State COVID-19 Update April 3-6: Lamont–”Our health care system is bending but not breaking.”

During his press briefing Monday afternoon, Gov. Ned Lamont demonstrated a glimmer of hope when he hinted that despite ever-rising numbers of COVID-positive cases in CT, they’re not rising as quickly as officials once feared.

He referred to some of the daily counts as rising “not exponentially but on a linear basis, which I think is good news,” he said, adding, “It gives us capacity to plan. Our health care system is bending but not breaking.”

In today’s report, we catch up on updates on the state’s response to the coronavirus public health crisis that Lamont has made for April 3-6. We start by bullet-pointing the main headings of everything that you’ll find in this article today, followed by more details on each bullet point further down:

  • By the Numbers (April 3-6) stats on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, etc. for state and county
  • Executive Orders Signed April 3-6
  • Lamont announces extensive support measures for CT’s long-term care facilities, staff, and residents
  • Special Enrollment Period Extended for Access Health CT
  • Lamont urges volunteers from general public to participate in CT’s COVID-19 response efforts
  • Governor Launches Public Service Announcement Campaign Telling Residents, “Stay Safe, Stay Home”
  • FEMA approves Lamont administration’s request to include domestic violence survivors in non-congregate housing guidelines
  • Connecticut’s schools have served more than one million meals under emergency programs
  • Connecticut Labor Department provides updates following 250,000+ applications for unemployment benefits
  • State encourages small businesses to apply for federal assistance under the recently adopted CARES Act
  • Connecticut Insurance Department calls on auto insurers to lower personal auto premiums and expand certain commercial auto insurance
  • Governor Directs Q Bridge to Be Illuminated Red in Honor of CT’s Health Care Workers
  • Connecticut’s Tourism Office promotes local restaurants offering take-out and delivery services, provides virtual at-home activities

By the Numbers (April 3-6)
  • New one-day positive cases in CT residents (each day):
    • April 3:  1,091
    • April 4:  362
    • April 5:  399
    • April 6:  1,231
  • CT case totals cumulatively by date:   (includes 26,686 plus tests conducted in state and private labs)
    • April 3:  4,915
    • April 4:  5,276
    • April 5:  5,675
    • April 6:  6,906
  • Total People hospitalized cumulatively by date (approximately):
    • April 3:  909 (409 in Fairfield County)
    • April 4:  1,033 (475 in Fairfield County)
    • April 5:  1,142 (381 in Fairfield County)
    • April 6:  1,221 (572 in Fairfield County)
  • Total Fairfield County cases cumulatively by date:
    • April 3:  2,717
    • April 4:  2,824
    • April 5:  3,050
    • April 6:  3,719
  • Total CT fatalities due to complications from COVID-19, cumulatively by date:
    • April 3:  132 (76 in Fairfield County)
    • April 4:  165 (86 in Fairfield County)
    • April 5:  189 (96 in Fairfield County)
    • April 6:  206 (101 in Fairfield County)

Visit the state’s coronavirus webpage for several additional charts and tables containing more data groups, including a town-by-town breakdown of positive cases in each municipality and a breakdown of cases and deaths among age groups.

Executive Orders Signed April 3-6

April 5

  • Protection from civil liability for actions or omissions in support of the state’s COVID-19 response:  Protects health care professionals and health care facilities, including nursing homes and field hospitals, from lawsuits for acts or omissions undertaken in good faith in support of the state’s COVID-19 response. State statutes already provide similar protections for other first responders, including police, firefighters, and EMS.
  • Financial protections for the uninsured and people covered by insurance who receive out-of-network health care services during the public health emergency:  Protects those who are uninsured and those who are insured and are treated by an out-of-network emergency services health care provider from surprise bills and other significant costs. This will ensure that individuals receiving care are not being financially burdened.
Lamont announces extensive support measures for CT’s long-term care facilities, staff, and residents

On Friday, April 3, Lamont announced that the state’s 213 nursing homes are receiving a 10% across-the-board increase in Medicaid payments to help meet extraordinary costs from the public health emergency. The payment increase will be applied toward employee wages, including staff retention bonuses, overtime, and shift incentive payments; and new costs related to screening of visitors, personal protective equipment, and cleaning and housekeeping supplies.

