Hospitals prepare for surge; Lamont issues ‘safe workplace’ order


By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Connecticut hospitals are making arrangements to handle a surge in deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in addition to infected patients needing hospital care.

The ongoing efforts to add hospitals beds, procure ventilators and obtain personal protective equipment ahead of an anticipated coming peak of the viral outbreak have received much public attention.

Meanwhile, the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont and the hospital industry have been quietly working on securing additional storage for the bodies of patients who die from COVID-19 or related complications.

“We’ve been in discussions with our hospitals. Our hospitals are making preparations on that topic,” said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.

He said the management teams of the 27 acute care hospitals have been following developments elsewhere and the measures being taken to prepare for severe scenarios, including in New York state and New York City.

Geballe said one solution is using refrigerated trailers to store the bodies of the dead when hospital morgues are full.

THE NUMBER OF REPORTED DEATHS approached 300 on Tuesday, a month after the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced.

In contrast, two years ago, 184 people died over a period of months in the deadliest influenza season since public health officials started tracking all flu-associated hospitalizations and deaths 10 years ago.

The first death of the 2017-18 flu season was recorded in December 2017. Public health officials reported the first fatality of the coronavirus outbreak on March 18.

Another 71 deaths recorded since Monday brought the number of patients who died after testing positive for COVID-19 to 277, according to the updated numbers Tuesday.

“What I can tell you about the death rate is it probably lags other indicators,” Lamont said. “It certainly lags the infection indicator by a couple of weeks, two to three weeks.”

“So, while maybe in the death rate we are not seeing the deceleration we’d like to see, that shows where we are at a couple of weeks ago,” he continued. “I think the hospitalizations are a more current number.”

The number of hospitalizations increased from slightly more than 50 patients reported three weeks ago to a shade more than 1,300 reported on Tuesday. Approximately 29,000 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in the state.

LOCALLY, THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTRICT reported 34 new laboratory-confirmed cases and 10 additional coronavirus-associated deaths within its jurisdiction on Tuesday. The health district serves Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour and Shelton.

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls stood was 52 and 14, respectively, according to data released by the health district on Tuesday.

The health district reported a total of 313 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 coronavirus-associated deaths, defined as people who tested positive for COVID-19 around the time of death, within its jurisdiction. Twenty-seven of the deaths were Shelton residents and one lived in Seymour. Twenty-six were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to the health district.

State figures released Tuesday showed 15 laboratory-confirmed cases in Prospect, which is under the jurisdiction of the Chesprocott Health District.

LAMONT ALSO ANNOUNCED a “safe workplace” order that mandates social distancing and other precautions to limit exposure to COVID-19 between employees, customers and others who may enter a place of business.

The governor’s latest executive order directed the Department of Economic and Community to institute legally binding rules for essential businesses and nonprofit organizations that are continuing to operate during the public health emergency.

The directives and recommendations also apply to other businesses and nonprofits allowed to operate, but must remain closed to the public under an earlier executive order.

The DECD is requiring workers, customers and others in the workplace remain six feet apart. The department also recommended the use of transparent plastic partitions, drive-throughs and other means to increase social distancing.

Employers must provide masks wherever close personal contact is unavoidable and hand sanitizer at entrances.

In addition, the guidelines said employers should eliminate in-person meetings and large gatherings. Also, services should be delivered remotely by telephone, internet or video where possible, and products should be delivered through curbside pick-up and delivery when possible.

EMPLOYEES SHOULD TAKE their temperature before they go to work, and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should stay home.

“No. 1, you’ve got to self-monitor, you’ve got to self- test,” Lamont said. “You have to have a fever test, and anybody who registers more than 100.4 degrees does not go to work. No questions asked.”

Businesses and nonprofits should provide time between each work shift to avoid overlap and allow for cleaning of the work spaces.

Employers should assign the same people to each shift to protect against an ill worker infecting co-workers on other shifts. The start and stop times of shifts, break times and meal times should also be staggered. If possible, break rooms and cafeterias should be closed or restricted.

The DECD guidelines said permitted visitors should be interviewed about their current health condition and recent travel history.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.