Rollout on Track, Despite Pause for Johnson & Johnson Doses

Connecticut state leaders told vaccine providers to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.  The CDC announcement came as a result of six people in the United States who developed cerebral blood clots in the two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot. About 100,000 people in Connecticut have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and none have reported serious side effects, according to the state Department of Public Health. The state has leveraged its

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Debating the Impact of Eliminating Connecticut’s Religious Exemption to Vaccination

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On Wednesday, the legislature’s public health committee voted to send two identical bills, one to the House and one to the Senate, that would eliminate the ability of parents to claim a religious exemption to vaccinating their children. If the legislation becomes law, both public and private school students in Connecticut who are not vaccinated by the fall of 2022 will not be allowed to enroll or re-enroll in kindergarten through sixth grade classes. Jody Terranova, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and president-elect and immunization representative for the Connecticut chapter of the American

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Connecticut Opens COVID Vaccinations to Ages 16+ on Thursday

All adults 16+ will be eligible to register for their COVID-19 vaccine starting on Thursday, April 1. The Governor’s Office announced that appointments will become available Thursday morning, and residents can register for the vaccine by visiting ct.gov/covidvaccine and entering their zip code.  The site will show the nearest vaccine providers and instructions on how to register, whether through the Vaccine Administration Management System, an appointment scheduling system provided by the Center for Disease Control, or other vaccine signup systems.  All Connecticut adults can register in VAMS now, and will receive a confirmation email from the state once eligible, which

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As Vaccines Show Effectiveness, COVID Cases Hit Youth

Last week, 40 percent of positive COVID-19 tests at Yale-New Haven Health were the B.1.1.7, or UK, variant. “Once [the UK variant] gets a toe-hold it overtakes the other variants and becomes the dominant variant,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, the Chief Medical Officer at Yale-New Haven Health. “But, the vaccine prevents that spread.” In other words, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all prevent the spread of the UK variant in addition to the original strain.  “So, get vaccinated,” said Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale-New Haven Health.  As of Sunday, in Connecticut 40 percent of the state population

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Legislature Debates Civil Liability for Cases of COVID-19

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Connecticut is weighing joining 36 other states that have passed laws protecting businesses, nursing homes and universities from lawsuits for alleged violations of state-ordered COVID-19 protocols.  State Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, ranking member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, is sponsoring a bill that would shield businesses, nonprofits and other entities from lawsuits if they have “substantially complied” with the COVID-19 safety guidelines issued by the Department of Public Health and the Office of the Governor.  “What this bill would do is say, right at the outset of filing the suit, you can’t prevail because we followed the governor’s guidance,” Fishbein

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Legislation Aims to Improve Outcomes for Black Mothers, Consider Doula Care

Tamika McPhail thought it was just the hospital. While pregnant with her second child, she noticed that the baby wasn’t moving. Soon, it was nearly too late, and her obstetrician couldn’t find a heartbeat. After an induction and emergency C-section, she said her son had to be “brought back to life.”  She’s had four children since, trying out three different hospitals and four different obstetricians, but she said each subsequent birth came with serious complications for her or her child.  “I’ve come to see that it’s not just the hospital, and it’s not just the doctor,” McPhail said. “It’s a

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State Warns of Scams Targeting Vaccination Efforts

COVID-19 vaccination scams targeting Connecticut residents are on the rise, Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong said. State leaders are sounding the alarm to raise awareness of the vaccine distribution system, and ensure that residents are not taken advantage of.  The Office of the Attorney General and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection released information about two new scams, one in which people posing as vaccine manufacturers offer rewards for filling out a vaccine survey, but ask for credit card information to ship a reward. In another scam, residents received a fake letter from the governor’s office directing

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Lamont Announces a Faster Timeline for COVID Vaccinations

All Connecticut residents aged 16 and older will be eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations starting April 5 — one month earlier than previously scheduled, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at a press conference on Monday. Residents 45 and older will now be able to register beginning Friday — the same day as Connecticut’s reopening of restaurants and other establishments to 100 percent capacity.  “There’ll be a bit of a rush, so if you’re relatively healthy, you maybe don’t have to go to work every day, you can telecommute, perhaps you think you had some sort of a mild infection in the

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Legislators Debate Three Proposals for Healthcare

Legislators are debating a trifecta of bills addressing one of the biggest concerns Connecticut residents are facing this year — the cost of healthcare.   The first bill — the Democrats’ public option plan — would allow individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance on the state exchange.  The second bill, proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont, would tax health insurers and use the money to create subsidies for people who buy insurance on the state exchange, Access Health.  On Thursday, legislators held a public hearing on a third alternative: a Republican-backed combination of reinsurance and benchmarking that lawmakers say would better

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Lawmakers Open Hearing on Legislation to Ease Workers’ Comp Claims for COVID-19

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In July of last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order establishing a presumption of eligibility for workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19. This meant that employees required to work in person during the height of the pandemic, from March 10 to May 20, who contracted COVID-19 would be presumed to have contracted the virus at work, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.  Employers could still contest a claim, but the executive order ostensibly helped essential workers access deserved benefits in the midst of a pandemic, when substantiating a claim of an infection in the workplace would be especially