The 10% funding increase runs from April 1 through June 30, with an initial payment of $11.6 million scheduled to be received by nursing homes on April 7. The three-month increase is expected to total $35.3 million. In addition, the state is offering to assist with start-up costs and to make $600 per-day payment to all facilities that are designated by the Department of Public Health as suitable to be re-opened for the purpose of serving residents with COVID-19 and who need nursing-home level of care.

“We will do everything possible to protect the health and safety of our family, friends and neighbors in nursing homes–and the health and safety of the faithful, dedicated and skilled staff members who care for them,” Lamont said. “Together with [the] nursing home industry and [the] union representing many of the men and women on the front line of care, my administration is working on a number of levels to support and fund high-quality health care services during this pandemic and beyond.”

Special Enrollment Period Extended for Access Health CT

Access Health CT–Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace–is continuing to enroll uninsured residents in health plans under a new special enrollment period that was created due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The special enrollment period began on March 19 and was initially scheduled to end on April 2 but was recently extended to April 17.

To date, Access Health CT has processed 3,530 enrollments into qualified health plans during this period. A total of 1,498 of those enrollments were made possible by the new special enrollment period offered in partnership with Connecticut’s health insurance companies. This is in addition to 15,518 HUSKY enrollments during the same period.

Coverage for anyone who enrolled March 19 and April 2 began on April 1. Anyone who enrolls between April 3 and April 17 will have coverage that takes effect May 1. Customers are reminded that anyone currently enrolled in qualified health plans through Access Health CT may be able to update their income and increase the amount of financial assistance for which they qualify.

To learn more about how to enroll, visit learn.accesshealthct.com.

Lamont urges volunteers from general public to participate in CT’s COVID-19 response efforts

Lamont, along with a number of state officials and nonprofit providers, are urging Connecticut residents to consider taking on a volunteer role in their communities to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis. While the state already began a campaign seeking out volunteers who have health care experience, on Friday, April 3, the state launched a campaign seeking volunteers from the general public who are needed for other services at many different types of providers, such as food banks, deliveries to the elderly, shelters, and more.

The governor stressed that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a wide-ranging impact, and that means a large amount of skill sets are required to ensure that every community in Connecticut has the resources they need to combat this pandemic.

“During times like this, it is critical that we come together as a community–as a family–and support our neighbors in this response effort,” Lamont said. “Connecticut residents and businesses have been incredibly generous in offering to do what they can to meet the needs of our state at this challenging time. Our frontline providers at food banks, meal delivery services, and shelters need extra help right now, and that is why we are asking for more volunteers to step forward. I am grateful to everyone who has already pitched in to support Connecticut families. The way we’ll get through this public health emergency is by working together.”

Once they register online, volunteers from the general public will be matched with a community provider in need. Here are the basics:

  • Volunteers must be 18 or older, and should not volunteer if at risk or compromised. Those who are immunocompromised, over 60, showing symptoms of COVID-19, or live with or care for someone in any of those categories should avoid being in public, including for volunteer efforts. Please stay safe, stay home.
  • Volunteers do not need to be health care workers. In addition to calling on physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals who may be retired, the state needs community members to help out at food banks, food deliveries to the elderly, and at shelters in a number of ways.
  • For those who do have a background in health care, the state’s medical community has specific needs at this time. Hospitals have advised the state that they have a high need for critical care nurses and repository therapists.
  • Every effort is being made to keep volunteers safe. The state and all of the organizations involved are working hard to make sure that everyone helping out can do so as safely as possible. If any volunteers have concerns, they are strongly urged to ask about the safety protocols of the organization they are volunteering.
  • Volunteers will be sent where they are most needed and feel most comfortable. The volunteer process is centralized so that the state and participating organizations have a clear picture of everyone who can help and everything that is needed. That way, volunteers can be matched with an opportunity that is most in need of that person’s skill set.

The Lamont administration and the State of Connecticut are grateful to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), which has made the Disaster Assistance Response Technology database available to help manage the statewide volunteer effort for this emergency, as well as the Connecticut VOAD chapter for their support.

Those interested in volunteering should visit ct.gov/coronavirus for information on how to register.

Governor Launches Public Service Announcement Campaign Telling Residents, “Stay Safe, Stay Home”

Gov. Ned Lamont, in partnership with the Connecticut Broadcasters Association (CBA), launched the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” public service announcement campaign on Monday, April 6, telling Connecticut residents they have to stay home in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The ads will be placed with CBA member stations across radio and television, and they will also be translated into Spanish.

