Hospitalizations continue to decline as number of positive tests increase


By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Connecticut popped back up Wednesday following the largest reported daily decline in weeks

Public health officials reported an additional 455 positive tests after Monday’s drop of 315 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases. Through Wednesday, recorded infections reached 26,767.

Hospitalizations decreased for a seventh consecutive day. There was a net decline of 41 patients to 1,691. Since last Thursday, there has been a decrease of 256 hospitalized patients.

Gov. Ned Lamont is waiting on a 14-day decline in hospitalization and infection rates before he moves to gradually loosen restrictions on businesses and social gatherings he imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Lamont said if the hospitalization trend continues he will be able to re-evaluate some of those emergency orders. The current set of directives run through May 20.

Another 79 deaths since Tuesday brought the number of coronavirus-related fatalities to 2,168. The reported death toll includes people who tested positive for COVID-19 and probable deaths of untested people that are attributed to the disease.

There were 94,818 COVID-19 tests reported through mid-day Wednesday, up 2,073 tests since the previous day. Public health and medical professionals continue to say testing needs to increase significantly for Connecticut to start safely reopening.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District reported there have been 174 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in Naugatuck and 33 in Beacon Falls as of Wednesday. There has been one coronavirus-related death of a Naugatuck resident, a woman in her 80s, according to the health district.

On Wednesday, the Chesprocott Health District reported 36 laboratory-confirmed cases in Prospect.

LAMONT WAS UNDECIDED about taking state action to protect businesses from coronavirus-related liabilities, including potential lawsuits from workers and customers who may become infected after a business reopens.

“I have to think about that. Every small business wants to do everything they can, I know that, to keep their place of employment as safe as can be,” he said. “It is the right thing to do, and it is matter of your reputation. If you’re going to get customers to come back to your restaurant, to your facility, to your salon, you’re going to bend over backward to do that.”

Lamont said there is much that remains unknown about the novel coronavirus, and there are risks to businesses, employees and customers in how any liability protections are structured.

The governor said he was also unsure about unemployment eligibility for recalled employees who refuse to return to work out of safety concerns, but seemed less so than concerning the business protections.

Some states have warned that unemployment benefits will be stripped if employees refuse to go back to work for their employers.

Lamont said his instinct is that most employees should return to the workplace if employers are following the “Safe Workplace Rules” and “Safe Store Rules” that his administration has established, including requirements for physical distancing and face coverings.

He said exceptions might be warranted on a case-by-case basis because returning to work may not be safe.

TOWNS AND CITIES ARE BEING ASKED to organize long-term recovery committees to plan how to meet community needs as Connecticut emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz is leading the organization effort on the state level in collaboration with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, and the nine regional councils of government.

“We are going to need to rebuild at the local level,” she said.

Bysiewicz and Lamont outlined the initiative during the daily briefing Wednesday on the status of the coronavirus outbreak and the state’s ongoing state response after the lieutenant governor led an online workshop with local officials on the plan.

The leaders of the state’s 169 cities and towns are being asked to establish coronavirus recovery committees and recruit representatives of local businesses and nonprofits, civic and charitable groups and faith communities. The membership should represent a cross-section of each community’s demographics, Bysiewicz said.

The local planning and coordinating committees will work with state government and its partners, state legislators and the federal government. Lamont and Bysiewicz said municipalities will also be asked to designate a coronavirus response coordinator.

The Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Connecticut Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster are assisting in the development of these local recovery committees.

The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance and the Connecticut Council on Philanthropy are also participating in the effort.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.