New Guidance Suggests Middlesex County Schools on Track for Reopening, While New London County Lags

One week after school districts across the state were required to submit “return to school plans,” outlining in-person, hybrid and remote models of instruction, local school officials have been given guidance by the state for switching between the three plans of schooling. According to an addendum released on Thursday to the Connecticut Department of Education plan for reopening schools, local school officials are expected to base reopening decisions on “indicators of the spread and prevalence of COVID-19 in the community” and the ability of local schools to cope with the virus, given the the physical and operational constraints of district

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State Senate Approves Wide-Ranging Police Accountability Bill 21 – 15

On Tuesday night, the Connecticut State Senate voted 21 to 15 to approve an expansive police accountability bill including restrictions on qualified immunity and changes to “use of force” guidelines for police officers. “This is an issue about power, about how power is used in communities. This is an issue about cost for communities,” said proponent of the bill State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, in an impassioned speech one hour into the more than 9-hour debate over the contentious bill. “This bill is not about the good officers. It’s about the officers who do not do their job …

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Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Teeter with Limited Assistance, Uncertain Enrollment, Fear of a Second Outbreak

As the start of the 2020-2021 academic year approaches, the Connecticut State College and University system has a $10 million deficit caused by spring semester room and board refunds that were not fully reimbursed by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “Moving forward our best bet is to get assistance from the Coronavirus Relief Fund,” said Ben Barnes, chief financial officer for the state college and university system. Although the Federal Emergency Relief Act has verbally confirmed that the college and university system will receive some funds, so far the system has not received any funding

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More Questions than Answers for Fall School Reopening Across Connecticut

With reopening school plans completed – including in-person, hybrid and remote models in each district – there still seem to be more questions than answers for parents, students and educators alike. For instance, what would determine whether school really does return in-person, as is currently the plan, or if districts will be told to use their hybrid or remote models instead. “We were told we would get those cut offs, like very specific cuts offs, but nothing yet,” said Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme Schools. “It seems like whether or not our schools close or all districts close will

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House Passes Wide-Ranging Police Accountability Law, Votes Down Amendment to Strip Qualified Immunity Provisions

After more than 22 hours of discussion and debate in the legislative special session, the House of Representatives voted 86 to 58 to approve a wide-ranging police accountability bill written in wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and months of protests against police brutality across the country. The bill was immediately sent to the State Senate. “What we have before us is the best pro-police accountability bill and I’m convinced that the majority of officers in Connecticut would welcome it,” said State Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford. Prior to the vote, State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, a

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42 Percent Jump in Boaters — Limited Instruction — Spurs Local Complaints About Safety and Broken Rules Across Southeast Connecticut

“We have many new customers and the phone is ringing off the hook for boat rentals which we don’t even do,” said Larry Trickett of Guilford Boat Yards. “Whoever is able to do boat rentals is making a killing this year.” After three months of stay-at-home orders and most indoor activities still limited, water sport activity is up throughout the state. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, 42 percent more people were issued a certificate of personal watercraft operation between January 1 and July 23 of this year compared with the same period last year. In total,

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$600,000 Urban Development Grant Funds Sidewalk Project in Pawcatuck, a Half a Century in the Making,

STONINGTON — After more than half a century of advocating and waiting, the patchwork of sidewalks along Route 1 in Pawcatuck is expected to be completed. “Last week we found an old article from the 1960s about how sidewalks were needed on South Broad Street and now because of the hard work and perseverance of many elected officials they will be,” said Danielle Cheesebrough, the first selectman of Stonington. “People are so happy and so hopeful after decades of advocating. It’s a very welcome piece of good news.” On Tuesday, the state Bond Commission plans to approve a set of

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Daycare Industry Squeezed Between Dropping Enrollments and Growing Need as Connecticut Moves to Reopen from COVID

Four months after the Governor declared a state of emergency to slow the spread of COVID-19 and two months after the state began reopening, Connecticut’s childcare industry is operating at just 40 percent of its pre-COVID capacity, according to Commissioner of Early Childhood Beth Bye. “Three weeks ago, we were at just 16 percent capacity and now we have more than doubled that,” Bye said. “But at the same time, as it reopens, it’s very uneven.” Uneven, in the sense that in some areas of the state daycare providers are struggling to fill available slots and in others, families with

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Unions Press Local Districts Across Connecticut to Renegotiate Policies for Reopening Schools

Local teachers’ unions across the state, encouraged by the Connecticut Education Association, are asking school districts to negotiate policies for reopening schools in the fall, given the changes that will be required of staff. They are requesting that superintendents and boards of education sit down and negotiate under the Teacher Negotiations Act, which gives unions the right to negotiate whenever working conditions are altered.   “Successfully reopening schools depends largely on local districts ensuring a real voice for all stakeholders — educators, parents and other school community members — in establishing a safe and healthy school environment,” said the Association’s President

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High School Sports to Resume in Fall even as Students Remain Cohorted in the Classroom

