motion by board member Lee Caney to reduce the rate to 16.81 failed by a 2 to 5 vote. But when Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern proposed an even bigger cut as give back to the community in light of insurance and OPEB (other post employment benefits) savings, Caney was on board with the vote.

As Jobless Rate Soars, State Sets Rules for Reopening Businesses

By Gregory B. Hladky and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

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.

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

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

www.ctmirror.org

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.

Q Poll: Lamont Popularity High, CT Respondents Oppose Quick Reopening of the State

By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has high approval ratings, especially for his handling of coronavirus pandemic, in the latest Quinnipiac poll.

As Connecticut, New York and New Jersey — the nation’s hardest hit states in the coronavirus pandemic — consider when and how they should loosen restrictions, a Quinnipiac University poll finds majorities in all three states support those restrictions right now.

In a poll of 2,800 registered voters,  a majority of respondents – 59 percent in Connecticut, 58 percent in New York and 55 percent in New Jersey — said it will take a least a few months before their states are safe to begin to lift their stay-at-home orders and to reopen their economies.

The poll, released today, also showed that the popularity of the governors in the tri-state region has risen during the crisis.

RTM Approves $121.9 Million School Budget

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight unanimously approved a $121,936,487 Board of Education operating budget for 2020-21, a 3.12% increase over the current academic year.

The reopening of Coleytown Middle School (CMS), a 10% bump in school health benefits and funds for facilities upgrades are key reasons behind next year’s increase.

That amount, plus aid to private and parochial schools and debt service brings next year’s total education budget to $131,429,948, a .41% increase.

In response to a question by RTM member Wendy Batteau about added educational costs due to COVID-19, Acting Schools Superintendent David Abbey said that distance learning challenges will “inevitably relate to additional costs.”

Members Named on ReOpen Westport Advisory Team

First Selectman Jim Marpe today provided additional details on the establishment of the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team (Advisory Team).

As previously stated, the purpose of the Advisory Team will be to advise the first selectman on issues relating to the reopening of the Westport economy and community as they navigate the risks of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

The members of the Advisory Team include: Jennifer Tooker, Second Selectwoman – chair; John Bayers, director of human resources & general administration – Westport Public Schools; Mark Cooper, director – Westport Weston Health District;  Jen Fava, Parks and Recreation director; Sara Harris, operations director; Police Chief Foti Koskinas; Mary Young, Planning and Zoning director; Randy Herbertson, president – Westport Downtown Merchants Association; Matthew Mandell, director – Westport / Weston Chamber of Commerce, and Brian Stern, chair – Board of Finance.

The Advisory Team will be focused on working with the local business community. It is not charged with making regulatory decisions.

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

By Jenna Carlesso

www.ctmirror.org

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.