Medical Community Encourages Child Vaccinations for COVID

Questions about the safety of child vaccinations and the need for booster shots have taken center stage as the widespread availability of COVD vaccines coincides with a recent statewide increase in COVID-19 cases.   According to data from the state Department of Public Health, approximately 36,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one vaccine — a number amounting to about 13 percent of the children in that age group in the state.  Dr. Tom Balcezak, Chief Clinical Officer at Yale-New Haven Health, said in a Thursday press conference that children have exhibited minimal side effects

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As Nursing Homes Resume Normal Visitation, Patient Population Remains Down

After 20 months of restrictions, on Nov. 12 family and friends of nursing home residents in Connecticut were once again able to visit at any time, on any day without a prior appointment, a significant step toward normalcy for the population hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This will make a significant difference this week for residents and facilities,” said Mairead Painter, the Long-term Care Ombudsman for the State of Connecticut. “Family members are going to see all the time what is happening inside facilities. It’s not at the building’s convenience anymore.”  Conditions within nursing homes and other long term

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COVID, PFAS Push Killingworth to Join Connecticut River Health District

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KILLINGWORTH – The responsibilities of the Killingworth Health Department have grown quickly over the past year, to the point that the only employee of that department – its director – is warning it may be more than a one-person job. Killingworth Health Director Amy Scholz told the Board of Selectmen that the responsibilities of the COVID-19 pandemic, the discovery of PFAS contamination in wells in town, and an increase in building applications have stretched the responsibilities of her role beyond what one person can manage. Scholz is leaving at the end of this week, and  the Board of Selectmen agreed

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Student Quarantines Pose a Significant Challenge for the New Normal

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Large numbers of student quarantines in districts across Connecticut may be undermining the state’s plans for a normal, fully in-person school year.  In the past six weeks, 132 students in the Region 4 schools have been sent home to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days due to potential exposure to COVID-19, according to superintendent Brian White. The district is not alone with high numbers of quarantined students.  Lyme-Old Lyme has had 41 students sent home to quarantine since classes began, Guilford has reported a total of 110 student quarantines and according to the State Department of Education it’s a

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East Haddam Pharmacist Envisions a Bigger Building — and a Broader Healthcare Role

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Greg McKenna has already outgrown the Moodus location of the Nutmeg Pharmacy he opened in February 2020. Now he’s seeking approval to build a brand new Nutmeg Pharmacy down the road — a location he hopes will not only continue to serve the East Haddam community but will help expand the role of pharmacists across Connecticut.  The proposed pharmacy at the corner of Rae Palmer and William F. Palmer Roads would have a drive-thru pickup window – an important feature that McKenna said he hoped would make it easier for older patients with limited mobility to get their medications.  But

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Bracing for the Return of Flu Season, Doctors Encourage Vaccination

After an unusually light flu season in 2020-2021 and months without a single flu case at Yale New Haven Hospital, Dr. Scott Roberts said he is preparing for an onslaught of cases this year.  “We are all bracing for a bad winter season. Essentially everyone has had a lost year of building immunity to colds, the flu, RSV. That’s one year additionally removed from potential immunity,” said Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at Yale New Haven Health System. “If you’re asking me to make a prediction, I would say it’s going to be a bad respiratory virus season this winter.”

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‘We were lucky,’ Plenty of Mosquitoes, But Little EEE

Though prolonged hot, wet weather led to a high number of mosquitoes in Connecticut this year, residents have been spared an outbreak of the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus — possibly because the virus didn’t reach the state until too late in the season to become widespread in the mosquito population. “I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from people about how bad the mosquitos have been this year, and that’s not a figment of your imagination. It was a bad year in terms of just the sheer number of mosquitoes,”  said Phil Armstrong, director of the Mosquito Monitoring Program

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Across New York and Connecticut, MTA Issues 18 Summonses in Mask ‘Blitz’