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COVID Risk for New and Expecting Mothers Raises Questions on Vaccination

A lack of clear data on how the COVID-19 vaccines can affect women who are expecting or nursing a baby leaves these women in a difficult position when deciding whether or not to get vaccinated.  Pregnant women are 5.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID than the general population, 1.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 1.7 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator, according to a June 26, 2020 publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Christopher Morosky, an Assistant professor and OB-GYN at UConn Health, said he

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Lamont Announces a Significant Loosening of Pandemic Restrictions

Connecticut restaurants and retail outlets will be allowed to operate at full capacity with masks and distancing on March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press conference Thursday, where he laid out a significant loosening of pandemic restrictions.  Lamont announced the elimination of capacity limits for restaurants, libraries, museums, aquariums, gyms, stores, offices, personal services and houses of worship.  He emphasized that all of these businesses will still be beholden to mask mandates, six feet of spacing requirements, and cleaning protocols. Stores and restaurants are currently capped at half capacity indoors, and restaurants can seat eight people at most

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Two Mass Clinics to Open for Vaccinations of Educators and Childcare Workers in Southeast Connecticut

Two mass vaccine clinics will soon be operating for educators and childcare providers in southeastern Connecticut, through a partnership between the local health districts, the tribal nations and the hospitals.  School district employees in the Uncas Health District will be able to receive vaccines through a clinic operated by Yale-New Haven Health at Mohegan Sun. Local residents in the Ledge Light Health District will be vaccinated at a new clinic being run at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in partnership with Hartford HealthCare.  Ledge Light Director Steve Mansfield said his organization hadn’t yet determined how they would be prioritizing districts,

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Five Changes for Nursing Homes That Are Here To Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the long-term care industry on its head after causing the death of 3,856 residents — more than half of the total number of deaths statewide, according to the state Department of Public Health figures. It’s unlikely that nursing homes will be the same. Here are five changes that are likely here to stay. 1. Lower occupancy, more competition, better care On average, nursing home occupancy declined 15 percent across Connecticut from January to September 2020, according to data reported by the state. That decline does not come from deaths alone.  “Consumers confidence in the model of

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Target Dates Announced for Vaccinations; Provisions for School Employees and ‘Vulnerable Communities’

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The next phases of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will be based on age — but with school employees and childcare workers given special priority and efforts made to reach “vulnerable communities” — according to the Office of the Governor. Gov. Ned Lamont announced today that individuals between the age of 55 and 64 could begin to register for the vaccine on March 1. People aged 45 to 54 will be able to register beginning on March 22, those aged 35 to 44 beginning on April 12, and all remaining individuals will be able to register starting on May 3. 

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Bill to Allow Medical Assistants to Perform Vaccinations Draws Mixed Response

A bill that would allow medical assistants to perform vaccinations has received a mixed response, with physicians hoping that the provision will lighten their workload and nurses questioning whether medical assistants are qualified to perform the task.  The legislature has considered the legislation a number of times over the past five years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given the issue a new relevance, as private practices and physicians say that the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations has left them without adequate staffing to administer the shots.  Supporters of the bill include the Fairfield County Medical Association, the Community Medical Group and

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Yale New Haven Health Reports ‘Zero’ Cases of Flu Across its 6 Hospitals

From Greenwich to Rhode Island, there have been no diagnosed cases of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the Yale New Haven Health System this season. Typically, at this time of year, there are hundreds of cases across the six hospitals in the health system.  “As of last week, we still had zero flu cases,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, the chief medical officer at Yale-New Haven Health. “It’s one bright spot, particularly for children who are hard hit by flu and RSV each year. Due to the precautions we’ve taken for COVID-19, there will be many fewer deaths of

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More than 450 Testify on a ‘Public Option’ for Health Insurance in Connecticut

More than 450 individuals and organizations submitted written testimony in a public hearing debating the merits of having a widely available state-sponsored health insurance plan — otherwise known as a public option — in Connecticut.  The proposed bill would make the health insurance plan currently reserved for state employees available to small business owners, in an effort to allow them to provide their employees with health insurance at a lower cost.   Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said that the plan would help small business owners by taking away the incentive for employees to leave for larger companies who could offer

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Social Isolation Takes its Toll on Vulnerable Youth, Doctors Say

As a matter of physical health, or at least mortality, COVID-19 has left children largely unscathed. Of the more than 7,000 associated deaths in Connecticut, just 5 were in young people aged 19 and under, according to the Department of Public Health. But the isolation required by the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus has left its mark on many of Connecticut’s youngest residents.  At Yale-New Haven Health there are more children admitted after suicide attempts, more children treated with severe eating disorders and more children coming in, period, according to Dr. Claudia Moreno, a pediatric psychiatrist

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Mobile Population Tests Phased Vaccine Strategy for Nursing Homes in Connecticut

At every nursing home in Connecticut in January, between 90 and 100 percent of residents received a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the state Department of Public Health, vaccinations that greatly slowed the spread of the virus within each facility. In the last three weeks of January COVID-19 cases reported in nursing homes declined by 66 percent, according to the state Department of Public Health. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has estimated that herd immunity requires about 75 percent of a population to be vaccinated. But as the state begins phase 1b of

