Hartford, we have a data problem.

Two days after Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters that Fairfield County had hit “the apex” in numbers of COVID-19 positive cases, the data shows the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

The data is actually kind of all over the place–down one day and up the next. For reference, look at the following two charts shown by the governor at his daily press briefing on Wednesday, April 22.  The first shows Total Hospitalizations by County, which shows Fairfield County somewhat leveling off. In fact, Lamont referred to hospitalizations in Fairfield County as being flat, and “well under control,” adding that “Hartford County continues to ramp up.”

But his next chart showing One-Day Hospital Admissions shows the up-down-up-again nature of Connecticut’s data.

Making matters worse is that some of the data–it’s not specified exactly which numbers–may be old, with Lamont explaining that the state plays “catch-up” on the figures.

“There’s a bit of a catch-up here, if you’re wondering, ‘Hey, tests performed look like they’re up a lot, positive cases up a lot.’ That reflects the fact that some of the tests keep coming back. Tests are still disturbingly high, and I’m tired of saying that; that reflects what happened three or four weeks ago. Hospitalizations, a little more current, that number continues to creep up, but still at a much slower pace than where we were a week or two ago and that’s really good news.”

Every day the information released by the state includes a disclaimer paragraph (although officials don’t use the word ‘disclaimer.). It notes that the day-to-day updates on newly reported data on cases, deaths, and tests in Connecticut “…include data that occurred over the last several days to a week,” [emphasis added]. The update calls the data “preliminary.”

Lamont later added, “We still have work to do.” Despite some indicators trending positive, Lamont said, “We are by no means out of the ditch on this, and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

In other words, whether we’ve really hit any apex is still to be determined.

By the Numbers (April 22)
  • New one-day positive cases in CT residents:  2,109 (+1,564)
    • April 21:  545
    • April 20:  1,853
    • April 19:  412
    • April 18:  741
  • Total CT cases: 22,469 (includes more than 69,918 tests – 5,726 on April 22 – conducted in state and private labs)
  • Total People currently hospitalized:  1,972  (+23)
    • April 21:  1,949  (+30)
    • April 20:  1,919  (+18)
    • April 19:  1,901 (-37)
  • Total Fairfield County Hospitalizations:  749  (+14)
    • April 21:  735  (+2)
    • April 20:  733  (-13)
    • April 19:  746  (-30)
  • Total Fairfield County cases:   9,883  (+1,411)
    • April 21:  8,472  (+152)
    • April 20:  8,320  (+886)
    • April 19:  7,434 (+71)
  • Total CT fatalities due to complications from COVID-19: 1,544  (+121)
    • April 21:  1,423  (+92)
    • April 20:  1,331 (+204)
    • April 19:  1,127 (+41)
    • April 18:  1,086  (+50)
  • Total Fairfield County Deaths:  584  (+40)
    • April 21:  544  (+32)
    • April 20:  512  (+65)
    • April 19:  447 (+15)
    • April 18:  432  (+7)
Executive Orders

The executive order signed by Lamont today enacts the following provisions:

  • Additions to the definition of telehealth provider:  Modifies state statutes to add any licensed dentist, behavioral analyst, genetic counselor, music therapist, art therapist, and veterinarian to the definition of telehealth provider.
  • Flexibility for Medicaid-enrolled providers and in-network providers for commercial fully insured health insurance to perform telehealth through additional methods:  Modifies Section 5 of Executive Order No. 7G regarding the delivery of telehealth with an updated definition and requirements for telehealth.
  • Additions to permissible out-of-state healthcare providers:  Modifies state statutes to additionally allow the commissioner of the Department of Public Health to issue an order to suspend, for a period not to exceed 60 consecutive days, the requirements for licensure, certification, or registration for occupational therapists; alcohol and drug counselors; radiographers, radiologic technologists, radiologist assistants, and nuclear medicine technologists; dentists; dental hygienists; behavioral analysts; genetic counselors; music therapists; art therapists; dietician-nutritionists; and speech and language pathologists.
  • Participation in intern, resident physician, or United States Medical Officer candidate training programs prior to permit issuance:  Modifies state statutes to allow a person to participate in an intern or resident physician program or United States Medical officer candidate training program prior to issuance of a permit by the Department of Public Health provided that the hospital administrator documents that the person has satisfied the requirements for such a permit set forth in the statute.
  • Participation in resident physician assistant program prior to permit issuance: Modifies state statutes to allow a person to participate in a resident physician assistant program in a short-term hospital that provides a postgraduate medical education program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, without a license or temporary permit or a training permit issued by the Department of Public Health, provided that the hospital administrator documents that the person is to be appointed a resident physician assistant in such hospital and has satisfied certain requirements.
  • Temporary suspension of physician assistant supervision restrictions: Modifies state statutes to suspend the supervision requirements for physician assistants authorized to practice in the State of Connecticut.
  • Temporary suspension of in-person supervision requirement for advanced practice registered nurses:  Modifies state statutes to suspend the requirement that a physician, medically directing the prescriptive activity of an advanced practice registered nurse who is prescribing and administering medical therapeutics during surgery, must be physically present in the institution, clinic, or other setting where the surgery is being performed.
  • Provision of services by respiratory care therapist and respiratory care technician students:  Modifies state statutes to allow a respiratory care therapist student or a respiratory care technician student to provide services except that the services are not required to be a component of such person’s course of study.
  • Suspension of continuing education requirement for health care providers:  Suspends certain continuing education requirements for one year for occupations and professions with annual education requirements, and for other occupations and professions the continuing education completion period and reporting requirements are suspended for six months.
  • Modification of 36-month age limit for Birth-to-Three services:  Modifies state statutes to authorize the commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood to temporarily expand the definition of “eligible children” to include children who are receiving Birth-to-Three intervention services but reach the age where they would no longer be eligible.
Lamont administration initiates discussions with New York and New Jersey on a regional contract tracing strategy

