Updated: State Nears Peak of COVID-19 Outbreak with just 4 percent of Deaths in Southeastern CT

Almost 14,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 671 have died statewide as of Tuesday. Of those deaths, just 28 — 4 percent — are in New London and Middlesex county including one in Old Lyme, according to the department of public health. “The first death in our jurisdiction is a sad reminder of the need for adherence to social distancing measures; it is crucial in helping to reduce the spread of the virus and limit the number of people who are infected” said Stephen Mansfield, the director of Ledge Light Health District. “Ledge Light Health District and its

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A Backlog of Healthcare Needs as COVID-19 Pushes Medicine Online and Over the Phone

In six weeks, Yale New Haven Health has transitioned 25 percent of their daily appointments to video or phone calls. That’s 2,500 telehealth appointments each day compared with about zero at the beginning of March. “Technology that supports telehealth has been around for years, but there have been barriers to insurance coverage before now, but in the context of a crisis we manage to find our way around those,” said Lisa Stump, senior vice president and chief information officer at Yale New Haven Health. Those barriers have been lifted as insurance companies have moved to cover virtual medical care in

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As Connecticut Schools Adapt to the Coronavirus, Stark Gaps in Educational Opportunities Raise Questions About the Future of Distance Learning

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On March 16, every school across Connecticut was closed, and for the first-time remote learning was the only option for primary and high school students. Within days, the inequity of the learning opportunities offered was abundantly evident as some students with computers and internet available at home were able to continue their studies, while others lacked access to the technology and internet connection. “Today students in some places are getting distance education, but others are not. If this were to carry on for any length of time you’d have a case under the relevant statute law,” said Richard Kay, a

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Old Lyme Selectmen Seek Clarity Before Responding to Governor’s Lodging Restrictions

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OLD LYME — First Selectman Timothy Griswold said that town government should do more research before acting on Gov. Ned Lamont’s April 2 executive order restricting hotels, short-term rentals, and other lodging for use by first responders, essential workers and special cases, for as long as the coronavirus public health emergency lasts. Griswold, speaking during a teleconferenced meeting of the Board of Selectmen Monday night, said that canceling most short-term and seasonal rentals would be “disastrous” for property owners who depend on that income, and he said that it wasn’t clear from the order who would have to enforce the

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High Hurdles as Restaurants are Forced to Adapt to an Uncertain Future

As the restaurants struggle to stay open and adapt to an uncharted future social landscape and uncertain timeline, the state-mandated closure of full-service dining rooms has decimated much of the food service industry.   Since March 16, when Gov. Lamont’s ordered a halt to eat-in service at restaurants across the state, restaurants without a substantial preexisting takeout business have seen a drop in sales of between 70 and 90 percent, said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association by phone Monday. Dolch said that in Connecticut 8,500 restaurants employing about 160,000 workers make up 10 percent of the

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With Draft Guidance from CABE, Schools Adopt Emergency Procedures for Pandemic.

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In an effort to provide superintendents with the ability to make decisions quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education drafted an emergencies and disaster preparedness policy that school boards across that state are adopting. “Two issues prompted me to draft this,” said Vincent Mustaro, the senior staff associate for policy services at CABE and the former superintendent of Clinton Public Schools. “The current situation requires having to make decisions quickly or change a decision quickly based upon guidance from the federal government or the state. Also, succession planning. What if the superintendent becomes disabled and

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Risk, Insurance, and Reopening Schools After the Pandemic

With every new disaster, comes new risks. With every new risk, comes a potential market for insurance. “We are not going to see immediate changes to plans or products that would cover the pandemic, but over time as we learn from this, we will begin to see some products that will be offered related to pandemics,” said Sean Kevelighan, the CEO of the Insurance Information Institute. At present, schools are not covered for financial losses caused by the pandemic or by health impacts if an outbreak were to occur at their facilities. Schools with self-funded health insurance plans do, however,

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Updated: Fourth Case of Coronavirus Identified in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Just hours after confirmation of a third case of COVID-19 in Old Lyme, a fourth case has been confirmed tonight by Stephen Mansfield, director of health for Ledge Light Health District. The new case is a 53-year-old female, according to a text from Mansfield to CT Examiner at about 7:30 p.m. Earlier in the afternoon, First Selectman Tim Griswold sent a town alert email confirming that  Ledge Light Health District had identified a second and third case of COVID-19 in Old Lyme.  The new cases were a 21-year-old female and a 27-year-old male, said Griswold by phone.