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority issued 18 summonses between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29 — nearly half as many as were issued since the start of the pandemic — for passengers failing to wear masks on public transportation.   In response to a request for data specific to Metro-North, MTA spokesman Michael Cortez told CT Examiner that the transit authority was able only to provide aggregate numbers across the entire system. The stepped-up enforcement is part of a recent campaign to ensure that riders abide by a federal order by Centers of Disease Control that riders must wear masks on public transportation

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Shoreline Schools Report High Staff Vaccination Rates

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Shoreline schools across eastern Connecticut are reporting high rates of compliance with Gov. Ned Lamont’s vaccine mandates, according to numbers provided by the  districts.  Lamont signed an executive order in September requiring that all K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption. School employees are allowed to opt-out of the vaccination, but must undergo weekly testing for the virus.  All the employees listed under the order were required to receive the first dose of a vaccine by September 27,  Of the districts stretching from Waterford to Guilford

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Connecticut Lawmakers Convene Panel on Healthcare Cost Strategies

If the cost of food in the United States had increased since the Second World War at the same rate as healthcare, a dozen oranges would cost $57, a gallon of milk $160. That’s according to Katherine Gudiksen, a senior health policy researcher for The Source on Healthcare Price and Competition, a project of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Gudiksen was one of six researchers, government officials and policy experts who presented to a bipartisan group of Connecticut state legislators on strategies that can be used to lower the cost of healthcare — and, by extension,

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Child Marijuana Poisonings Expected to Jump, UConn Wants Funding for the Response

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In a phone call with CT Examiner, Dr. Suzanne Doyon, medical director at the Connecticut Poison Control Center, discussed a request to fund two additional positions in an anticipation of a significant rise in child poisonings given the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. Doyon said she was most concerned about an increase in small children ingesting edibles, which she said make up about half the calls the center receives each year.  Even before the legalization, Doyon said, calls had been on the rise.  “I’m just concerned because children being admitted to the ICU… it’s just not fun,” she said.  Doyon

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In Special Session, House Approves Extending Emergency Powers in 80-60 Vote

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HARTFORD — Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 80 to 60 on Monday to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency executive powers until February 15, 2022. 10  Democrats joined the Republican caucus in opposing the extension.  In a special session, legislators elected to renew the declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies first issued on March 10, 2020. The public emergency declarations would have expired on September 30 without this sixth extension.  The State Senate is expected to vote tomorrow to approve the measure. In a letter to legislators, Lamont argued that given the rise of the delta

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Oversight of Assisted Living Puts Patients at Risk, Says Audit

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As more Connecticut residents have waited until later in life to move into assisted living, these facilities have become more similar to nursing homes. But, a recent report from state auditors found that oversight of assisted living facilities has been far less stringent than nursing homes, raising concerns about patient care and safety.  Today, an estimated 8,000 Connecticut residents living in these communities average between 84 and 86 years old, and suffer from a higher percentage of chronic illnesses or more severe medical conditions, according to the auditors. Assisted living facilities serve people 55 and older and provide nursing services

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Lamont Faces Pressure to Allow Funding for Air Quality in Public Schools

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After receiving $995 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, advocates for towns, school districts, teachers, superintendents and other staff are asking the legislature to include repairs for school ventilation systems in the statewide plan for the additional federal dollars.  “The Connecticut General Assembly’s approval of Governor Lamont’s spending plan for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan must include HVAC repairs needed by local public schools across the state; and HVAC repairs must be included as part of the State Department of Education’s annual bond funding to towns for school construction and repairs,” according to Kevin Maloney of

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Conservative Caucus Hears Public Fears of Mandated Vaccination in the Workplace

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HARTFORD — About 50 people who have opted not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine convened at the State Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to testify at a public hearing about how that decision has affected their ability to work.  The legislature’s Conservative Caucus organized the hearing. State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, chair of the caucus, said that the purpose of the meeting was to hear the stories of people who are being affected by mandates requiring vaccination.  “The recent requirements for vaccination in order to maintain employment have raised concerns in the public,” France said. “We are here to hear from

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CEO Marna Borgstrom to Retire in March after 43 Years at Yale New Haven

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After 43 years at Yale New Haven Hospital and Health System, Chief Executive Officer Marna Borgstrom, announced that she will be retiring on March 25, of 2022.  “I have loved growing the Yale New Haven Health System and being part of this really incredible organization,” Borgstrom said.  The board of Yale New Haven Health voted this morning to appoint Chris O’Connor, the current president of the Health System, to the position upon her retirement.  O’Connor, who was born at Yale New Haven Hospital, also served as the chief operating officer at Yale New Haven Health and the head of Saint

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COVID Cases Spike at Conn College, But Without Hospitalizations

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NEW LONDON — Connecticut College reported that 169 of its students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, after several gatherings in crowded spaces that led to a “chain reaction” of viral spread, according to epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health.   The number represents the highest cases reported in a single week at Connecticut College since the college began regularly testing students for COVID-19 in August of 2020. The students are tested twice weekly.  Victor Arcelus, dean of students at the college, said in a message to the community on Saturday that the college was starting to show a downward

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Connecticut Approves Rate Hikes for Health Insurance

The Connecticut Department of Insurance on Friday approved increases on health insurance premiums of 5.6 percent for individuals and 6.7 percent for small group plans in the year 2022. ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which covers 81,000 people on its on-exchange individual plans, will be allowed to raise premiums an average of 5.5 percent, a decrease from the originally requested 7.4 percent.  In its final filing with the Department of Insurance, ConnectiCare said the company expected increased behavioral health costs in 2022 and ongoing costs of COVID-19 vaccination. It said that a bill passed in the legislature that will cap the cost

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Connecticut’s Health Insurers Ask for Steep Rate Hikes

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Health insurers, in a hearing with the State of Connecticut Insurance Department on Tuesday, blamed lingering COVID-19 costs, an increased use of specialty drugs and a return to pre-pandemic demand for healthcare as reasons to significantly increase health insurance premiums for 2022.  Anthem Health Plans, which covers 1.2 million members across the state, has asked for an average increase of 12.3 percent in premiums for its individual plans, which cover 28,000 people, and 11.5 percent for its small group plans, which cover 25,500 people. The company also covers a large number of individuals by providing plans to large corporate clients. 

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Yale Doctors Warn of Breakthrough COVID Infections, Counsel for Masks

As of August 23, in Connecticut 369 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s three times more than just one month ago.  “We are going to see a handful to more than 100 cases in the hospital in a cyclic fashion, up and down for about a year or two,” predicted Dr. Tom Balcezak, the chief medical officer for Yale New Haven Health System at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.  Compared to the peak in spring 2020, that surge might not seem like much, but compared to one month and one year ago, it is considerable, Balcezak said. And it’s

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Nursing Homes Face Further Labor Squeeze With Mandated Vaccination

Last week Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order requiring staff at all long-term care facilities in Connecticut to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 7.  “We know for a fact that COVID-19 presents increased risk of severe illness and death among older adults, particularly those who have chronic conditions and compromised immune systems,” Lamont said. “Now that vaccines are widely available and scientifically proven to be safe and the most effective method for preventing hospitalization and death, it would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility to not receive this

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Yale New Haven and Saint Barnabas Doctors Explain “Long COVID”

Concerns about the new Delta variant and its rapid spread have sparked new discussions over mask requirements and vaccine mandates, particularly in Connecticut’s schools. But medical professionals are also weighing a relatively new concern — physical and psychological symptoms that may affect an undetermined number of patients, including a small number of children, for months after an initial infection.  In early June, Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital launched a post-COVID comprehensive care program for children who may be experiencing long-term effects from COVID. Dr. Carlos Oliveira, a pediatric infectious diseases physician-scientist who chairs the multidisciplinary pediatric COVID-19 and MIS-C treatment

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Metro-North to Require Vaccination or Weekly Testing by Sept. 7

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All Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees must be vaccinated or participate in weekly COVID testing beginning Sept. 7, according to a spokesman on Thursday. MTA operates bus, rail and subway transit in the New York metropolitan area, including Metro-North, which serves coastal Connecticut.  MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told CT Examiner in an email that 3,547 of Metro-North’s 6,069 employees – 59 percent – had received at least one dose of vaccine at MTA-run sites, or had added their vaccination details in the authority’s database.  According to the MTA, surveys of employees also show that an additional 15 and 20 percent have

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Local Schools Finalize COVID Rules, Wait for State Guidance on Masks

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As local school officials wait for critical guidance from Gov. Ned Lamont about whether masks will be required for students and staff, district by district school officials are finalizing plans for what other health and safety measures — like cohorting, distancing and cleaning — will stay in place when the schools open in the fall.  One significant change is that the state will not count remote learning days toward the minimum required instructional days, which means that districts will no longer offer remote learning as an instructional option. Last year, the Governor’s emergency orders allowed the use of remote learning

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Unions Say State Vaccine Mandates for Workers Must Be Negotiated

In the wake of the federal government’s new requirements around COVID-19 vaccination and health and safety protocols in the workplace, Connecticut’s unions are saying that any potential state mandates should be worked out at the bargaining table.  On Monday, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would mandate COVID-19 vaccination for its 115,000 health care workers. Yesterday, President Joe Biden issued regulations that will require federal workers either to show proof of vaccination or to follow regulations that include required masking, distancing and weekly testing. The Defense Department is also considering adding the COVID-19 shot to the list

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Metro-North Reports No Citations Since Masks Were Required in 2020

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In response to a Freedom of Information request by CT Examiner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released information showing that the agency has not issued any citations on Metro-North trains to riders for failing to wear a mask. “When we see someone on a train without a mask, our approach is to hand that person a mask, not a summons,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “As a result, we’ve had tens of thousands of positive interactions with customers, promoting the health and safety of all riders.” Transit workers have issued 38 summons for refusing to wear a mask on public transit

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School Officials React to New CDC Guidelines

The Connecticut State Department of Education is considering new guidelines by the U.S. Center for Disease Control as it prepares to make recommendations for what public health guidelines schools will have to follow in the fall.  The new guidelines say that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors. They recommend that unvaccinated students and staff continue to wear masks inside school buildings, and that schools should continue with the 3-foot distancing rule between students. The guidelines further say that when the distancing is not possible, or in schools that serve children under the age of 12 who are

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Staff and Faculty Immunizations Unresolved as State Schools Finalize Student Mandate

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Students at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, by and large, will be required to be vaccinated this fall — but the requirements for unionized faculty and staff remain unresolved. The policy, which the Board of Regents adopted in a meeting on Thursday, requires all students on campus to be vaccinated when they return to campus for the fall of 2021. Students can apply for a medical or non-medical exemption. Those who are approved for an exemption may have to follow other protocols, including a modified quarantine, masking and periodic COVID testing.  “An unknown mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons

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Clinton Schools Await State Guidance on Masks, Request Local Feedback on Spending

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Clinton schools are looking for public feedback on its reopening plan for the fall and how to use $1.7 million of federal dollars the town is expected to receive under the American Rescue Plan Act. Every school district in Connecticut must create a “safe return to in-person instruction” plan to access federal funding. The town’s current plan is to drop the remote learning option, but continue with masks and social distancing, in accordance with current state guidelines.  At a Board of Education meeting on Monday, superintendent of schools Maryann O’Donnell said that the plan is still dependent on state guidance.

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Bill to Phase Out PFAS Heads for Approval by Unanimous Vote

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A type of man-made chemicals found in consumer packaging and firefighting foam will likely be phased out in the state of Connecticut because of their suspected negative effects on the environment and public health.  A bill that aims to end the use of firefighting foam and food packaging passed 146-0 in the State House of Representatives on Monday. The Senate is expected to approve the legislation before the end of session. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of 4,700 chemicals that are found in cookware, firefighting foam and food packaging. The US Center for Disease Control has

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