The campaign will feature multiple ads throughout the month of April and will air multiple times daily on participating member stations. All of the ads will also be shared on Governor Lamont’s social media channels. The first spot, “Opposite Month,” was placed with stations today and is currently airing.

“We need to make sure we’re getting the word out to our residents as much as possible, and through all means,” Lamont said. “Our broadcast partners serve the public every day by providing them with accurate and timely information, and these PSAs will provide that clear message to the public. Residents must stay home in order to stop the spread, and to keep our neighbors and loved ones safe.”

In the PSA, Lamont makes the following plea:

April is the “opposite month.” The opposite of everything I’ve ever told my kids.

Don’t go to school… don’t go visit your grandparents… don’t go outside and play hoops with your friends… don’t go to a worship service.

This virus is turning everything upside down, but if we take the “Stay at Home” rule seriously, we’ll be right side up soon enough.

Connecticut’s going to beat this virus. By sticking together and sticking to the rules.

FEMA approves Lamont administration’s request to include domestic violence survivors in non-congregate housing guidelines

On Saturday, April 4, FEMA approved the Lamont administration’s request to add housing for survivors of domestic violence in the reimbursement guidelines it previously approved for Connecticut, which authorized the state and municipalities to receive a 75% reimbursement for the costs associated with providing non-congregate housing for first responders and health care workers who temporarily need a place to live separate from family or roommates, and also for those who are homeless.

“Ensuring safe housing for survivors of domestic violence in locations that are less congested than what many of the locations that typically offer these services usually provide is critical at this time, and I thank FEMA for approving our request to cover these services,” Governor Lamont said.

Connecticut’s schools have served more than one million meals under emergency programs

As of Friday afternoon, April 3, Connecticut’s public schools have served more than one million meals under the emergency meals programs launched last month by the State Department of Education after the governor canceled classes at schools statewide. A total of 128 school districts are serving meals at 407 locations.

In accordance with federal requirements, the state is operating two emergency meals programs to ensure children do not go hungry during this crisis:

  • Under one program, certain school districts are authorized to serve meals only to students who attend their schools or any other child 18 years of age and younger residing in the same household.
  • Under the other program, certain school districts are authorized to serve meals to any child 18 years of age and younger, regardless of which town or city the child lives or what school they attend.

Households should check with the individual school districts for information on the time and location the meals are being served, and further guidance regarding their distribution.

Connecticut Labor Department provides updates following 250,000+ applications for unemployment benefits

The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) has processed more than 90,000 of the over 250,000 unemployment claims filed in less than three weeks by residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of claims recently received far exceeds the amount the agency typically receives in one year.

While the numbers are staggering, they are not unique to Connecticut. Unemployment claims are up in record numbers across the country, and everyone is doing their best to process claims as quickly as possible. Nationwide, approximately 6,648,000 seasonally adjusted initial claims were filed for the week ending March 28, an increase of 3,341,000 from the previous week. This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.

“The agency is working diligently to serve its residents and appreciates the public’s patience as it works to process the thousands of claims that have been filed as a result of the pandemic,” Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said. “We want to let people know that although it will take some time, all eligible claims will be processed, paid, and retroactive to the date they were filed.”

Agency employees are working overtime and weekends to ensure benefits are paid as quickly as possible. Westby said the estimated backlog is approximately five weeks. More than 80 employees are processing claims–a significant increase from the 20 typically processing new applications–and additional staff will continue to be trained to assist in the upcoming days and weeks.

To speed up the processing of their claims, unemployed residents who have not yet filed should:

  • Visit www.filectui.com
  • Click the link that says “For quicker payment of unemployment benefit, please follow these instructions”
  • Information will be provided on filing claims as a “Temporary Shutdown” option and provide guidance on entering a return to work date.

For residents that have already filed a claim, Westby noted that it is very important that they check their email (including junk and spam folders) daily for updated messages from CTDOL. Messages may include next steps or a request that claimants log back onto their claim since following these instructions will help speed up processing.

For additional information read the list of Frequently Asked Questions the agency created related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the CARES Act that was approved by Congress last week, CTDOL is also tasked with administering several federal stimulus unemployment benefit programs. The agency is fortunate to be part of the ReEmployUSA five-state consortium made up of Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Although the state joined the consortium to build a new benefits system more quickly, it is now lending its expertise to help develop necessary programming that will provide the federal benefit programs more quickly.

