A Surfeit of Caution

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There is an esprit de corps that has developed surrounding our collective attempts to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Social media is awash with posts suggesting ways to connect, ways to nourish each other, ways to survive the isolation. There has been an outpouring of support for those on the frontlines — the medical professionals who at their own peril face this crisis directly. The call for “social distancing” has been heard from the highest offices to the lowliest tweet.  We are so focused on how to live well and help one another within this new framework that I

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Widespread Unemployment, Business Failures, Expected in Wake of Coronavirus Closures

Yoga studios, gyms, restaurants and hair salons have been mandated to close — with other “nonessential” businesses closing on Monday — employees are financially-strapped and owners wondering how long their businesses can survive without customers. In the wake of closures that began Monday, CT Examiner took the pulse of a number of business owners and employees in the region, asking about the viability of their businesses and industries in face of many unknowns. Fragile restaurant margins “How many customers are going to call and say, ‘I’ll have the $39 osso bucco, give me six of those,” said Jordi Viladas, a

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Essex Selectmen Propose $24.6 million Budget, Debate Financial Impact of Coronavirus

ESSEX — As they presented the Board of Selectmen’s $24.6 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21 to the Board of Finance in a Thursday night teleconference, First Selectman Norm Needleman and Finance Director Kelly Sterner said that the town has not yet seen the financial impact of the coronavirus, but that Essex should take extra steps to prepare for potential losses of revenue. Board of Finance Chair Keith M. Crehan noted, in opening the remote meeting on Zoom, that Gov. Ned Lamont had suspended in-person public meeting requirements on March 14 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus

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With Seven New Cases of COVID-19 Identified in Southeast Connecticut, State Declines to Release Town-by-Town Numbers

There are now seven identified cases of COVID-19 in Middlesex and New London counties, and those numbers are only expected to increase in the next few days. Two of those cases are in Killingworth, and one each in Clinton, Haddam, and East Lyme. Other cases are have been identified in the Chatham Health District. In response to a request for town-by-town data on COVID-19 infections, the Connecticut Department of Public Health declined to provide that information, but said that the data will be available next week when a heat map displaying cases in all 169 towns is released. “We were

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With Newfound Flexibility and Instructions to Proceed “Immediately,” Connecticut Schools Grapple With Transition to Online Education

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With the requirement for 180 days of school instruction waived, and an application pending to suspend mandated student assessments, school districts across Connecticut are grappling with what it means for 77,000 students with an individualized education plan, and how they will follow instructions from the state to “immediately proceed” with online education. “We are focusing all of our energy and efforts on supporting students and their families during this national emergency, including students with disabilities,” said Miguel Cardona, commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut. “Keeping students’ health and safety at the forefront, [Connecticut State Department of Education] is

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Calling Impact Worse than 2008-9, Lamont Outlines Aid and Possible Further Steps

Gov. Ned Lamont outlined measures that his administration is taking to soften the economic impact of the Coronavirus outbreak in a Thursday afternoon conference call with business leaders. These steps include loans, an expansion of unemployment benefits and delayed payment deadlines. “I came out of running a small business,” said Lamont. “I went through the 2008-2009 freefall, and this is worse.” Lamont said the challenge facing businesses is a sudden drop in revenue without a drop in fixed costs like payroll, rent, debt, health insurance, and utilities. “I’m doing everything I can to reduce those fixed costs and make it

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States Adapt Governance and Public Access to Telecommuting in Wake of Coronavirus

Facing an outbreak of Coronavirus, Gov. Ned Lamont suspended parts of state statute to give local government and public agencies the ability to hold meetings entirely by teleconference in an effort to limit spread of the virus. Transparency advocates caution that public access depends on state and local officials using that technology properly, but experts say that requirements still in place uphold the spirit of the state’s open meeting laws. “In theory, it’s a great idea. We want to avoid people gathering in large groups now as much as possible,” explained Mike Savino, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom

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Lamont Offers Aid to Churches, Religious Leaders Cope with Closings over Easter, Passover and Ramadan

