State COVID-19 Update, March 19: 159 Cases, New Executive Orders, New Testing Sites

Gov. Ned Lamont issued his daily update on coronavirus news from around the state. The news, as of Thursday, March 19 at 6 p.m.:

By the Numbers
  • New positive cases in CT residents:  63
  • Total CT cases:  159
  • Fairfield County cases: 102
  • CT fatalities due to complications from COVID-19:  3

The three fatalities include a man in his 80s from Ridgefield, who was a resident of a senior assisted living facility; a man in his 80s from New Canaan, and another man in his 90s who was also from New Canaan. Both of the New Canaan men were living in private homes.

Executive Orders for 3/19

Lamont signed his eighth executive order pursuant to his emergency declaration, taking further actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut.

Suspends non-critical court operations and associated requirements:  In close coordination and consultation with the Judicial Branch, the executive order suspends, for the duration of this public health and civil preparedness emergency, all statutory location or venue requirements; time requirements, statutes of limitation or other limitations or deadlines relating to service of process, court proceedings or court filings; and all time requirements or deadlines related to the courts’ obligations to issue notices, hold court, hear matters and/or render decisions.

  • Permits certain restaurants and other eating establishments to sell alcohol with take-out food orders and certain other licensees to sell for off-premise consumption under conditions specified in the order and implementing orders to be issued by the Department of Consumer Protection.

Permits certain restaurants and other eating establishments to sell alcohol with take-out food orders under certain conditions: The order permits any business with an active restaurant, café or tavern liquor permit issued by the Department of Consumer Protection to sell sealed containers of alcoholic liquor for pick up at such restaurant, café or tavern under the following conditions: (i) the sale shall accompany a pick-up order of food prepared on the premises; (ii) the type of alcoholic liquor sold for off-premise consumption shall be the same as what the permit type would have permitted for on-premise consumption prior to Executive Order 7D, and (iii) the hours of such sales that include alcoholic liquor as part of the take-out order shall be the same as those for a package store. Delivery of alcoholic liquor by licensees with these permit types is not permitted. Businesses with manufacturing permits, such as craft breweries and similar establishments, may sell alcohol for off-premise consumption according to the existing terms of their permits.

  • Temporarily closes barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, and related businesses effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20. [Editor’s Note:  Wilton’s first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice has already closed Wilton’s similar businesses, effective Thursday, March 19.]

Directs the temporary closure of barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, and related businesses: Effective at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020, the order directs the temporary closure to the public of all establishments rendering services by barbers, hairdressers and cosmeticians, nail technicians, electrologists, estheticians, eyelash technicians, and tattoo and piercing providers, including, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty shops, hairdressing salons, nail salons, spas, kiosks, and tattoo or piercing establishments. The commissioner of Public Health may issue any order she deems necessary to implement or modify such prohibition.

  • Expands the ability of patients and doctors to use telehealth for healthcare services.

Expands telehealth services for Connecticut residents: The order allows patients and healthcare providers, consistent with federal revisions to HIPAA, to communicate over a broad range of platforms. Those platforms can include audio-only telephone calls for patients and providers with a prior relationship. In addition, it allows patients to access out-of-state telehealth providers, allows commercial health insurers and Medicaid to cover telehealth services for all in-network providers, regardless of communication platform or the provider’s state of practice, and it allows providers to offer telehealth services from a location other than their licensed facility. Finally, the order also caps the amount providers availing themselves of this new flexibility may charge patients for telehealth services in Connecticut when providers are out-of-network or when patients are uninsured.

  • Temporarily suspends in-person investigation visits regarding suspected elder abuse and extends timelines for reporting investigation results.

The order temporarily suspends the requirement for a state official conducting an investigation of elder abuse to perform an in-person visit to the elderly person and extends the time required to report the results of the investigation.

