Nicole Leonard | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Nicole Leonard

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

While an undergraduate journalism student at Boston University, Nicole was a reporter for The Daily Free Press and a radio host at WTBU. As an intern, her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe and Boston.com. In her downtime, she watches way too many movies and television shows, which complicates her goal to become a better runner.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Weeks of state investigations, monitoring and intervention at Three Rivers Nursing Home in Norwich following a COVID-19 outbreak has culminated in the imminent relocation of all residents.

In a rare and unprecedented move, the Department of Public Health's acting commissioner Deidre Gifford signed an emergency order Wednesday requiring the facility to discharge its 53 residents to other long-term care facilities. 

Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

This story has been updated.

Rev. Elvin Clayton has been the pastor at Walter’s Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Bridgeport for the past six years.

And in the COVID-19 era, Sunday mornings look a little different -- Clayton speaks at the pulpit from behind glass partitions, keeps services to an hour and broadcasts it all live on Facebook. 

“We’ve had great success thus far with it,” he said. 

jwblinn/iStock / Thinkstock

After reviewing requests by Connecticut insurers to increase health insurance premiums, and considering public testimony, the state Insurance Department has approved next year’s rates at significantly lower levels than requested. 

Harriet Jones / Connecticut Public Radio

The state Department of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among staff at Backus Hospital in Norwich, where employees say as many as 11 people have so far tested positive. 

Alabama Extension / Flickr/Creative Commons

Connecticut residents are struggling to afford health care costs and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the burden -- that’s according to results from a new statewide survey released Tuesday.

“The job loss and the resulting lack of wages that we’re seeing because of COVID-19 increases the likelihood that people are going to struggle to afford needed care,” said Amanda Hunt, co-deputy director of the Healthcare Value Hub at Altarum. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

State flags flew at half-staff Monday to honor the thousands of people in Connecticut who have died from a drug overdose over the years.

That includes Tony Morrissey’s son, Brian Cody Waldron, who died at 20 years old last August.  

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut legislators and health experts in Hartford Tuesday stressed that the number of opioid overdose deaths is up statewide. Evidence, they say, that the pandemic is interfering with addiction treatment and recovery.

“When we were doing our work in preparation for the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on children, on seniors, and on our individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” said Liany Arroyo, director of health for the city of Hartford. 

Facebook

State officials are investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Three Rivers Nursing Home in Norwich, where one resident has died and several have been hospitalized.

The Department of Public Health has so far identified 13 residents and two staff members infected with the virus -- it’s the largest outbreak at a single nursing facility in about a month, according to state data. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

The pandemic is raising questions about what’s best for children as they head into a new school year, as many schools continue to finalize plans for this fall and parents make individual decisions for their families.

Megan Goslin, a clinical psychologist and research scientist at Yale’s Child Study Center, said it’s a difficult time for everyone. 

Jeremy L. Grisham /

At least two Connecticut studies and a federal report show that the percentage of health care workers and residents in the overall population who have been previously infected with COVID-19 remains small, despite ongoing cases and hospitalizations.

And the numbers don’t come close to achieving herd immunity, when disease transmission is minimal because most people in a community are protected after vaccination or previous infection. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

A young man with his girlfriend stood in the shade under an awning at the side of an RV truck parked near Barnard Park in Hartford on a recent Tuesday morning. Holding a bag in one hand and reaching through an opening in a screened door with the other, he dropped empty, used syringes into a medical waste bucket.

“Eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety,” he counted, each needle making a thunk as it disappeared into bright red plastic. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

The former commissioner of the state Department of Public Health is firing back over her May termination ahead of an impending report this month on Connecticut’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two months after Gov. Ned Lamont announced her dismissal, Renée Coleman-Mitchell said in a written statement released late Monday night by the law office of Eric R. Brown that she was going to “set the record straight in my own words.” 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

It’s been more than four months since Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro Police as they executed a no-knock search warrant. She was a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as an emergency medical technician and aspired to become a nurse.

And while rallies, protests and much of the media attention has been fixed on the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Connecticut activists continue to bring attention to violence committed against Black women and girls through policing and from systemic racism. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Early in the pandemic, Dr. Kathryn Nagel was working in a medical ICU in New Haven when a patient in his 30s was admitted with diabetic ketoacidosis, a deadly condition that occurs when there’s not enough insulin in the body.

The man had diabetes and needed insulin medication to manage it properly, but he had been rationing the supply he had left. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Johan Lee Thompson has been a registered nurse for three years at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, a member of Trinity Health of New England.

