Patrick Skahill | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Patrick Skahill

Reporter

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. 

He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

State public health officials say 164 of Connecticut's 169 towns are now at the highest alert level for COVID-19. That's a slight decrease over last week's total of 166 towns.

As of Tuesday, public health officials report 1,068 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that Connecticut public health officials confirmed four more cases of a highly contagious version of the coronavirus in Connecticut.

While COVID-19 and the state’s budget are likely to dominate the current legislative session, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter said Monday that environmental issues are also on his radar.

New Haven school busses
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

When COVID-19 first cut through Connecticut in the spring, municipalities faced a litany of unanticipated expenses. Buildings needed to be sanitized, masks and gloves bought and town halls rearranged to accommodate remote workers.

To help, the state reimbursed local towns and cities more than $14.5 million in federal funds for coronavirus expenses in the first half of 2020. But state leaders also denied or deemed ineligible about 10% of all requests. 

Screenshot of News 12 Interview with Daniel Pizarro.
News 12

A Bridgeport city employee, Daniel Pizarro, could face criminal prosecution after hosting a 48th birthday bash on Jan. 16. 

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont says the state will take a "tiered" approach to distributing COVID-19 vaccines to people in Phase 1B in the coming weeks. 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Lamont says people between the age of 65 and 74 will likely be able to schedule an appointment to get the shot in early February. 

"Right now it looks like we’re going to be able to open the lens and allow people 65 and above probably in a couple of weeks," Lamont said. "We’ll give you a clearer indication on that in the next 10 days."

Cloe Poisson / Connecticut Mirror

A coalition of 74 cities and towns met this week to discuss the future of the state’s trash. The discussions come as the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority announced it will close its Hartford trash-to-energy plant by July 2022. That closure has some municipal leaders asking a big question about our garbage: Should residents pay for each bag they throw out?

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

As the first round of COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Connecticut nursing homes came to a close Friday, state and public health officials said there remains hesitancy among some nursing home workers to take the vaccine. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

After an insurrection in the U.S. Capitol building that left five people dead and forever imprinted images of lawless chaos inside one of the deepest symbols of American order and democracy, a coalition of Connecticut lawmakers on Thursday called upon Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Donald Trump from office. 

A panel of medical and public health experts said Friday that accidental drug deaths from opioids are spiking in Connecticut this year compared to 2019. 

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

State public health officials have removed a consumption advisory on fish taken from a portion of the Farmington River. That advisory had been in place since June 2019 after a spill at a nearby airport hangar washed thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the river.

Patrick Skahill / Connecticut Public

The state’s top environmental official continued to thread an awkward policy needle this week as opponents of a proposed natural gas power plant in Killingly reaffirmed their call for the project’s termination. The commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the project secured key go-aheads because of problems in broader regional energy markets.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Elected officials across Connecticut testified before state regulators Monday that electric utility Eversource repeatedly failed to provide critical updates on power restoration in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers earlier this year.

After decades of burning trash, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) will close its Hartford incinerator by July 2022. That means hundreds of thousands of tons of trash will be destined for out-of-state landfills, a costly reality that has state and municipal officials questioning how to quickly reduce trash volumes.

One solution? Recycling leftover food.

Cloe Poisson / Connecticut Mirror

For decades, millions of tons of trash have been put on a truck and shipped to the banks of the Connecticut River in Hartford.

There, inside an incinerator, trash from dozens of communities is burned and turned into power. But recent years brought problems to the plant, as age, mechanical failures and ever-changing energy market forces aligned to cause the plant’s operator to threaten permanent closure.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Financing, supply chain logistics, and tracking who’s got the shot are just a few of the challenges facing health administrators in the coming months as the first round of COVID-19 vaccines makes its way to Connecticut.

Harriet Jones / Connecticut Public

Federal workplace safety officials have fined Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London after an employee there contracted COVID-19 and later died.

Courtesy: Sierra Club

A new study of natural gas infrastructure in Connecticut says harmful amounts of methane are leaking from aging underground gas pipes. The findings add to an emerging body of science demonstrating the scale of methane leaks in America.

Congressman John Larson spoke outside Hartford Hospital Monday to advocate for nationalizing supply chains for personal protective equipment. 

The re-elected first district representative said he’ll re-introduce legislation on the topic, as national hospitalization numbers continue to rise, and the U.S. total case count hovers around 10 million

State regulators on Friday approved a rate hike for utilities Eversource and United Illuminating. The changes mean that if you’re a customer of those utilities, part of your bill will go up in January. 

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said the rate hike is tied to seasonal variations in the energy market.

During the winter, prices for natural gas are higher, and since that fuel is used to generate most of the region’s wholesale power, "supply" portions of your bill go up. 

Some much-needed rain has lowered the threat of drought across the state.

State education officials are reporting enrollment drops among young students and in some of the state’s most vulnerable school districts.

Continuing a trend, student enrollment declined in Connecticut’s public schools this year. Ajit Gopalakrishnan, chief compliance officer for the state Department of Education, said enrollment fell three percent. That's a one-year drop that’s about on par with declines previously seen over a five year period.

The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate jumped again on Tuesday, surpassing 4.6 percent, as public health officials reported 985 new cases.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Connecticut in recent weeks, with positivity rates steadily climbing over the last two weeks of reporting.

There are now more than 380 people hospitalized with the virus. On Tuesday, state officials reported seven new deaths. 

Meanwhile, Connecticut added two more states — Washington and Oregon — to its travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the total to 44. 

The number of COVID-19 infections at an assisted living facility in Canaan continues to grow. The outbreak at Geer Village Senior Community is part of a broader resurgence of coronavirus in long-term care facilities across the state. 

As of Monday, the head of Geer Village Senior Community said there are 34 residents and 13 staff members that tested positive for COVID-19. An additional two staffers are presumed to have the virus.

On Friday, a second resident of Geer died after testing positive in October. 

State regulators say utilities need to do more to educate customers about payment options that are available during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority also extended the enrollment period for COVID-19 payment plans until February. The rules mean that no regulated electric, gas, or water customers should be shut off for non-payment during the winter.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

When jobless claims soared and wide portions of the economy shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Daniel Quigley faced an unenviable task: asking people to give money to politicians. 

So, for a while, he said he just didn’t do it. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

A worker at Geer Village Senior Community in Canaan wasn’t feeling well while at home. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

This fall, Logan Dancey, an associate professor at Wesleyan University, asked his students to work with three other schools to comb the websites of candidates for state Senate in Georgia, Minnesota and Connecticut. 

He was curious about how candidates featured issues like voting on their websites. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the roll call vote was also notable for its silence from Democrats. 

As the committee clerk read off a list of names, she got no answer from several senators. The reason was simple: Those senators, including Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, weren’t there. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

State Attorney General William Tong said Wednesday utilities Eversource and United Illuminating should immediately compensate ratepayers for food and medicine lost during Tropical Storm Isaias.

Tong’s remarks opened three days of scheduled public comment on how utilities prepared for and responded to Tropical Storm Isaias. But on Wednesday, only a handful of people joined the call to share their stories. 

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