New Drive-Through Testing Sites

In addition to the State Laboratory, there are now 15 alternative sites in Connecticut that are offering drive-through testing. They include:

Bridgeport Hospital
Bristol Hospital
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (Torrington)
Danbury Hospital
Greenwich Hospital
Hartford Hospital
Johnson Memorial Hospital (Stafford Springs)
Lawrence Memorial Hospital (New London)
Manchester Memorial Hospital
Mid-State Medical Center (Meriden)
Stamford Hospital
Saint Francis Hospital (Hartford)
Saint Mary’s Hospital (Waterbury)
Waterbury Hospital
Yale-New Haven Hospital

As a reminder, no individual should arrive at any of these locations and request to be tested. Anyone experiencing symptoms should consult with their medical provider, who will then refer them for testing.

[Editor’s note:  there are additional testing sites that have also opened, under the private management of Murphy Medical Associates, as well as at Norwalk Hospital.]

Lab Test Processing

Jackson Labs is partnering with the state to improve the capacity to process tests that are conducted in the state.

[While the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) State Laboratory in Rocky Hill has been publicly releasing data on the number of tests conducted at its facility that have returned negative results for the virus, private laboratories have not been providing the state with similar statistics for tests conducted at each of their facilities. Acknowledging the benefits to the public of having this information, the Lamont administration signed an order requiring all private laboratories in the state to begin releasing this information to DPH effective immediately so that it can be publicly reported and collected with the data on negative tests results from the State Laboratory. That data is anticipated to be received soon and will be publicly shared.]

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) today announced that the research institution will partner with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, UConn Health, and Hartford HealthCare to provide the State of Connecticut with significant additional COVID-19 testing capability.

JAX-GM estimates that with its current staffing and equipment, it will be able to test 100 to 150 samples per day. However, as this is an evolving situation, JAX-GM is already working to increase its staff and equipment to meet the growing needs of the state.

This additional testing capacity will both allow DPH to diagnose patients who have the virus, and will allow researchers to learn more about the virus for broader epidemiological purposes. Ultimately, this will enable the State of Connecticut to test more people, faster.

For more information on this announcement, click here.

Bus Transportation Changes, Other Department of Transportation News

The Department of Transportation is making changes to its bus operations to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is making several adjustments to its CTtransit and CTfastrak bus operations in order to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers. Effective immediately, passengers will board from the rear door with the exception of passengers in wheelchairs and others who require the bus to kneel. Additionally, approximately 100 CTtransit buses have been equipped with transparent, impermeable barriers providing a partition between drivers and passengers. Buses are operating on normal weekday and weekend schedules. CTtransit service updates can be found at www.cttransit.com. For more information on the bus adjustments, click here.

In other CTDOT news, the CTrail Hartford Line and Shore Line East train schedules have been reduced, and the Metro-North New Haven Line continues to maintain operations. Commuters should check www.hartfordline.com, www.shorelineeast.com, and www.mta.info/mnr for service updates.

Service plazas on I-95, I-395, and the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways, as well as rest areas on I-91 and I-84 remain open for highway travelers. Take-out food is being served but visitors are being directed to purchase their items and remove them from the facilities to minimize any congregation of people. Rest area and service plaza facilities are continually being cleaned and sanitized. Highway maintenance projects are continuing as planned.

“I especially want to express my gratitude to all of the transit workers in Connecticut who are maintaining critical operations in order to ensure that the people of our state can safely get to where they need to be during this difficult time, including healthcare professionals and first responders who need to get to their jobs,” Governor Lamont said. “I want each of them to know that we are grateful for every effort they are making to ensure our transportation system can continue operating and people can get to where they need to go, particularly in the event of an emergency.”

Banking Commissioner Reassures Residents

Amid continuing volatility in the financial markets and an economy quickly slowing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Banking Commissioner Jorge Perez is reassuring Connecticut residents that their money is safe in banks and credit unions.

“While it is natural to worry about the safety of your money in uncertain times, the money Connecticut residents have in financial institutions will continue to be insured up to $250,000,” Commissioner Perez said. “More so then ever before, customers and members can have the peace of mind knowing their deposits are secured though the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for banks and the National Credit Union Association for credit unions.”