100 towns on ‘red alert’ for COVID-19; ‘These numbers are concerning,’ Gov. Ned Lamont says

Laveta Brigham

Coronavirus cases are surging in Connecticut and nationally, with the state Friday reporting more COVID-19 cases in a single day than at any point in the pandemic thus far. “These numbers are concerning, and they’re reflective of what’s going on around the country” Gov. Ned Lamont said at a Monday […]

Coronavirus cases are surging in Connecticut and nationally, with the state Friday reporting more COVID-19 cases in a single day than at any point in the pandemic thus far. “These numbers are concerning, and they’re reflective of what’s going on around the country” Gov. Ned Lamont said at a Monday news conference.

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The big story

100 towns on ‘red alert’ for COVID-19: Connecticut is well into its second wave of coronavirus infections, with 100 cities and towns now reaching “red alert” status for their rates of new infection. Under that designation, municipalities are encouraged to cancel public events and individuals are asked to limit trips outside their homes. “We’re in for a very difficult two or three months,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who has advised Lamont during the pandemic. Gottlieb predicted the current COVID-19 surge to peak nationally some time in January. Lamont has already capped private gatherings at 10 people and required restaurants to limit their capacity and close early. He said he didn’t “think there’s appetite” for a widespread shutdown of schools and businesses like in the spring. “I think we’re finding that workplace, stores, we can manage those and keep them open safely,” he said. On Friday, the state set a single-day record for new coronavirus cases with 2,746 reported out of 43,078 tests, for a positivity rate of 6.4%. The influx of infections brought the state’s seven-day positive rate to 4.9%, the highest over a weeklong period since June 1.

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State officials urge against long-term school closures: As a handful of Connecticut school districts announce plans to end in-person classes until January, the state education and public health commissioners Tuesday cautioned against “arbitrary, date-based closures.” “We are not recommending that districts proactively close for a prolonged period of time in anticipation of changes in disease prevalence,” education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and acting public health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford wrote in a letter to school superintendents. In just the past week, Shelton and Ansonia schools, as well as Region 14 (Bethlehem/Woodbury), have announced plans to switch to entirely online classes before Thanksgiving and through New Year’s. Bridgeport schools will also go remote before Thanksgiving with no return date determined. Most middle and high schools in Waterbury will make the transition beginning Nov. 30 and continuing through January. The Hamden Board of Education discussed a long-term shift to online learning at a Tuesday meeting, but no final decision was made.

Churches demand Lamont declare racism a public health crisis: A coalition of 38 religious congregations is pressing Lamont to deem racism a public health crisis, a step that cities across the country — and three states — have taken in a first step toward addressing decades of inequality. The Rev. AJ Johnson, pastor of Urban Hope Refuge Church in Hartford, said he hopes such a declaration is followed by “policy and an agenda for Black Americans in this state.” Representatives of the coalition, called the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, met virtually with lawmakers Thursday to discuss a broad agenda that includes further police reforms, targeted coronavirus relief efforts and changes to exclusionary zoning rules that prohibit the development of affordable housing in many communities. “Why is that acceptable? Why is it that no other town wants to take on this responsibility that Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury take on?” Johnson asked.

Boom on Wall Street boosts Connecticut budget outlook: The strong stock market has translated into good news for Connecticut, where a budget deficit in the current fiscal year that was once projected at more than $2 billion has shrunk to a forecast of about $935 million as tax revenue, largely from the state’s wealthiest residents, surges past expectations. But tax collections are projected to increase across the board, ranging from cigarette and sales taxes to the amount of money the state will collect from its revenue-sharing agreement with the two Native American tribes that run the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino. Democrats who control the General Assembly said the good news means lawmakers should not make any rash budget-cutting decisions when they reconvene in January. “It’s very premature for us to be talking about bad [budget-cutting] decisions that we have to make,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Guilford Democrat and co-chair of the tax-writing finance committee.

Some Connecticut Republicans call on Trump to concede: While President Donald Trump has so far refused to concede following the results of the election that show Joe Biden defeating him in both the popular vote and the Electoral College, some prominent Connecticut Republicans, unlike many of their GOP counterparts in Washington, are beginning to tell Trump he should give up on challenging the outcome. “Just because the projected winner is not of my party doesn’t mean I have to stomp my feet and say this is a farce … we need to move forward,” said New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who faced backlash on social media from some fellow Republicans for congratulating Biden. Also offering congratulations were Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and outgoing House Republican leader Themis Klarides. “We call on @realDonaldTrump to make the call, we need to move forward,” the West Hartford Republican Town Committee tweeted.

Democrats make another try for health care ‘public option’: Buoyed by their victories on Election Day, legislative Democrats said Thursday they plan to reintroduce legislation to establish a so-called public option for health care that would allow individuals, small businesses and nonprofits to buy into the state employee health insurance plan. A similar effort failed last year amid opposition from the insurance industry, which said it will “adamantly oppose” the new legislation if it’s the same version of government-run health care that Democrats have advanced in the past. Susan Halpin, executive director of the Connecticut Health Plan Association, an industry group, called it a “false promise that’s already proven unsustainable. But Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown and co-chair of the legislature’s insurance committee, said affordable health insurance was top of mind for voters who candidates talked to during the past election cycle and he believes a public option will help to achieve that.

Odds and ends

UConn on Friday announced it was putting all its residential students under a “modified quarantine” that would prohibit them from leaving their dorms except for classes or to pick up food. “We don’t have the COVID spread under control,” said Eleanor Daugherty, associate vice president and dean of students. After reporting few COVID-19 cases in October, the school has seen a surge this past week. When students leave for Thanksgiving, they must get tested, and they will complete their remaining coursework and exams online before returning to Storrs next semester. … State Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, narrowly won reelection to a third term after a recount completed Friday showed him with a 17-vote edge over his Democratic opponent, Cheshire Town Councilman Jim Jinks. On Election Day, it had appeared Jinks defeated the GOP incumbent, but when a tabulation error was corrected it shifted the race in Fishbein’s favor, though his 21-vote lead out of more than 14,000 votes cast was within the margin that required an automatic recount. … U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, is quickly becoming the favorite to take over the gavel as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. DeLauro, a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is locked in what is seen as a three-way race for the chairmanship with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Marcia Kaptur of Ohio, the most senior member of the Appropriations Committee. … Connecticut Attorney General William Tong joined with nine of his Democratic colleagues from around the country Friday in asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr not to allow the Justice Department to intervene in investigating alleged irregularities in the presidential election. “So far, no plausible allegations of widespread misconduct have arisen that would either impact the outcome in any state or warrant a change in DOJ policy” respecting states’ responsibility to police their own elections. … Dennis House, who recently left his longtime job at WFSB-TV, has already lined up a new gig – at least on a temporary basis. House wrote on his blog that he’ll be co-hosting WTIC-AM’s morning show with Ray Dunaway while Joe D’Ambrosio is off this coming week. “I’ve been a guest on many radio programs over the years but never in the hosting or co-hosting seat,” House wrote. “I’ve always admired the way my radio brethren across Connecticut can talk about anything and make it sound easy, all the while with headsets on and pushing all the right buttons.”

Russell Blair can be reached at [email protected]


©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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