Cautious Steps to Re-Opening the Arts with Advice From Yale School of Public Health

How do you practice social distancing in a dance studio? Look at the way birds fly, always in tandem, but never colliding.  It’s one of many suggestions that Dr. Sten Vermund of the Yale School of Public Health has been giving to theaters, museums and other arts venues that want to find a balance between keeping visitors safe and getting back to business.  The Yale School of Public Health partnered with Shoreline Arts Alliance in March 2020 to advise businesses on the best ways to navigate the myriad and ever-changing public health regulations over the course of the pandemic. The

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More Joy — Less Catch-up — Experts Counsel Local Schools

Invest in joy — that’s the message experts in education want local school districts to embrace as they debate how to use millions of dollars in additional federal funding over the next three years.  Sandra Chafouleas, a professor at UConn’s Neag School of Education and co-director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH), said that all schools need to make learning joyful and emphasize relationships, flexibility and a focus on the whole child.  Most importantly, Chafouleas said, schools needed to invest in building teacher-student relationships. She said that just one teacher could make an enormous difference in

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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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Was it worth it, Connecticut?

In announcing the lifting of Covid restrictions by May 19, Gov. Ned Lamont brazenly  proclaimed, “I think these are ways we have earned the right to get back to our new normal.” With all due respect, Mr. Lamont,  the rights to which you allude are not earned. They are unalienable. They cannot be taken away by any authority – even a governor. For thirteen months, we the citizens of Connecticut have complied with Mr. Lamont’s ever-expanding list of restrictions that have divided us into classes of “essential” and “nonessential,” prescribed the size and setting of private family gatherings, shuttered churches

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Courtney Outlines Federal Aid for the Arts at Shoreline Arts Alliance Roundtable

Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, joined the Shoreline Arts Alliance on Friday for a virtual roundtable discussion of federal pandemic relief for the arts.  Courtney shared that the initial pandemic relief from the federal government last year was just a general infusion into the economy in an attempt to mitigate a financial crisis. However, by the end of 2020, he said lawmakers had a much better sense of which industries were going to be hardest hit by the virus, and knew that the arts industry needed particular assistance.  This inspired the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant,

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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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Predicting a “Great Summer,” Lamont Shares Plans for Summer Camps and Vocational Programs

Gov. Ned Lamont shared his optimism with the Connecticut business community at a virtual breakfast event Wednesday morning hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, highlighting what he described as the success of Connecticut’s vaccination rollout and previewing potential partnerships for workforce development.  Predicting that will be a “great summer” for Connecticut’ business community, Lamont said he was proud that Connecticut was one of the first states in the region to begin rebounding from the pandemic. “I feel like we’re in the ninth inning of this COVID year that’s been really brutal for small business, brutal for the

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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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House Legislators Extend Emergency Powers by Party-line Vote

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted 90-50 along party lines on Thursday to approve a bill that would extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations for another month. Citing the possibility of losing federal funds if the emergency declarations lapsed, Democrats advanced a bill to the State Senate that would extend Lamont’s emergency authority until May 20. Pushing back on familiar complaints from Republican leaders that the legislature has abdicated its responsibility during the pandemic, State Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, chair of the  General Laws Committee, said that the governor’s emergency authority was granted by lawmakers in a state statute passed

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5 Ways the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan May Affect Your Finances

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law on March 11. Here’s what Connecticut residents need to know. Direct Payments If you are single and make less than $75,000, you will receive $1,400 from the federal government. That payment will phase out up at $80,000. If you are single and make more than $80,000 you are ineligible. Married couples making less than $150,000 will receive a full payment of $2,800, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent child. Couples with a combined income of between $150,000 and $160,000 will receive a fraction of the payment. Those who make over

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Courtney Fields Questions on COVID Aid

Congressman Joe Courtney held a tele-town hall Wednesday evening to answer constituent calls about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, took questions on everything from childcare providers and vaccine distribution to special education and PPE manufacturing. Education issues came up throughout the call, with one caller from Mystic, who said his daughter has experienced significant learning loss from not being at school in-person, asking Courtney about whether the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will help mitigate learning loss.  “My heart goes out to you,” responded Courtney, who said the competing demands placed

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House Legislators Vote 147-0 to Assert Legislative Oversight of Federal COVID Funds

Connecticut House lawmakers on Tuesday took a step towards asserting legislative oversight over how federal COVID relief funds are spent. State representatives voted 147-0 to advance a bill to the State Senate that would require Gov. Ned Lamont to ask lawmakers to approve his plans to distribute federal COVID aid, using a process similar to how the state sets its budgets. Like in the budget process, Lamont must have his proposal for spending Connecticut’s share of the $1.9 trillion COVID aid package, which Congress approved last week, reviewed by the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee and approved by the General Assembly.

