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First Connecticut Resident Dies From COVID-19

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
This is an N95 mask at Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The hospital is hosting a drive-through COVID-19 testing center for patients in Hartford.

The first Connecticut resident has died from complications related to COVID-19. 

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the death Wednesday. The patient was an 88-year-old man who was a resident of an assisted living facility in Ridgefield.

He was receiving treatment at Danbury Hospital. 

“It was less than two weeks ago that I was at Danbury Hospital, where we announced that we had our first person who was found to be infected with COVID-19,” Lamont said. “It’s less than two weeks later that I regret to inform you that we’ve had our first Connecticut fatality.”

“The first death is not unexpected, but it’s a shock. It’s a shock because it makes this so real for all of our families,” Lamont said. “Our hearts go out to that man and his family.” 

The man lived at Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings. State public health officials said that to date, no other residents at that facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

Upon learning the resident tested positive, a spokesperson for Benchmark Senior Living said, "we quickly enacted our COVID-19 outbreak plan, which includes promptly quarantining the residents who had high exposure to this individual."
"We continue to closely monitor all residents and associates, taking residents’ temperatures daily and restricting non-essential visitors to reduce the potential spread of the virus. All residents are receiving in-room meals. Programming has been discontinued for all, except our memory care residents, until further notice," the spokesperson said.

As of Wednesday, there were 96 reported cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, up from 68 reported Tuesday. Twenty-four individuals have been hospitalized.

One of those positives is an elderly man who was a resident at Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs. He remains hospitalized, and health officials are now deployed to the nursing home and reviewing infection control procedures at the hospital. 

“There will be procedures and an assessment that will be done to decide whether we need to test all the residents or not,” said Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell, commissioner of the Department of Public Health. She said health officials are closely watching two other residents of the facility.

Meanwhile, the coalition of governors from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey grew one bigger Wednesday when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf joined the region’s aggressive fight against coronavirus. 

More businesses braced for a hit, as the four-state coalition announced additional restrictions related to an earlier cap on crowds of more than 50 people: shutting down indoor portions of large retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys, effective at 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

It’s been just over one week since Lamont declared a civil preparedness and public health emergency. Since then, COVID-19, and fear over its spread, has shuttered many of the nation’s schools, left families scrambling to arrange child care and secure food for their children, and ground large segments of the economy to a halt

Unemployment claims in Connecticut are skyrocketing. On Monday, the state Department of Labor fielded 10,000 claims. By midday Tuesday, The Connecticut Mirror reported residents filed an additional 5,000 claims, bringing a four-and-a-half-day total to 25,000. 

It’s a number state officials said was unprecedented, far outpacing the rate of claims filed during the last recession. 

As Connecticut Public Radio reported, restaurant workers and others in the service and hospitality industry have been told to not come to work. Movie theaters, gyms and even Connecticut’s casinos have closed. The Hartford Courant reports funeral Masses are being postponed.  

At a news conference Wednesday, Lamont criticized the federal government’s response to COVID-19.

“Tomorrow is too late,” Lamont said. “I’m talking to small business folks every day, and they’re telling me they’re having a hard time keeping their doors open. So don’t tell me about a tax credit or a payroll tax deduction, I’m having a hard time meeting my fixed costs.” 

Lamont said he was pleased that the Senate passed a relief package Wednesday that includes paid sick leave and unemployment benefits to individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill

Across Connecticut, the daily operations of all levels of government continue to change. On Wednesday, state courts announced more scaling back of operations in response to the new coronavirus. 

Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll said in a statement that the Judicial Branch is working to reduce the number of people in its facilities to “further assist in the effort to halt the spread of COVID-19.”

Last week, state courts suspended all civil and criminal jury trials, with the exception of ones already in progress and criminal jury trials necessitated by the filing and granting of a speedy trial motion. 

The changes announced Wednesday include designating one building in each of the state’s 13 judicial districts as the location for “priority one” functions. These functions include criminal arraignments and termination of parental rights. Juvenile matters will be heard in the Hartford and Bridgeport juvenile courthouses. Carroll said many staff are being told to work from home. 

“These are extraordinary times and require extraordinary measures,” Carroll said in a statement. “Our overarching challenge throughout the crisis has been to balance the constitutional obligation of the courts to remain open with protecting the health and safety of every individual who enters a state courthouse.”

The state police are also altering the rules around their day-to-day business. 

On Tuesday, they suspended all criminal background fingerprinting at 11 police troops and their Middletown headquarters. On Wednesday, they announced that “due to close contact and the necessity to take precautions, all state police facilities will close to members of the public seeking records, permits or cards of all types, effective immediately.”

State police troops across Connecticut will be open only for walk-in concerns and emergencies. 

Members of the public will be allowed “in limited numbers at a time” at the Middletown headquarters for a limited pool of services, including sex offenders and deadly weapon offenders who must register with the state. Fingerprinting for screened long-term care providers will also continue in Middletown.

Any licenses that expire or have expired on or after March 1, 2020, will have a 90-day extension, state police said. This includes: pawnbroker and second-hand dealer licenses, bail enforcement agents, private investigators, bondsmen, security service licenses and security guard instructors.

Additionally, state police said, licenses that already allow a 90-day grace period will be extended to 180 days. That includes pistol permits, security guard licenses and armed security guards. Temporary pistol permits, which normally have a 60-day expiration, have been extended to 150 days.

This story has been updated.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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