The Lamont administration announced today that it has initiated discussions with the governors of New York and New Jersey regarding a regional contact tracing strategy. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a partnership with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg through the Bloomberg Philanthropies. Governor Lamont expressed the need for a regional approach concerning contact tracing that complements existing staff, volunteers, processes, and technology as all of the states’ residents are in contact with each other on a regular basis, especially commuters in and out of New York City.

Update on the processing of unemployment claims by the Connecticut Department of Labor

As of today, the Connecticut Department of Labor has processed more than 320,000 of the 397,000 unemployment claims it has received since March 13.

Prior to a software improvement that was implemented last week, the processing time was about six weeks. With the new technology enhancements, that processing time has been reduced to about three weeks, and the agency is on target to reduce that time further to one week by the close of this week. Benefits will be retroactive to the date a person needed to apply. Anyone who is filing for benefits is strongly encouraged to select direct deposit since this is the quickest method to receive the benefits.

Thousands of Connecticut residents using ‘How We Feel’ app to provide health officials with critical data

To date, the recently launched How We Feel app has generated 32,429 users in Connecticut–up about 16,000 from yesterday alone. Residents in Hartford, New Haven, and Fairfield Counties make up about 80% of the respondents. Early data shows that the mean average [age] of users in the state is 52, which is quite a bit higher than the national average of between 30 to 40.

The How We Feel app is an initiative to anonymously provide scientists with critical health information needed to understand the spread of COVID-19. Users self-report basic health information into the app once per day, and the data is anonymously provided to leading medical institutions so scientists and public health officials can better spot emerging outbreaks early, identify new populations who are at risk, and measure the efficacy of public health measures such as social distancing.

“We’re all looking for something we can do to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this app provides an opportunity for everyone–regardless of whether you are currently sick or if you are in healthy condition–to share how you’re feeling to leading health professionals, so they can track the spread of this virus and quickly determine where a new outbreak may be occurring,” Lamont said.

The app is available to download for free on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Users can also self-report their health information on the web.

Connecticut receives $2 million federal grant for mental health services in response to pandemic

The State of Connecticut has been awarded a $2 million grant from the federal government to address the behavioral health care needs of specific populations in the state that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. The grant, awarded to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will support service needs over the next year and a half. Its primary focus is to address the needs of persons with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, co-occurring disorders, youth with severe emotional disturbances and their families, individuals with less severe mental health conditions, and healthcare practitioners.

The funding will be used by DMHAS to launch the Connecticut COVID-19 Behavioral Health Response and Assistance (Connecticut COBHRA) initiative. It will be a collaborative effort that includes the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The grant will support a number of activities focused on improving the health outcomes of those individuals affected by COVID-19 including:

  • Purchasing telehealth equipment for DMHAS providers and DOC health care practitioners;
  • Enhancing eight DMHAS-funded mobile crisis teams with additional clinicians;
  • Providing staffing to a new statewide call center for adult crisis calls at United Way 2-1-1; and
  • Expanding the DCF Family-Based Recovery services for youth and their families.

The grant will also increase services for victims of intimate partner violence and support the behavioral health needs of health care practitioners. A final component of the grant will provide support to employee assistance programs at DMHAS-funded agencies.

“This grant award will provide needed support for the state’s efforts to address the mental health needs of those most affected by COVID-19,” Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said. “The funding is vital as we face new challenges related to the coronavirus.”

“All families face challenges during these uncertain times in our communities,” Children and Families Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes said. “In particular, parents caring for infants and young children need our support and special attention. Family-Based Recovery has been innovative in converting their intensive services to telemedicine and adapting to virtual services – ensuring children’s safety and allowing them to remain at home whenever possible. We look forward to our continued collaboration with Family-Based Recovery and our partners at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.”

“We are grateful to SAMHSA and DMHAS for federal Emergency COVID-19 funds that will enable the Department of Correction to expand the use of telemedicine and telemental health services,” Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook said. “The purchase of an estimated 30 additional devices will allow our health care providers to maintain behavioral health treatment care to the offender population.”