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference plans to begin the school year with students allowed to compete in every fall sport if COVID-19 cases in the state remain low. “For the fall we are cautiously optimistic to return as scheduled, but not as normal,” said Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. “Based on the numbers in Connecticut and the Governor’s reopening plans we will be able to start football on August 17 and all other sports August 27.” The conference released rules based on guidance provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations and

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Legislature Opts for Deliberation — Not Haste — in Tackling Nursing Home Reforms After Wave of COVID Deaths

With about 60 percent of 4,338 COVID-19-related deaths in Connecticut occurring in nursing homes, the need for reform in the industry and the potential for increasing penalties for health code violations have become commonplace talking points among state legislators. That said, the issues are not expected to be addressed by legislators in summer or fall special sessions. “Changing penalties is not at the level or urgency for the special sessions,” said State Sen. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, co-chair of the Public Health Committee. “My job is to make sure we take our time and look at all the possibilities.” Steinberg said

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Shortened Semesters on Campus and Full Fees for Room and Board as Connecticut’s Colleges and Universities Face a Steep Fiscal Challenge

UPDATE: Due to the need for consistency across the Connecticut State College and University System, Southern Connecticut State University will not be offering pro-rated fees for the fall semester, according to Patrick Dilger, the director of integrated communications and marketing at Southern. Students will be returning to campus in the fall at Connecticut’s four state universities, but in place of the usual crowds on move-in day, the packed classrooms and extracurriculars, students can expect instead a more gradula move-in, limited group activities, a mix of online and classroom learning and regular COVID-19 testing. The biggest change, according to Mark Ojakian,

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Land Trust Shutters Watch Rock Preserve on Weekends to Limit Vandalism, Littering

OLD LYME — Due to an excess of littering and vandalism, the Old Lyme Land Trust will close the Watch Rock Preserve each weekend from now until Labor Day. “We are so sad and frustrated to have to close this preserve, especially this year during the pandemic,” said Ann Gallaher, Chief Steward of the Old Lyme Land Trust. “But the large amount of trash, recurrent vandalism and campfires are too much for an all-volunteer organization to handle.” The parking lot gate will be shut from 7:30 p.m. on Fridays until 8 a.m. on Mondays. According to the Land Trust Board

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Connecticut Department of Public Health Rolls Back Mandate for Testing Nursing Home Staff

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is rolling back a June 1 executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont which mandated weekly testing of nursing home staff for COVID-19 for the duration of the public health emergency. The state agency has informed care facilities that they may forgo testing after two consecutive weeks without positive tests for nursing home staff and residents. “After two weeks of zero positives a facility can discontinue testing,” said Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of public health and commissioner of social services at an Appropriations Committee meeting on Friday. According to Gifford, the guidance comes from the

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State Announces Full Reopening of Primary and Secondary Schools in Connecticut for the Fall

Required face masks for all pre-kindergarten through high school students, as much social distancing as is feasible and back up plans upon back up plans in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 are hallmarks of the state’s plan announced today by the Connecticut Department of Education for reopening schools at the end of August. “This past school year was marked by disruption, next year’s school year will be marked by innovation and commitment,” said Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona. “It will be the most important school year for students and educators yet.” Although many educators and parents expected

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Two Norwich Tech Grads Confident in Tightened Job Market, New Apprenticeship

For many 2020 high school and college graduates the future feels uncertain. Finding a job or starting college during a global pandemic is far from a straight-forward decision. But for Chris Daley of Plainfield and Chance Weber of Lisbon, 2020 graduates of Norwich Technical High School, the opposite is true. “Knowing that I made ties with this company and I can stay with them and have a job right out of high school … I feel more prepared for the world,” Daley said. Daley and Weber are one and a half years into their four-year plumbing apprenticeship at Speirs Plumbing

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As State Officials Commission Study of Nursing Homes, COVID-19 Infections Slow

In the last week, just 61 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut, evidencing a drop in the spread of the virus among the state’s hardest-hit population. Of those 61 cases, one was diagnosed at Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehab Center in Chester, where there have been 31 cases, six were at Essex Meadows Health Center, where there are now 16 cases and two were at Apple Rehab in Old Saybrook, where there are now 69 cases. Between mid-March and mid-June, at least 9,720 residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities

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From 2016 Pilot Program to Graduation, ‘Dreamers’ Make Up 4 Percent of Student Body at Eastern, with a 3.8 GPA

In May, Evelyn Lemus Silva graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University as a Barnard Award recipient, the most prestigious undergraduate award bestowed by the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. She was a biology major, has a research job lined up at Stanford University and plans to go to medical school in the future. She is also an undocumented immigrant. Silva, who entered the United States from Mexico at the age of 7, is one of the first 43 students to graduate from Eastern thanks to a scholarship from TheDream.US, a privately funded program that supports undocumented immigrants and those

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As Local Officials Await State Guidance, Legislators Voice Concerns About Fall Schooling