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Courtney to Hold Tele-Town Hall on Wednesday to Answer Questions on $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

Congressman Joe Courtney will hold a tele-town hall Wednesday, March 17 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM to answer constituent questions about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.  Courtney, a Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, said in a press release that he hopes to shed light on what the newly passed COVID relief bill will mean for the communities he serves.  “Passage of the bill extended Unemployment Insurance, it authorized a new round of funding for local restaurants and small businesses, and it directs support straight to our towns that will fund strained essential services from firehouses and police

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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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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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Driven Indoors by Pandemic, Finding Relief on the Trails

“I need to get out of the house or I’m going to lose my mind.”

That is how Kristina White bottom-lines the motivation for a pandemic-driven explosion of visitors to the 20 trails and preserves she oversees as executive director of the Lyme Land Trust.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people outside in the winter,” White said after returning home from a morning hike herself. “It’s a huge uptick and they’re coming from all over the state. When I drive through town on the weekends the parking lots are full and now it’s on weekdays, too. That’s never

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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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Stonington Prepares to Reopen Public Schools

STONINGTON — The Stonington Board of Education on Wednesday night asked Superintendent Van Riley to create a plan that would bring all grades back to in-person learning as soon as possible.  The plan comes in response to demands from parents that the schools reopen, despite teachers and paraeducators asking to remain in a hybrid model.  The key concern with returning in-person was the lack of space, which doesn’t allow students to maintain the six feet distance that the CDC recommends.  Yet according to a district-wide survey, about 60 percent of parents are asking for the district to return to in-person

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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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State Officials Switch Gears, Ask for Halt to Water Shutoffs

Aquarion, a subsidiary of Eversource that provides water to about 700,000 people in 57 cities and towns in Connecticut, began disconnecting customers with the largest unpaid bills in early February.  Aquarion’s plans to resume disconnections were approved by PURA, the state’s energy regulator, on Jan.12, without filed objections from any state agency or official.  That silence from state agencies broke on Thursday, when the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed a letter with PURA requesting a halt to additional water disconnections.  The letter was filed about 7 hours after CT Examiner asked department officials why the state had not

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Unpaid Electric Bills May Leave Eversource Customers on the Hook for Further Rate Hikes

Residential electric customers owe $276 million to Eversource for bills that haven’t been paid in over a month – a 20 percent increase since last spring when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong ordered energy providers to maintain service to customers in an effort to cushion the fallout of the pandemic. That debt amounts to about $250 for each of Eversource’s 1.1 million residential customers across Connecticut, and the company has told shareholders that it expects state regulators will approve rate increases to compensate for the unpaid bills. In its annual report, Eversource told shareholders last week that the company has

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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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Powell Turns a Deaf Ear to Educators who are Overextended, Underprotected

At a time when the education community is working overtime to provide students with the academic, social, and emotional support they need, Chris Powell attacks the men and women on the frontlines of this effort: teachers. Since the pandemic hit last year, teachers have taken on an increasingly heavy burden, putting students’ needs above their own well-being and pivoting from in-person to remote or hybrid teaching and back, all while juggling the same responsibilities as other parents and caregivers. In return, they have stood with their union in asking that schools reopen safely, with the same measures and protections as

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Schools Are Safe, If Not Oases from COVID-19

The evidence is piling up that schoolchildren, teachers and staff are safe in schools. Indeed, the evidence suggests schools are the “safest place” for them to be, as CDC Director Robert Redfield said last November. Yet, teacher unions and other school employee organizations are ignoring mounting evidence that support Redfield’s words. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control released its first two studies of in-school spread of COVID-19, first, a study of the experience of 17 Wisconsin schools that operated in-person from August through November, and, second, a review of reports from around the world about COVID-19 contagion in schools.

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