From churches to mosques to synagogues, nearly all places of worship in Connecticut have been closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. “This is sort of an uncharted territory for all of us,” said David Elliott, the associate director of communication and public relations for the Archdiocese of Hartford. “I can’t point to another time in the Archdiocese of Hartford where the churches have all ever been closed.” The same is true for across the country and much of the world, including in Rome, where all masses and vigils have been canceled. In Connecticut, most protestant churches, mosques, and Jewish synagogues,

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Restaurants, Microbreweries, Adjust to the New Normal of Take Out and Delivery in Wake of Coronavirus Shutdown

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Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. It was also the first full day of a state-ordered shutdown of eat-in dining and bars for the foreseeable future in an effort to curb the COVID-19 outbreak. The phone started to ring at 11:20 a.m. with takeout orders, but business was down compared to a normal day, said Deb Corning, a family owner of the Monkey Farm Cafe in Old Saybrook. “St. Patrick’s Day is a big day for us. Normally we’d be full right now,” said Corning. “We’re not allowed to serve alcohol. Fortunately we have a lot of people who love it

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Poignant Show by Singer-Songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan at Old Saybrook’s Kate

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Irish-American singer-songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan summons all the whirring, humming, soaring, straining sounds of the cosmos in her latest solo project, Bull Frogs Croon (And Other Songs). The swoop and plumb of the strings, the poetry in the lyrics, left palpable vibrations in the air in her live performance at The Kate in Old Saybrook on a mid-March Wednesday night, in a set that drew from European classical repertoire, through bluegrass, through O’Donovan’s own compositions. It was a poignant show. The first event of O’Donovan’s U.S. and world tour, the audience responded enthusiastically to a generous set of songs. It could

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Lamont: 10,000 Filed for Unemployment in State on Monday Amid Coronavirus Fears

HARTFORD — In a 30-minute press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Governor Ned Lamont urged healthy citizens to donate blood, daycares to stay open, and people over 60 to stay home, in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, while also acknowledging that this crisis has led to pain for the business community and a massive spike in unemployment claims.  “We usually have about 40,000 people over the last average couple years on unemployment compensation,” Lamont said in a televised conference outside his Hartford residence. “That’s been in pretty good times. Usually when a recession comes in a place like CT, maybe

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Canceled Blood Drives Due to Coronavirus Concerns Spark Blood Shortages — Public Urged to Donate

In the past few weeks, as cancellations and shutdowns due to the Coronavirus have become widespread, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the United States, 46 that were to be held in Connecticut — that’s about 1,299 fewer blood donations than would otherwise have been donated in the Connecticut alone.  “A lot of people are no longer donating blood,” said Gov. Ned Lamont at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Hartford. “We need your blood donations now. You don’t have to worry. You’re totally separated in terms of distance and separation. No worry in terms of

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About That Distance Learning… Local School Officials Debate Legal and Technical Obstacles for Connecticut Schools

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LYME/OLD LYME — With schools in the state closed for a minimum of two weeks in a state-mandated effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus, school officials are looking into the option of establishing distance learning curricula, a first for public schools in the state. “The state has rapidly changed their position on distance learning,” said Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser, in a video-streamed special board of education meeting on Monday night. “On Friday they were discouraging it, but now they are looking at ways to make it available to every school and every district.” In fact, although the special

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New London Adjusts to Coronavirus, Debates Help for Vulnerable Populations

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NEW LONDON — Several boxes of blue disposable latex gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer were placed prominently on a table that sat midway between the City Council and a few members of the public who attended the council meeting Monday night in the Congregate Room at the Senior Center. That afternoon, Mayor Mike Passero had issued an executive order that outlined public meeting protocols for city departments, agencies, boards and commissions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We want all boards and commissions to continue functioning. That’s the heart of our city, that’s our community but we’re all to provide

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East Lyme Declares State of Emergency, Closes Town Hall to Public, in Face of Viral Pandemic

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EAST LYME — All town buildings are closed to the public until further notice effective Monday night, after the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to uphold First Selectman Mark Nickerson’s declaration of a local state of emergency in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Nickerson told the selectmen at a Monday night emergency meeting that this declaration was about “being flexible and being prepared to change on the fly as appropriate.” Nickerson used his power to declare the emergency at 1 p.m. and the selectmen voted to uphold it at their 7 p.m. meeting. Town staff will continue to work,