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Nutmeg Pharmacy Offers Community-Minded Approach to COVID Vaccinations

At the Essex Fire Station on Saturday, the staff of Nutmeg Pharmacy in Centerbrook stood in one of the bays around a table stocked with gloves, biohazard containers and syringes. By 9 a.m, people were driving their cars through the bay so that pharmacists could administer the vaccine. By 11:45 a.m., the supply was just about exhausted.  This was the first week that the independent pharmacy was able to obtain COVID vaccines from the state. Chris Olender, pharmacy manager at the Centerbrook location, said they had held three clinics so far — one in Moodus, one in Higganum and one

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Osten Spearheads Push for Workers’ Compensation to Include Mental Health

Kara Dewaine lost her father, Jeramie Dewaine, to suicide two years ago. A corrections officer at Corrigan Radgowski Prison, he would sometimes work 72 hours straight, and witnessed horrific violence, including being one of the first to find an inmate who took their life by hanging, his daughter said.  “These weren’t things he could talk about at home,” she said. “It was like he had to become a different person when he was home to protect us from everything he was going through. He was expected to see these extreme things at work and deal with them as if they

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Union Criticizes State for Lack of Vaccine Preparedness for Corrections Officers

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In a press conference Wednesday morning, union leaders representing tens of thousands of corrections officers argued that the state and the Department of Corrections have done little to prepare for vaccine distribution, constantly moving the goalposts and delaying a process they say is vital to workplace safety.  “The agency has no plan, nor does it show any true interest in formulating a plan to get our members the vaccine they so desperately want,” said Sean Howard, president of AFSCME Local 387, representing the Cheshire Correctional Complex.   Corrections officers are part of Phase 1b, which includes staff in congregate settings and

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After 4 Attempts and $43 Million, State’s Health Information Exchange Unfinished

After nearly three years leading the state’s effort to build a health information exchange for Connecticut, Allan Hackney resigned on December 3, leaving an unfinished project in the hands of CONNIE, a newly formed nonprofit established to manage the exchange.  If completed, the exchange could allow every health provider in the state to access a common set of patient records, in theory leading to better patient care and a better understanding of statewide public health concerns. Already, the state has spent $23 million of federal grant funding between 2007 and 2018 on three prior attempts led by the Department of

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Gifford to Lead Department of Health Through the Pandemic, Says Lamont Spokesperson

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has been without a permanent commissioner since May, and will continue to be led by Acting Commissioner Deidre Gifford until after the pandemic, the Governor’s Office said in a statement on Thursday to Connecticut Examiner.  Gov. Ned Lamont removed former commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell eight months ago and replaced her with Gifford, who was then and still serves as commissioner of the Department of Social Services. At the time, Lamont said she would lead both departments simultaneously while his administration performed a nationwide search for a new permanent commissioner.  Today, House Republican Leader Vinent Candelora

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Religious Exemption Sparks Debate Over Process on the Public Health Committee

The legislature’s Public Health Committee today received a petition with 10,000 signatures asking that legislators postpone consideration of a bill that would remove the religious exemption for children’s immunizations until they are able to hold a public hearing in person.  In an email to State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, that was shared with Connecticut Examiner, Katherine Kraemer, a signatory of the petition, said that having a virtual hearing on this bill “produces many challenges that impede a public’s right of full engagement in a fair legislative process.”  Those concerns include poor internet connections, access for people who didn’t know how

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Lamont Announces Phases for COVID Vaccinations

Gov. Ned Lamont announced today that phase 1B, which encompasses over 1.3 million Connecticut residents, would be broken down into a series of tiers that prioritizes the people who are at the highest risk of dying from the virus.  According to the timeline presented today at the governor’s press conference, individuals 75 and older continue to be first in line. The governor said he was expecting this group to have received their first doses within the next two weeks.   Lamont said that people over the age of 75 comprise eight percent of the population, but account for 71 percent of

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After Fast Start, Connecticut Broadens Vaccinations with Uncertain Distribution

As phase 1B of the vaccine rollout is set to begin today, regional health officials have been voicing frustrations over the last week at the uncertainty surrounding the number of vaccines that they will receive on a weekly basis, a problem which they hope will stabilize as the state administers the vaccine to a much broader population. This phase includes 1.367 million people, according to a presentation given by Benjamin Bechtolsheim, the current director of the COVID-19 vaccination program, to the Governor’s Vaccine Advisory Group on Thursday. Included in Phase 1B are frontline essential workers, all individuals 64 and over,

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Opioid Bill Pairs Doctors and Recovering Addicts in Push Statewide

State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, introduced a bill in the state legislature to expand the use of peer “recovery navigators” — individuals who have recovered from opioid addiction and now assist others in the community still using the drug — as a method to address opioid addiction in towns across Connecticut. The legislation is based on the New London CARES program which was started in 2016 and which brings together medical doctors who specialize in addiction and navigators who know the community. The result is a comprehensive approach to opioid addiction, which McCarty hopes can help prevent overdoses.  “I’d be

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