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Connecticut Joins Multi-State Buying Consortium For Protective Gear, Medical Supplies

healthcare workers
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
RNs Alyssa Anderson (left) and June Kausch gown up as they prepare for their time in the hot zone administering the COVID-19 test to patients at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center drive-through mobile center in Hartford on March 18.

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.

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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 Sunday.

“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. The consortium is also looking to purchase ventilators and sanitizer, among other medical items.

The states will find suppliers within the region or country who can meet the demand over the next three months.

Cuomo said New York has spent $2 billion on medical supplies so far this year. He estimated that the seven states together would purchase about $5 billion in supplies.

“We will buy as a consortium protective equipment, ventilators, medical equipment … which will make us more competitive in the international marketplace, and I believe it will save taxpayers money,” he said. “I also believe it’ll help us actually get the equipment. We have trouble still getting the equipment because these vendors on the other side, they’re dealing with countries, they’re dealing with the federal government. Why should they do business with one state when they can do business with an entire country?”

Gov. Ned Lamont (right) joins New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a virtual news conference Sunday to announce the multi-state purchasing group.

Connecticut has faced difficulty in securing medical supplies and protective gear. Front-line staff like nurses and doctors have complained of a shortage and nursing home employees have described fashioning gear out of trash bags and other household items because it wasn’t available at work.

While awaiting shipments from the National Stockpile and other suppliers, Lamont put out an urgent call for donations of protective gear. Tens of thousands of items were donated by large and small businesses, by schools and by individuals.

Lamont said Sunday that the multi-state collaboration would boost purchasing power.

“With global supply chains continuing to experience a major disruption due to the pandemic, combining the efforts of our states into a regional purchasing initiative will help our states obtain needed PPE and other medical equipment without competing against each other,” he said. “I’ve long been advocating for the federal government to get involved because pitting all 50 states against each other to compete for these supplies has never made any sense.”

As they prepare for a possible second wave in the fall, the governors said they didn’t want to wait for assistance.

“I don’t want to sit here and just say I’m going to wait for help from the federal government,” Cuomo said. “Whatever help they give us is great. But it’s also clear from the federal government that it’s up to the governors. Whatever we can do on our own so we’re not reliant on anyone, that’s the best.”

Hospitalizations decrease, deaths rise

Connecticut officials on Sunday reported a statewide total of 2,495 deaths related to COVID-19, an increase of 59 from the figures published Saturday.

Hospitalizations decreased, however, to 1,488, down from the total of 1,551 reported Saturday.

Fairfield County recorded the most hospitalizations and deaths, with 514 and 886, respectively. Hartford County had the second most deaths, with 756, and New Haven County had the third most, with 580. New Haven County logged the second-highest number of hospitalizations – 505 – and Hartford County had the third-highest, with 368.

State officials did not release the number of new COVID-19-positive cases or other testing information, saying they were taking a step back Sunday to catch up on data collection and processing. The death toll and hospitalization tallies released Sunday were current as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, they said.

“This allows them to clean up the data,” said Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont. “So that means tomorrow’s numbers will be the Sunday and Monday totals.”

State parks reach capacity again

For the second day a row, Connecticut officials closed several state parks after their parking lots had reached capacity.

By 3 p.m. Sunday, 15 parks had closed. They are: Southford Falls State Park (Southbury); C.P. Huntington State Park (Newtown, Bethel, Redding); Sleeping Giant State Park (Hamden); Bigelow Hollow State Park (Union); Wadsworth Falls State Park (Middletown); Devil’s Hopyard State Park (East Haddam); Talcott Mountain State Park (Simsbury); Penwood State Park (Bloomfield); Sherwood Island State Park (Westport); Topsmead State Forest (Litchfield); Harkness Memorial State Park (Waterford); Hammonasset Beach State Park (Madison); Silver Sands State Park (Milford); Rocky Neck State Park (East Lyme); and Mansfield Hollow State Park (Mansfield).

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has put out guidelines recommending people keep park visits brief and recommended visitors wear face masks and practice social distancing.

The department reduced parking capacity at some locations to prevent large crowds from gathering.

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