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Old Lyme Declares State of Emergency Likely to Restrict Town Hall Access by Wednesday

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen on Monday authorized First Selectman Timothy Griswold to declare a local state of emergency and said they plan soon to restrict most public access to Town Hall in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. “The idea is to restrict as much as possible public interaction because that’s how this thing spreads,” Griswold said at the meeting. “We want to keep the doors open for business, so to speak, but not just have the public coming in the way they have.” Old Lyme Director of Emergency Management David Roberge will meet with Griswold tomorrow

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As Town Halls Close, Residents Asked to Call Ahead Across Southeast Connecticut

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Many of southeastern Connecticut’s local governments are restricting public access to town halls and asking residents to call or email rather than show up in person in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. As of Monday, Waterford, Stonington, and Lyme have closed their town halls to the public, although staff continues to work and will offer services if contacted by phone or email. Libraries and public works facilities in those towns have also closed. Transfer stations in Waterford and Stonington will remain open but staff may be limited in how much they’re able to help the public,

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Letter: Needleman Reaches Out on Coronavirus

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By now, we are all aware of the health and quality of life implications of COVID-19.  The virus has become a significant threat to our families and to our communities. We also know that widespread testing will not be available in the immediate future and there is no definite treatment at this time. Those circumstances leave us with only one common sense choice: adapt to a new “normal.”  The reality is that our best near-term solution will come from you and me, not from the federal or state government.  The most sensible and highest impact option is for each of

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Hospice Providers Question Restrictions of “Social Distancing” During End-of-Life Care

Since Monday, March 9, visitors to nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and hospice care facilities have faced restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus to the most vulnerable populations. For individuals within these facilities and their families, these new restrictions have added to the hardships endured at the end of life.  “The way to stop a virus is to separate everybody,” said Dr. Balu Natarajan, the chief medical officer for Seasons Hospice. “But, hospice patients need to be able to be with their loved ones and they need to be with them. Social isolation is one thing, but

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New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Announce Cooperation on Restaurant and other Closures — No Agreements Yet with Massachusetts or Rhode Island

According to the Office of the Governor, the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have agreed that as of 8 p.m. Monday night “restaurants and bars that serve food will temporarily be required to move to take-out and delivery services only. Bars that do not serve food will be required to temporarily close,” in the tri-state region. Governor Ned Lamont, in conjunction with the governors of New York and New Jersey, have decided to close all movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers and public workout facilities and studios. “We must do everything we can as a community to slow

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Connecticut Inches Toward Foreign-Trade Zone Business Opportunities

Foreign-trade zones are an underused economic tool in Connecticut, but that could change as more companies begin to understand how they work and become aware of their potential benefits.  The zones operate under the supervision of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and allow companies to manage the tariff or duty that is charged on imported materials or goods. Foreign-trade zones were once tied to a geographical area, usually next to a U.S. Port of Entry, such as the location for Connecticut’s four foreign-trade zones — Bridgeport, New Haven, New London and Windsor Locks, which are all ports of entry. But

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Effective Response, Cross-border Lag, in Case of Coronavirus in Stonington Daycare – Niantic Children’s Museum Closes After Positive Test

With the first confirmed case of the Coronavirus in southeastern Connecticut linked to a Rhode Island child in a daycare facility in Stonington, Stephen Mansfield, executive director of Ledge Light Health District, said that while initial communication across state borders overnight had caused a short lag in awareness, proactive steps by the family and daycare provider nevertheless followed best practices recommended by the State Department of Health in Connecticut. Families and individuals possibly exposed to the virus in Stonington have been asked to “self-quarantine” for 14 days. Rather than focusing on a particular case, Mansfield cautioned that the public “should

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Deadlines for Proposed Waterford Solar Array Canceled

The Siting Council has canceled the March 31 public hearing for a solar project on Oil Mill Road in Waterford due to statewide measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  In a March 12 memo to parties and intervenors, Melanie Bachman, executive director of the council, said a new public hearing date for petition 1347A has not been chosen but the schedule will be posted on the project webpage. The March 24 deadline to file questions and testimony is no longer valid and will be revised when a new date has been determined for the public hearing. All other