According to the Connecticut Department of Education, the 33 lowest performing school districts – known as Alliance Districts – also have had the least student engagement since schools across Connecticut were forced to close in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Complicating their mission, Alliance Districts also serve a disproportionate share of Connecticut’s “English Learners.” Every school in Connecticut, public and private, has its own COVID-10 story, some adapting to remote education with relative ease and others with more than 10 percent of students failing to participate at all in distance learning programs. As districts plan reopening for summer

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Grant-Funded Study Helps Prepare Connecticut’s 12 Community Colleges for Consolidation

About 75 percent of graduates in 2017-18 from the 17 institutions that make up the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system were employed within three months after graduation. But less than half of students who started a degree at one of those institutions finished there within four years, according to data provided by the state system’s Office of Research and System Effectiveness.  At Eastern Connecticut State University, for example, just 45 percent complete a degree within four years and another 10 percent complete a degree after transferring to another institution.  In an effort to increase the number of students directly

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COVID in Connecticut – By the Numbers

Yesterday, phase two of reopening the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic began with Gov. Ned Lamont allowing hotels, indoor dining, nail salons, fitness facilities, amusement parks, museums, zoos and aquariums to open for business. Lamont attributed the slightly accelerated pace of successive phases to the continued decline of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state despite increased socialization and travel since May 20. “We hit our peak on April 22 and are down about 90 percent since then,” said Lamont at a Tuesday press conference. “The positivity rate has stayed at or below 2 percent despite our increased testing with

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Bipartisan Women’s Caucus Rallies to Push Change After Thousands of Deaths at Connecticut Nursing Homes

HARTFORD — In response to the deaths of roughly 2,500 nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut state legislature’s bipartisan Women’s Caucus is calling for change in the industry, at the state Department of Public Health and from the Office of the Governor in an effort to prevent a second wave from devastating this population again. Although Governor Ned Lamont released a request for proposals for an independent contractor to complete a review of procedures to address the COVID-19 pandemic inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities last week, the caucus is requesting that the review encompass much

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Failed Inspections, Deaths, Spark Few Changes for Nursing Homes Facing COVID-19 in Connecticut

The second part in a series on nursing homes. Read part one here. On May 12, Terry Bellucci decided to transfer her mom out of Apple Rehab Saybrook. At that point Bellucci had heard the center had one positive case and was calling everyone from the receptionist to the Governor’s office trying to make sure her mother, the other residents and the staff could get tested.   “They told me she couldn’t be tested because they only had enough for those who were symptomatic,” Bellucci said. “Even though she was in the most at-risk group, she couldn’t get a test at

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Nursing Home Deaths in Old Saybrook Point to Deeper Policy and Care Concerns Across Connecticut

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OLD SAYBROOK — Over the last three weeks, 69 residents have tested positive and 19 have died from COVID-19 at Apple Rehab, a 120-bed care facility. That’s 74 percent of the total cases and 95 percent of the deaths in Old Saybrook as of June 9, according to the Connecticut River Area Health District.  Although the results of a recent inspection, part of the state’s effort to inspect all nursing homes for deficiencies in health and safety standards during the COVID epidemic, are still pending, the facility has been cited and fined a number of times in the past. In

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Eastern Connecticut State University Launches Data Analytics Project to Localize and Inform Policy on Disease Outbreaks

Eastern Connecticut State University launched a project to better inform policymakers and the public about the impacts of COVID-19, and policies to slow its spread, on Connecticut specifically. The project, called the Eastern Institute of Data Analytics, will provide modeling and analysis on the current pandemic, as well as future outbreaks of disease. “Our goal is to provide information to the general public and to provide policymakers with analyses and insights that may shape decision making in the state,” said Yaw Nsiah, the department chair of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University. “While a lot of national health and

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Workers’ Compensation a Point of Contention for Essential Workers Facing Lengthy Recoveries from COVID-19

For years Denise Rodgers has driven the Yale-New Haven Health shuttle. She transports doctors, nurses and other health professionals from parking lots across south-central Connecticut to the York Street and St. Raphael hospitals. On March 17, before anyone was wearing a mask on her bus, as the health system was just identifying the first evidence of the pandemic in Connecticut, Rodgers and her husband fell sick. Both spent several weeks in Yale’s intensive care unit and after 48 days on a ventilator, after Rodgers had already been discharged, her husband died. According to Sal Luciano, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO

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Lamont Designates $2.5 Million to Rent Assistance for Undocumented Immigrants

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Nearly three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont designated $2.5 million to help families and individuals ineligible for federal CARES funding to help pay rent. The funding was approved by the legislature in 2019 in a line item for homelessness and rental assistance. “Housing is the single largest expense for most families in Connecticut,” said Seila Mosquera-Bruno, the Connecticut Housing Commissioner. “By providing rental support for families who are most in need and least able to access other forms of assistance, we can help them to stretch tight family budgets to afford other expenses including food, transportation to

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