She was working in the radiology department but was prepared for the possibility of getting redeployed to another area of the hospital because of the pandemic.

“I was ready because I knew COVID was just starting off, and if anything, we thought that our job would be more secure because of it,” she said. “But it was the complete opposite.” 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis six weeks ago became a catalyst for the current, massive nationwide movement calling for an end to systemic racism.

It’s also led communities to take a deeper look within, specifically racism as the root cause of poorer health care and health outcomes among Black residents. 

Ryan Lindsay / Connecticut Public Radio

At Bradley International Airport on a recent Wednesday, Lizzie McClellan had just gotten off a flight from Georgia, where she was visiting her grandmother for the last two weeks.

Georgia happens to be on a list of states that are becoming hot spots for new COVID-19 cases. McClellan said because she frequently went to places that were open there, she plans to quarantine at home in Connecticut and get tested. 

Alan Levine / Creative Commons

When Minnesota passed a law this spring to make insulin more affordable for its residents, advocates in other states like Connecticut saw it as a victory.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Wearing a mask and speaking through a megaphone, Jesse Martin prompted a crowd that had gathered outside the state Department of Public Health building in Hartford late Thursday afternoon.

“What do we want?” he asked.

“Hazard pay!” the crowd yelled back.

“When do we want it?”

“Now!” 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Events across Connecticut Friday marked the commemoration of Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when news of the end of the Civil War reached Texas, marking the true end of chattel slavery in the U.S. -- two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

COVID-19 testing
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Every Thursday, a researcher from Yale University picks up a cooler from the East Shore Water Pollution Abatement Facility in New Haven.

In that cooler is a week’s worth of samples from the sewer system that experts call “sludge,” or the solid waste that is left over after treating wastewater. It can contain a mixture of chemicals, metals and remnants of human waste that is flushed down the toilet. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

What began as some gastric issues last year has now progressed into painful gallstones and chronic problems for Hannah Gebhard, who lives in Naugatuck.

“It was really just a ramping up of the symptoms until I one day landed myself in the emergency room at 2 a.m. because I was in so much pain,” she said. 

Arasmus Photo / Creative Commons

Less than a month ago, a family member in Olga Gutierrez’s home in Bridgeport tested positive for COVID-19. But because she and her family are undocumented immigrants, Gutierrez said their options are limited.

“We were terrified,” she said. “We think we that we might have the virus, too. We have not been able to go to the doctor because we are uninsured and we do not have money to cover this.” 

Gov. Ned Lamont.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Connecticut’s continuing decline in the number of daily hospitalizations, as well as an uptick in testing capabilities, has both state officials and federal health experts confident that Wednesday’s reopening will be successful.

staying at home
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Even before the stay-at-home orders were officially issued in late March, Sarah Keitt had begun a two-week period of quarantine in her Fairfield home, isolated from her husband and two children. 

“It was lonely, it was painful to have basically no contact other than yelling up and down the stairs to people,” she said. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Ilana Usiskin said when she picks up the phone to call someone infected with coronavirus, she’ll often ask them to think back over the past few days. 

COVID-19 testing
Kathy Willens / AP Photo

On an average day before the pandemic, the emergency department at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford would be busy with people coming in for heart attacks, strokes, trauma, injuries, common illnesses like the flu and bronchitis, and other less acute problems.

But Dr. Steven Wolf, chairman of emergency medicine at Saint Francis, said it’s been weeks since the emergency room has had that level of activity outside of COVID-19 cases. 

Clorox bleach
Vox Efx / Wikimedia Commons

Pharmacists and nurses manning the Connecticut Poison Control Center’s phone lines this past weekend were busy with calls after President Donald Trump’s suggestion last week that scientists look at how disinfectants like bleach could be ingested or injected into humans as a treatment for the coronavirus.

social distancing
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Just a couple of weeks ago, Mary Gotlibowski was still going from hospital to hospital, working as an emergency room recovery coach and meeting with patients who had survived a drug overdose or those who had come in seeking help for addiction.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread throughout Connecticut and hospitals began to admit infected patients, Gotlibowski and other coaches had to leave their posts in the emergency departments. 

The Sharon Health Care Center
Courtesy: Athena Health Care Systems

New state data shows that COVID-19 is present in more than half of the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, some of which are experiencing higher rates of infection and death than others.

Despite early prevention protocols of hand washing, hygiene, symptom screenings, and visitor restrictions, 375 residents have died after contracting the virus – nearly 40% of all state deaths from the disease outbreak. 

Pages