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As Southeast Connecticut Adopts “Social Distancing,” Local Businesses, Social Services, Step Up to Help Residents and Elderly

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As efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus get underway across southeast Connecticut, all Meals on Wheels programs are continuing for now, said Stephanie Gould, the director at the Lyme-Old Lyme Senior Center. Many pharmacies, such as CVS, are offering medication delivery for free to anyone who is concerned about going out in public. “And if their pharmacy won’t do it, we can help,” said Cathy Wilson, the director of the East Lyme Senior Center. “Our Meals on Wheels drivers are excellent and could pick up medications.” It isn’t just senior centers and pharmacies that are pitching in to help

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Declining Populations, Enrollments, Call into Question Viability of Elementary Schools in Essex, Chester and Deep River

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The proposed Deep River Elementary School budget jumps by 5.08 percent this year compared with just 3.28 percent for Essex and 2.01 percent for Chester. The increase for all three towns is driven primarily by the 5.5 to 8.5 percent increase in employee benefits, in particular the long-underfunded health insurance reserve. Re-negotiated union salaries and a town energy efficiency project loan are also contributing factors in the budget growth. Yet, despite this large increase, Deep River’s $5.53 million budget brings the projected cost per pupil to $23,538 — that’s more than $3,000 less per pupil than Chester’s projected cost. Essex,

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Clinton’s First Appointed Town Manager Talks Budget Planning, Sewers

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Karl Kilduff said that his first three months on the job have felt like drinking water from a firehose, but luckily as Clinton’s first appointed town manager, it’s not a process that he will have to repeat anytime soon. “In recent history there has been a lot of turnover, so by the time the selectman was up to speed on the issues they were running for re-election,” Kilduff said. According to Kilduff, the driving force behind the transition to a managerial form of government was to reduce turnover and hopefully foster a better functioning government.  In recent years Clinton has

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Testimony Due by March 24 for Hearing on 75-Acre Solar Array in Waterford

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NEW BRITAIN — The Siting Council has set March 31 for a field review, hearing and public comment concerning a reopened application for a 15.3-megawatt, 75-acre solar array project on 117 Oil Mill Road in Waterford.  Melanie Bachman, executive director of the council, led a pre-hearing conference at the Siting Council offices on Tuesday for a revised proposal by GRE Gacrux LLC, an affiliate of Middletown-based Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC. In 2018, the council rejected a larger version of the project, a 16-megawatt, 98-acre array with 55,692 panels. The revised proposal is to construct 45,976 panels on the site. The council

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Limited Testing for Coronavirus, Canceled Tournaments in Connecticut

Due to limited availability of COVID-19 test kits, the state has restricted testing for the virus to hospitalized patients only. According to the Department of Public Health, other individuals who suspect they have Coronavirus will be able to be tested at Quest Diagnostic Labs when more kits are released later this week. The Department of Public Health was unable to say how many test kits are currently available in the state. In an effort to stop the spread of Coronavirus, the Governor in conjunction with DPH warned local health departments, towns and school districts against holding gatherings of more than

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Shore Road Plans Raise Questions at Zoning Hearing

OLD LYME — The addition of a proposed maintenance shop raised questions from the Zoning Commission during a public hearing Monday night for a special application for the construction of four storage buildings at 224 Shore Road. Engineer Robert L. Doane Jr., who represented the applicant, Mar Holding LLC, which is owned by Frank Maratta of Old Lyme, told the commission his client wanted a “shop/office” on the 1.7-acre site where he could keep trucks and equipment used to maintain his other properties. “He has several properties in Old Lyme and he felt that he would like to have a

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Letter: Phrase “Wrong Side of the Achievement Gap” Sends Wrong Message

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Unfortunately, the debate between opponents and proponents of the CSUS consolidation plan resulted in the use of language that paid homage to a very traditional genuflection to ‘blame the victims.’   In this instance, the victims are the students in the CSCU system who were referred to as having come from the ‘wrong side of the achievement gap’ in the article, “As Labor Leaders Gather on Friday in Hartford, Faculty and Administrators Debate Consolidation of Community Colleges Across Connecticut,”  published March 6, 2020.  The value-laden and scornful phrase, “wrong side of the achievement gap,” sends the wrong message.  As a

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