Tuesday, March 05, 2024



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.

Westporter Announces Run for State House Seat

Westport attorney Patrizia Zucaro, a Republican, has announced her bid to run for the 143rd District House seat, replacing Gail Lavielle, a five-term Republican representative not seeking reelection.

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Patrizia Zucaro: “need a new direction.” Contributed photo

The 143rd District includes portions of Westport, Wilton and Norwalk.

“As a lifelong resident of Connecticut, I know where our state has been, I know where it is today, and I know what it will take to move it forward,” Zucaro said via a virtual news conference.

“Decades of too much politics and not enough real work and local focus have held Connecticut back from reaching its full potential.

CT Considers Joining NY, NJ, in Coronavirus Contact Tracing

By Ana Radelat


Connecticut is considering a partnership with New York and New Jersey to launch a tri-state contact tracing program, but has not committed to specifics in the effort to prevent another coronavirus outbreak.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo today said he will implement a regional contact tracing program — a “massive undertaking” in the tri-state region that will be key to reopening his state.

Lamont said the extent of Connecticut’s participation “is still to be determined.”

“We might be able to work together on this,” Lamont said. But the governor also said contact tracing here is “going to be a Connecticut operation” run through 64 local health departments.

Senate Approves Billions More for COVID-19 Relief

By Ana Radelat


Washington — After two weeks of acrimonious wrangling, the Senate today approved a $484 billion coronavirus bill that would increase money for a small business loan program and provide the nation’s hospitals with an additional $75 billion to help them through the pandemic.

The bill, however, did not contain more money for a new program called the Coronavirus Relief Fund that has distributed billions of dollars to states, most of whom are struggling to pay for the unexpected costs of the pandemic. Democrats, and the nation’s governors, including Ned Lamont, pressed for more money for the relief fund, but Republicans refused.

Democrats, however, did win on their request for more money for hospitals.

“Some have pushed back on the Democrats’ position. Why not just say yes to the [small business loan] money now and fund hospitals and states later? This is a fair question,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, “The answer is that hospitals and health centers are getting absolutely crushed right now, with many at risk of going insolvent, and Democrats believe this may be the only chance to save them. In other words, there may not be a ‘later.’”

Stephens to Challenge Steinberg for State Rep Seat

Republican Chip Stephens, a three-term Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) member and former chairman, announced his candidacy today for state representative of the 136th District, challenging state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat who has served nine years.

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Chip Stephens:  “no tolerance for negativity.” WN file photo

Stephens, a 50-year Westport resident and open space proponent whose eight-year P&Z tenure has been marked by a signature, combative style, said he wants “to bring a positive message of hope and a strong need for working together to fix the broken, financial state.”

“My mission is to join a new effort to cooperate and innovate,” Stephens said, citing his experience with local issues and advocacy for “our great schools and organizations.”

“I will give Westport my best effort to win and serve in a positive and constructive direction,” he added. “Issues and answers will lead my campaign, with no tolerance for negativity and name calling.”

Lamont Threatened With Lawsuits Over COVID-19 Restrictions

By Mark Pazniokas


The sweeping restrictions Gov. Ned Lamont has imposed on commerce and social life to slow the spread of COVID-19 today drew a noisy protest by motorists and the promise of court challenges by a conservative Republican legislator and the leader of the Libertarian Party.

Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, said he is preparing a lawsuit accusing the governor of unconstitutional overreach on behalf of plaintiffs he declined to identity, while Dan Reale of the Libertarian Party said his party is separately working on its own legal challenges.

Since declaring a public health emergency on March 10, the governor has issued 28 executive orders intended to stop the spread of a novel coronavirus blamed for 1,331 deaths in Connecticut.

Other governors have issued similar orders, most reflecting the advice of public health officials in the federal government.

Ned Lamont’s Crash Course on a Pandemic and a President

By Mark Pazniokas


Gov. Ned Lamont gets consistent feedback after cable news appearances and the daily televised briefings he delivers on the pandemic that’s claimed nearly 1,000 lives and hundreds of thousands of jobs in Connecticut in one blur of a month: He looks tired.

“Everybody’s telling me that,” Lamont said Thursday, speaking in a telephone interview before his conference call with the president. “I’ve got to figure this out. I hope it’s the camera, not me. I feel fine.”

Lamont wakes at 4 a.m., a function of age and happenstance, not intent. He reads and returns emails, then tries to drift back to sleep until 6:30 a.m.

“I’m always amazed, the number of people my age that might be up at 4,” said Lamont, who turned 66 on Jan. 3. “If you ever want to email me at 4, I’m there. Just don’t call me.”

NE Governors Promise to Cautiously Ease COVID-19 Restrictions

By Mark Pazniokas and Gregory Hladky


The Democratic governors of a half dozen northeastern states today outlined a regional approach to devising a plan for the careful easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

They warned that changes will come slowly and be guided by public-health experts, not politicians or business interests.

On a conference call hosted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island reinforced the notion that the decision to reopen their states is one for governors, not the federal government or President Donald J. Trump.

“This is about being smart,” Cuomo said. “Not political, but smart.”

Hospitalizations Slow; Lamont Now Faces Questions on Restrictions

By Mark Pazniokas and Gregory Hladky


Gov. Ned Lamont’s order extending the closure of schools, restaurants and many businesses until May 20 is generating the first significant political blowback to his handling of the COVID-19 crisis since declaring a public-health emergency a month ago.

With varying degrees of frustration and restraint, legislative leaders and others are complaining that the extension was a premature jolt to fragile businesses and anxious residents, even while they acknowledge continued restrictions may prove necessary by month’s end.

“The bottom line is you didn’t need to add three weeks to an existing executive order,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “It made people more panicked, more anxious. As a leader, it is our job to manage all that. It’s a very difficult balancing act, and I recognize that.”

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano was even more critical.

COVID-19 Means New Playbook for Himes

By Ana Radelat


Washington — Rep. Jim Himes, the laid back congressman representing Fairfield County, a coronavirus hot spot, has been forced to grapple with a crisis for which there is no political playbook.

With Congress out of session at least until April 20 and probably indefinitely, Himes D-4th District, no longer follows a normal routine of meeting with constituents and lobbyists and commuting from his home in Greenwich to the U.S. Capitol.

Now he’s a virtual congressman, reaching out to people on Facebook and other social media, pleading for supplies from the federal government for his district’s hard-hit hospitals, and trying to steer his suddenly unemployed constituents to new federal programs that may be of financial help.

For Himes the coronavirus crisis is also personal. His kid sister is on the front lines of the pandemic as a doctor treating patients in Pittsburgh. “Tough as nails,” Himes tweeted.