As of Monday evening, Gov. Ned Lamont‘s office confirmed there were 41 positive cases of COVID-19/coronavirus in Connecticut–15 more than the day before. Of the 41 cases, there were 20 total confirmed in Westport alone (13 of them new).

Officials believe that the actual number of cases is much higher than reported, as the state has not had enough testing kits to accurately keep track of how much the virus has spread.

Earlier in the day Lamont released a joint statement with the governors of New Jersey and New York on a collaborative regional approach limiting restaurant service to takeout/delivery only.

Lamont also enacted several other measures through an executive order in response to the spread of the virus, effective through April 30, including:

  • Revising the previous limit on large gatherings to a maximum of 50 people from 250, and adding religious gatherings to the list of activities subject to the limit
  • Closing on-site operations at off-track betting facility operations
  • Closing gyms, fitness studios, and movie theaters

Lamont also announced that drive-through testing has been approved at seven Connecticut hospitals:  Bridgeport Hospital, Bristol Health, Danbury Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Stamford Health, Waterbury Hospital, and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Anyone seeking to be tested must have a prescription from their doctor and make an appointment in advance.

Healthcare providers have been granted a streamlined approval process to accelerate availability of COVID-19-related treatment and services.

During an interview with MSNBC, Lamont explained just how perilous the situation in Connecticut is. “Danbury Hospital is at capacity, and they have 200 nurses furloughed,” he explained, noting that they had been exposed and couldn’t come back until they were cleared as not having COVID-19. However, those nurses can’t be tested to determine whether or not they have the virus, because there aren’t enough tests.

“If I can test those nurses, I can potentially get them back into the game a lot sooner,” Lamont told Hayes. “We’ve got a surge in use, demand is going up and I’m losing nurses by the day who have to furlough themselves for some time. That’s a priority for testing for me,” the governor said.

UPDATE:  According to the Hartford Courant, Lamont later clarified his statement, noting that the 200 referred to employees–not just nurses–of Nuvance Health, the health care alliance that includes Danbury Hospital.

CT Gov. Ned Lamont tells @chrislhayes that “Danbury Hospital is at capacity, and they have 200 nurses furloughed.” But they can’t back to work because “they can’t be tested to confirm whether they have the virus.”

— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) March 17, 2020

Connecticut’s tribal nations have also agreed to shutter Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, for two weeks. It’s the first time in either location’s history that they’ll cease operations.

Small Businesses get GOOD News

A small bit of GOOD news for CT’s small businesses:  Small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Connecticut that have been negatively impacted by the global COVID-19 outbreak are now eligible for disaster relief loans of up to $2 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

On Sunday, the governor had submitted a request to the federal agency for expedited approval of the disaster relief to immediately provide aid to businesses in Connecticut. Over the past several days, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has been working to survey companies statewide to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the small business community and the local economy.

“Small businesses and nonprofits of all types are experiencing large, sudden drops in revenue while trying to do the right thing and give employees the flexibility they need to take care of themselves and their families,” Lamont said. “One of our priorities is to help them as much we can. SBA disaster relief loans are an important tool that can help Connecticut businesses.”

“The availability of SBA loans is another key piece of a broader set of relief measures the Lamont administration continues to put into place for individuals and our business community,” DECD commissioner David Lehman said. “Their ability to successfully navigate this health crisis is of vital importance to our economy in the short and long-term. The DECD team will remain proactive and continue to assess the impact of this pandemic and assist small businesses navigate this unprecedented economic climate.”

Small businesses can learn more about the program and apply for financial assistance online or call the SBA at 800.659.2955.

Small businesses with questions about this SBA loan program or other assistance provided at the state-level can call 860.500.2333 to speak directly with a DECD representative.

Emergency Unemployment

The CT Department of Labor is also fast-tracking unemployment benefits for residents who have been laid off, furloughed or are self-quarantining due to COVID-19. Details in State Sen. Will Haskell‘s Facebook post, below: