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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UConn to Require Vaccinations for Returning Students, Faculty and Staff an ‘Ongoing Discussion’

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Students at the University of Connecticut will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to study in the fall. The university Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Friday to adopt a policy that Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, the interim president of the University of Connecticut and CEO of UConn Health, presented during the meeting.  Agwunobi said that students should get vaccinated before coming back to campus. If they cannot get vaccinated prior to the return, he said, the university will make vaccines available for them when they arrive on campus. He explained that changes in weather, variants and the

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Short Notice Leaves Laid-Off Contact Tracers Scrambling, Up in Arms

At least 45 employees hired through a private firm to work as part of the state’s coronavirus response efforts were let go with less than 48 hours notice after the state determined that the employees’ positions were no longer necessary.  The workers were contracted by the San Diego-based healthcare corporation AMN, which the state paid over $23.7 million to provide Connecticut with a local workforce trained in contract tracing.  Maura Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health, said that 45 individuals were informed yesterday that they would be terminated effective Friday, and that they anticipate additional lay off

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As Public Option Dies, No Clear Direction on Healthcare Costs

The death of the Democrats’ public option bill has left a large question mark around what the state legislature will do to address healthcare costs before the legislative session closes in a week.  The session started out with three distinct plans: a public option, which would have allowed small businesses to purchase insurance through the state, Gov. Ned Lamont’s $50 million tax on private insurers that would have gone toward subsidies for people who buy insurance on the state exchange, Access Health, and the Republicans’ proposal of reinsurance and benchmarking, which they say would drive down costs.  In March, State

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As COVID Overwhelms Mental Health Availability, Providers Move to Self-Pay

Joy Zelikovsky expanded her therapy practice — Nourish the Heart Counseling — from a part-time, side hustle to a full-time job with four employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.  “We are completely full and I have a waiting list,” Zelikovsky said. “I get anywhere between two and five referrals a week.”  While that’s great for job security, Zelikovsky said, it makes the process of finding a therapist for anyone suffering from mental health disorders incredibly challenging.  “It is a serious problem ranging from available beds for residential eating disorder treatment and psychiatric problems to outpatient therapy,” she said. “We are starting

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Bill to Streamline Medical Coverage Waits for Vote in the House

A bill to limit health insurers from requiring “step therapy” is waiting for a vote in the House. Step therapy is a protocol establishing the order in which doctors can prescribe drugs for specific medical conditions, generally requiring patients try cheaper options before “stepping up” to more expensive treatments.  Connecticut law currently prohibits the use of step therapy for the treatment of stage four metastatic cancer, and this bill would expand that prohibition to include any behavioral health condition or a disabling, chronic, or life-threatening condition or disease.  Insurers oppose the bill, with the Connecticut Association of Health Plans testifying

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Arts Alliance, Yale School of Public Health to Host Thursday Webinar for Arts Venues

The Shoreline Arts Alliance is partnering with the Yale School of Public Health to offer a webinar for arts venues that are preparing to reopen post-COVID.  The webinar, which will take place on Thursday, May 20 at 1 p.m., will focus on the public health safety measures that venues can take to make staff and patrons feel comfortable about returning.  Recent changes in regulations have made questions about public health even more relevant. Gov. Ned Lamont is relaxing all restrictions on businesses beginning on Wednesday, with the exception of mask-wearing for non-vaccinated individuals. Last week, the CDC said that vaccinated

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Crisis Pregnancy Center Advertising Targeted by Pending Legislation in State Legislature

A bill that would ban what abortion rights advocates describe as deceptive advertising at crisis pregnancy centers is waiting for a vote on the House floor after passing the Senate 21-15 on May 5th. The legislation has faced bipartisan opposition, with Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and two other Democrats joining the Republicans to vote against the legislation. The proposal has been considered by legislators in four previous legislative sessions, most recently passing the Health Committee and House, but dying without a vote in the Senate in 2019.  Supporters of the proposal argue that “limited services pregnancy centers,” which do not

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Link Between Oversight and Patient Safety Lacking in Yale Report, as Lamont Negotiates to Avoid Strike

The ten nursing homes in Connecticut reporting the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 received no fines or citations from the Department of Public Health, according to a report issued today by Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and the SEIU District 1199 NE union.  The report found that the 34 fines the department did issue for COVID-19 violations between March 2020 and February 2021 bore no relation to the number of deaths in any particular nursing home.  The authors of the report also found no evidence that any citations or fines were levied against an additional

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Democrats Announce Intention to Extend Executive Orders — For How Long, is the Question

House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they expected to vote to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders beyond the current expiration date of May 20.  “The Governor, relating to COVID, whether it’s around testing, vaccination, things like that — even beyond May 20, will need some flexibility,” said State Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, in a press conference on Tuesday.  On Monday, Lamont said that Paul Mounds, his chief of staff, and Nora Dannehy, his general counsel, had reviewed executive orders still in effect to determine which would need to be extended after May 20 for public health reasons.  “There is

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As Health Information Exchange Launches, Patient Advocates Warn of ‘Subscriptions’ to Private Data

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After 15 years of false starts and $43 million dollars spent, Connecticut’s long-awaited health information exchange is finally “open for business,” state officials announced on Monday. The exchange is expected to collect and share patient data between healthcare providers across the state, which officials say will improve care, reduce redundant testing and lower healthcare costs through efficiency.  But a funding strategy that charges “subscriptions” for access to that health data has raised privacy concerns for patient advocates who warn of a lack of clarity regarding who will have access to that data. Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health

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Lawmakers Poised to Establish Office of Pandemic Preparedness, Buck Advice of State Health Officials

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wane, Connecticut lawmakers say they want to make sure the state is prepared for the next one.  Legislators are poised to pass a bill establishing a state Office of Pandemic and Public Health Preparedness, which would manage inventories for personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, and vaccine storage. The office would also help connect businesses to local providers of PPE, and work to improve the state’s medical supply chain. The Appropriations Committee budget released last week allocated $300,000 to the Office of Pandemic Preparedness for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.  “If we’d had

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Therapists Relate Patient Struggles Toward Normalcy as COVID Subsides

All signs point to what should be a summer of reuniting with loved ones, reentering society, and to some degree, returning to normalcy for Connecticut residents. But in a series of interviews, therapists told CT Examiner that many of their clients with clinical anxiety may not be ready to go back out into the world just yet.  “My clients with anxiety are freaking out right now,” said Chantel Herron Elliott, a licensed clinical social worker in Danbury. “I would love to say that they’re happy to go out into the world, but for a lot of them, no. I’ll be

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Mobile Clinics Organized to Vaccinate Farm Workers for COVID-19

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Connecticut farms will have the opportunity to host mobile clinics for farm workers who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a press release by the Department of Agriculture.   The program is being run through a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Labor. Joan Nichols, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, said she had received phone calls from farms asking if there was a way they could get their workers vaccinated on-site.  Nichols said that some of the associations’ member farms will host between 200 and 400 seasonal

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As Vaccination Rates Sag, Connecticut Opens No-Appointment Walk-in Clinics

Vaccination clinics across the state are allowing people to receive vaccinations without having an appointment, according to an announcement from Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday.  In Middlesex and New London Counties, vaccine clinics offering walk-in appointments include  The Yale New Haven Health Clinic at Mitchell College in New London Greenville Drug Store in Norwich The Yale New Haven Health Clinic at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville The Middlesex Health Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook The Community Health Center Clinic at Wesleyan University in Middletown Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown  Middletown Housing Authority locations at Maplewood Terrace and Traverse Square

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Turning Attention to PFAS in Connecticut’s Drinking Water

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The State of Connecticut is making an increased effort to identify so-called “forever chemicals” that may be building up in certain water sources in the state.  PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of more than 4,700 chemical compounds that have been used since the 1940s. Found in products like cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam, they are held together by a strong carbon-fluorine bond. As a result, they build up — in soil, in groundwater, and in animals that ingest them, eventually reaching human beings.  According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, PFAS exposure has

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