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Letter: Suspend Privacy Laws Isolating Nursing Home Residents from their Families

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AARP (the nation’s largest advocacy group for seniors) is urging Connecticut residents to petition state lawmakers to temporarily suspend privacy laws that effectively prevent nursing home residents from communicating with family members during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. For several weeks, nursing home visits have been banned, except in “compassionate care” circumstances.  In addition, privacy laws currently prohibit cameras in nursing homes. This includes the ability to connect through SKYPE, ZOOM and other virtual visitation technologies. This law effectively leaves more than 22,000 Connecticut chronically-ill and vulnerable long-term care patients cut off from their families. Particularly vulnerable are the thousands who

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Letter: Missing Notice, Discussion, of Canceled Vote

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There have been 19 Executive Orders issued in Connecticut by the Governor over the past 3 weeks. All under #7 (A-T). One 7I, that is #7 letter I, suspends the public’s right to vote on Regional School Budgets as well as your local municipal budget. That’s right you will not be voting on your local budget for the next year, it will be moved through by the Board of Finance and then put in place. End of story – no vote. With all of this going on I reached out to our 2 elected officials. Norm Needleman and Christine Palm, one

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After a Decade of Explosive Growth, Small Breweries in Connecticut Take Stock

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“Breweries are destinations, they are really experiences. But of even more pressing significance is to support local and drinking local. It’s easy to go to your grocery store and pick up a macro-brand beer but that’s not going to help anybody in Connecticut,” said Phil Pappas, executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild by phone on Wednesday.  In less than 10 years, the craft brewing industry has grown exponentially to over 100 breweries and about 6,000 jobs across Connecticut. Prior to 2012, there were only about 12 to 15 breweries in the state, Pappas said.  “These are all relatively new

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Public and Private Schools Adjust to Cornovirus, Plan for Summer and Fall

Less than a month ago, for schools across Connecticut, it was business as usual… planning for Spring Break, gearing up for sports tournaments, rehearsing plays and musicals and — on the horizon — graduation. “On March 4, I gathered the faculty together and said this COVID situation doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. We may need to, at some point in the fourth quarter, have some sort of distance learning,” said Mark Fader, the Head of School at Williams School in New London. “I finished the meeting by saying I’m preparing you for something that in all likelihood won’t happen.”

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Courtney Talks Business and Worker Relief, Protecting Medical Staff, and Potential Next Steps for Congress amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Congress passed three major relief efforts in March in response to the coronavirus, the largest totaled approximately $2 trillion. In a Thursday morning teleconference hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, Rep. Joe Courtney said he thinks the crisis will push Congress to act further and that the country’s shortage of personal protective equipment is the “desperate critical issue of the day.” “We have got to get a better plan out there to help health care workers and frontline folks who are out there interacting with the public,” said Courtney, whose district covers most of the eastern half

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Learn from Home Task Force Takes on Equity and Coronavirus for Distance Schooling

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More than 185,000 book packages and 60,000 laptops will be purchased and distributed to students in the state’s 33 lowest performing school districts by the Governor’s COVID-19 Learn from Home Task force in an effort to bridge the widening achievement and equity gap during the extended school closures. “Few things are more important to Governor Lamont than a fair and equitable response to remote learning,” said Nick Simmons, the manager of strategic initiatives for the Governor’s office. “It’s no secret that we have a very wide achievement gap that could get wider by six months away from school. There are

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Refunds, Closure, Coronavirus and the Law for Business and Consumers in Connecticut

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COVID-19, and state mandates to limit the viral spread, have caused widespread travel and event cancellations, supply chain interruptions, layoffs and business closures. Business-to-business agreements that require a specified level of production and delivery cannot be met without workers, drivers and staff.  For consumers, it’s often a question of whether refunds of purchases and deposits, sometimes made a year or more in advance of an event, will be returned.  The outcomes for businesses and consumers will depend in part on the language of the signed agreement between parties, said Richard Kay, the Wallace Stevens Professor of Law Emeritus, Oliver Ellsworth

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Virtual School Budget Meetings Scheduled Across Lower Connecticut Valley in Wake of Coronavirus

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On March 10, as part of the state’s emergency response to COVID-19, Governor Ned Lamont signed Executive Order 7L, releasing regional boards of education from their statutory obligations to hold in-person meetings and referenda, prior to adopting fiscal year 2020-21 budgets: “[A]ny regional board of education shall adopt a budget for the July I, 2020 – June 30, 2021 fiscal year … without complying with any in-person budget adoption requirements, including but not to limited, annual district budget meetings requiring votes, referendum, and special district meetings.” The change follows a number of other restrictions on social gathering that have been

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New-Haven-based Sarah Golley Sparks Online Music Event — The Quarantined Series

Every gig got cancelled. Then, a short pause. Then, online live shows began bubbling up and over the lid of the internet. Now a veritable phenomenon, examples of coordinated and impromptu performance are everywhere on social media: story book hours, dance-a-days, video projects of apartment-bound academics on sabbatical in Spain. Musicians are finding new ways to jam, to create, and to perform. NPR is curating a list of live music shows for artists around the country. Here in Connecticut, songwriter and New-Haven based performer Sarah B. Golley organized an ongoing local event,  “The Quarantined Series: A Series of Online Shows

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Two weeks into State of Emergency, Old Lyme Leaders Focus on Helping the Vulnerable and Isolated

