COVID-19 death toll now 554 in Connecticut; state parks quickly reach capacity over the weekend
The death toll from COVID-19 reached 554 in Connecticut, 60 more fatalities since Saturday, and the number of positive cases in the state surpassed 12,000, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Sunday.
New cases totaled 525, and 1,654 people have been hospitalized with the disease, an increase of 61 from Saturday. More than 41,220 patients have been tested, state officials said.
Fairfield County continued to bear the brunt of the spreading virus, with 5,534 of the state’s 12,035 cases, 688 hospitalizations and 248 deaths. In Hartford County, the tally was 1,914 cases, 333 hospitalizations and 116 deaths. New Haven County had 2.946 cases, 535 hospitalizations and 119 deaths. Windham County was the least affected, with 66 cases, four hospitalizations and only one death, according to state figures.
State parks at capacity
With pleasant weather on Easter Sunday, state parks filled up quickly, forcing officials to block entry to more visitors at some sites.
As parking lots reached capacity, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection tweeted that Penwood State Park in Bloomfield, Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury were among the parks closed to more visitors.
Nursing homes as ‘recovery sites – Sharon town leader calls plan ‘terrible’
Sharon First Selectman Brent Colley on Sunday called on Lamont to reconsider a plan to establish “recovery sites” for people who test positive for COVID-19 at nursing homes in Sharon and Bridgeport — part of the state’s plan to curb the spread of the disease. Sharon is in Litchfield County, which had 403 confirmed cases and 24 deaths.
“Why do our long-term care residents have to move out of their homes because of a crisis that isn’t rampant in our town?” Colley asked in an online note to town residents.
The governor’s executive order designates Sharon Health Care Center and Northbridge Healthcare Center of Bridgeport, both operated by Athena Health Care Systems, as the first COVID-19 recovery sites. Two others also are planned at the recently closed Torrington Health and Rehab Center and another site in Meriden.
Nursing home patients would be transferred to a COVID-19 recovery center only from hospitals under the state’s plan, a move that could be done without the patient’s consent.
Among the state’s 215 nursing homes, 105 have had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. A total of 1,362 nursing home residents with the disease have been identified, of whom 352 were hospitalized and 195 have died, according to state figures released Sunday.
The recovery sites are meant to free up hospital beds that are expected to be needed as infections peak. Patients must stay at the sites at least 14 days. The patient’s original nursing home must take the person back after two negative test results for the coronavirus at least 24 hours apart.
“People who live in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable, and this plan is needed in order to protect those who are negative for the virus while providing adequate areas of recovery for those who have tested positive and can be discharged from hospitals,” Lamont said.
But Colley wrote that moving residents out of their homes “is wrong and places these individuals at risk. … It disrupts their care, places them in a mindset of confusion, possibly depression. It also affects their care-givers in similar, although different ways.”
More hospital beds
On Monday morning, the Connecticut National Guard will be at UConn Health in Farmington to set up 136 hospital beds to prepare for a potential increase in COVID-19 patients, UConn Health spokeswoman Jennifer Walker said Sunday.
The Guard also is to provide equipment for 107 more beds in University Tower, Walker said. The beds are in addition to the 82-bed surge capacity already identified in the facility, she said.
Guard soldiers spent most of Saturday turning the Connecticut Convention Center into a 646-bed mobile hospital as the state continues its efforts to expand hospital bed capacity to deal with an expected surge of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.
Protest for prisoners
Advocates for releasing prisoners to stop the spread of the virus held a car caravan protest in front of the governor’s mansion on Sunday afternoon. Protesters called for Lamont to “immediately release people from Connecticut jails and prisons due to COVID-19,” organizers said.
Prisoner advocates charge that Lamont has refused to take necessary preventive measures to help curb the spread of the disease. According to the latest update from the state, 71 Department of Correction staff members and 61 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
There is no way to effectively control the spread of the virus inside jails and prisons, according to the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice, one of the protest organizers. The group had previously called on state leaders to release anyone being held on technical parole and probation violations, those awaiting trial, prisoners over age 55 and those with compromised immune systems, among others.
“We are out of time and unless Governor Lamont implements swift, aggressive system-wide releases, it is only a matter of time until disaster hits jails and prisons in the state,” a news release on the center’s website said. “Decarceration is the critical step needed to address this crisis.”
Lamont to meet governors of New York and New Jersey for ‘back to work’ plan
Late Saturday, Lamont posted a short video on Twitter saying he would be meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday to talk about a joint “Back to Work” strategy.
“We’ve got some work to do to get rid of this COVID virus,” Lamont said. “We’re going to do it in a safe way. But we are going to get our state back to work as soon as we can. Details to follow. Happy Easter.”