“Our employees appreciate the support we have received from the public, the Governor’s Office, and other agencies, including technical support from BEST and human resource help from the Department of Administrative Services. The agency has helped people survive economic recessions, but this is the first pandemic we have faced when providing unemployment benefits. We know bills need to be paid and how important it is to provide this economic lifeline to our residents.”

State encourages small businesses to apply for federal assistance under the recently adopted CARES Act

Governor Lamont, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman, and Department of Banking Commissioner Jorge Perez are encouraging small businesses and sole proprietors to reach out directly to their banks and credit unions to apply for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program was recently created by Congress as part of the CARES Act to respond to the nationwide COVID-19 crisis.

Administered by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), the program authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses that keep all their employees on the payroll for eight weeks and can use the money for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Seventy-five percent of the money must be used for payroll.

Businesses and sole proprietorships should contact their banks and credit unions directly to access the loans. They should also closely review the information and application form for borrowers on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website prior to contacting their banks and credit unions. This will help identify the documents needed to collect and present during the application process.

Commissioner Perez is reminding those involved that since this is a brand new program that is still under development by the federal government, it may take a bit longer than anticipated as the first several days are expected to be very busy.

Additional information about PPP can be read on SBA’s website.

Connecticut Insurance Department calls on auto insurers to lower personal auto premiums and expand certain commercial auto insurance

Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew N. Mais is calling on insurers to immediately lower personal vehicle premiums and expand commercial hired and non-owned and auto insurance in light of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Department Notice released today, all insurance companies offering auto and motorcycle liability insurance coverage in Connecticut are requested to adjust premiums to reflect the reduced risk from fewer vehicles being driven on the road during the shelter-in-place period. The agency is also encouraging insurers to assist business owners, and restaurants in particular by affording them coverage for those delivery drivers who request commercial hired and non-owned automobile insurance and to use online, “gig” delivery businesses.

For more information, read the press release issued today by the Insurance Department.

Governor Directs Q Bridge to Be Illuminated Red in Honor of CT’s Health Care Workers

Governor Ned Lamont has ordered the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven–more commonly known among residents as the Q Bridge–to be illuminated in red lights beginning Monday, April 6, to honor the thousands of Connecticut health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bridge carries I-91 over the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, and is operated and maintained by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

“Our state’s health care workers have been thrown into this crisis and are literally working around the clock to protect our state from this pandemic,” Governor Lamont said. “This is a visible way for us to express our appreciation for their dedication during this national crisis, and a reminder to our residents about the sacrifices they are making on our behalf. Too often, our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and so many others are almost taken for granted. We want them to know that we understand and appreciate their commitment to the health and safety of our citizens.”

“Health care workers across Connecticut deserve our sincerest gratitude for stepping up to be on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “Their hard work and dedication to the people of our state is truly praiseworthy. I encourage everyone to take a moment to thank the health care workers in their community and to honor their sacrifice by continuing to stay home and practice safe social distancing in order to stop the spread of this virus.”

“I am pleased that we are able to honor these brave men and women in this special way,” Transportation Commissioner Joseph J. Giulietti said. “The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge is one of the gems of Connecticut’s highway system – a signature structure on our coastline – traveled by more than 130,000 vehicles on a typical day.”

Normally, the bridge is illuminated in soft shades of blue or green. In keeping with the memorial designation of the bridge, it is illuminated red, white, and blue on special days of commemoration, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and September 11.

The special red lighting honoring the state’s health care workers will continue as long as the COVID-19 pandemic remains at significant levels.

Connecticut’s Tourism Office promotes local restaurants offering take-out and delivery services, provides virtual at-home activities

The State of Connecticut’s Tourism Office has shifted its focus from its usual promotional activities to adjust to the public health emergency and Governor Lamont’s order for residents to “Stay Safe, Stay Home.”

The state’s official tourism website, has been adapted to reflect this new reality and is featuring a number of activities residents can either do in secluded locations or safely at home through virtual experiences. This includes the creation of a list of restaurants, breweries, and vineyards that are now offering take-out and delivery services; and also a collection of online, virtual experiences about Connecticut landmarks, museums, and attractions that provide educational opportunities to engage children while staying safe at home.