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Almost two week after the Board of Selectmen declared a local state of emergency, Old Lyme has yet to see a confirmed case of the coronavirus, but First Selectman Timothy Griswold said town staff, emergency personnel and volunteers need to move quickly to help residents who could be vulnerable amid state orders for people to social distance and businesses to close Griswold said he’s particularly concerned about town businesses that could struggle, residents who could lose their job or lose hours, and seniors potentially feeling isolated. “We’re obviously concerned about individuals who depend on their jobs to keep going,” Griswold

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Coronavirus Puts a Pause on the Wedding Industry in Southeastern Connecticut

With a 10-person maximum set for gatherings and all non-essential travel and business put to a stop, in a matter of weeks the COVID-19 outbreak ground southeastern Connecticut’s wedding industry to a halt. “When you work in this type of world, if you don’t work you don’t get paid,” said Denita Phillips, a makeup artist based out of Hartford. “A week or two before the governor shut everything down people started canceling. A lot of people are thinking it might take a lot longer than a couple of weeks or months, brides in June, July or August might reschedule too.

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Towns Ask Arriving Summer Residents to Voluntarily Self-Quarantine for Two Weeks

Some local governments in southeastern Connecticut are asking their seasonal residents who returned early this year to self-quarantine for 14 days if they’re coming from areas that have had high numbers of COVID19 cases — especially New York City.  This follows a Tuesday recommendation from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force that anyone leaving the New York City area — which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States — self-isolate for 14 days. “We don’t want to overreact and spread fear when we see a New York license plate,” said East Lyme First Selectman Mark

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Food For Those in Need Seven Days a Week Across Southeast Connecticut

For those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic there are still services available and open. You can obtain groceries and prepared food in southeastern Connecticut from Clinton to Stonington every day of the week. Where: The Chester Food Pantry at Chester Town HallWhen: 9am to 12pm, Monday, Wednesday and ThursdayWhat: Pre-bagged GroceriesWho: Chester Residents How: Call ahead: 860-526-0013 x213 Where: The Deep River Food Pantry at 56 High Street, Deep RiverWhen: 9am to 12pm on Tuesday, 1pm to 4pm on ThursdayWhat: Pre-bagged GroceriesWho: Deep River ResidentsHow: Call ahead: 860-526-6033 Where: The East Haddam Food Bank at 488 Town Street in

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U.S. Small Business Administration Offers Loans to Small Businesses for Coronavirus Relief

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans in affected states to provide working capital to small businesses for Coronavirus-related economic disruptions.  The loans are available to “small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses and most private nonprofit organizations,” in declared-disaster areas, which includes all of New England, according to a phone conference presentation by the Small Business Administration on Tuesday.  The presentation was part of a Coronavirus special topic conference call series sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce in partnership with the Connecticut District Export Council.  “The number one message to small businesses is

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Medical Care in Connecticut Adapts to the Coronavirus

A week ago, I was about to leave for my cardiology appointment when I received a call. It was the receptionist, and the appointment was canceled. “Do you know if I can reschedule?” I asked her. She wasn’t sure. After a couple unexplained fainting episodes, a possible arrhythmia and a month of appointments it was weird to be left with no conclusion. The constant refrain had been, it’s probably nothing, but it could be serious, so we just want to cover all our bases. Now that caution was thrown out the window as concerns about COVID-19 came rushing in. Yesterday,

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Food Pantries Seek Donations and Volunteers as Social Services adapt to Coronavirus

As the coronavirus spreads and the state sets stricter guidelines for social distancing, food pantries and other nonprofits around southeastern Connecticut have to find new ways of serving their populations while also meeting a sudden rise in needs. Many of the area’s senior centers, nonprofit childcare centers, and other face-to-face services have been suspended amid the outbreak, but nonprofit leaders say too many people depend too critically on nutritional aid like Meals on Wheels or the Gemma E. Moran United Way / Labor Food Bank to stop those services. “We have managed our Food Bank budget for a lot of

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Lyme-Old Lyme Relief Fund Established — Rick Stout and Tom Britt to Double Initial Donations

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The Lyme-Old Lyme Coronavirus Relief Fund was established yesterday by both towns and Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau in an effort to help those in need during this unprecedented state of emergency. “We’ve already helped homebound people with groceries, a family with diapers and one resident pay a portion of her rent,” said Mary Seidner, the director of Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau. “This is for residents of both communities and donations are coming in from both communities, it really is a unified effort.” The fund will be jointly managed by Seidner and the Social Services Coordinators in Lyme and Old Lyme.

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Balancing Virus Response With Economic And General Health Consequences

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The coronavirus is not the only threat we face. As I wrote in The Hill on last Thursday and The Wall Street Journal editorialized last Friday, we may face a far greater threat from a collapsed economy, which would devastate everyone’s financial and medical condition. This should be of special concern in Connecticut which entered the current crisis already economically anemic and financially shaky. While this may not be popular to say, we should rethink shutdown policies in Connecticut. Actually, it may not be unpopular. A new Pew Research Center poll shows that 70 percent of Americans see the virus

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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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