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.

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. 

Five northeast governors banded together Thursday to call for a reform of New England’s electricity grid.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Hartford HealthCare announced it has updated guidance on how masks are distributed to health care workers. The announcement comes after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the network for two alleged “serious” violations at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Hartford HealthCare said this week it is challenging thousands of dollars in federal fines for alleged safety violations at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield. 

The announcement, which was made Tuesday, follows an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited the psychiatric facility for its record-keeping practices and supplies of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

It took Rich Scalora and his crew four days to drive from Connecticut to the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northwest California. Normally they’d hop on a plane and be there in a day. But this year COVID-19 forced the 10-person crew onto the road, for a drive out West that contained hints of what they’d face in California. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Connecticut’s ban on utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 pandemic will expire at the end of the month, but state regulators said last week that utility companies haven’t done enough to educate customers about alternative payment programs. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

A psychiatric facility in eastern Connecticut has been cited by federal workplace safety inspectors for alleged safety violations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed around $13,500 in penalties for Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield.

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

As the dry weather continues in Connecticut, state officials on Monday asked residents of New London County to voluntarily cut back on outdoor irrigation and other nonessential uses of water. 

Brad Rippey / U.S. Department of Agriculture

Drought conditions in the state continue to worsen with federal agencies now saying a portion of land along the Connecticut-Rhode Island border is experiencing “extreme” drought conditions. 

Patrick Skahill

State officials say a forest fire in Windham is getting under control, but it could continue to smolder over the coming weeks if statewide drought conditions worsen. 

Wikimedia Commons

Bears are getting more and more used to raiding our trash cans and bird feeders for food. And as they get more comfortable with that behavior, they’re learning another one: coming into our houses. It’s not even fall yet, but state environmental officials said this week that Connecticut has already seen more incidents of bears entering homes in 2020 than in any previous year. 

Wikimedia Commons

State health officials say a potentially dangerous bacteria found in the water along Long Island Sound has caused an unusually high number of illnesses this summer. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

When Connecticut officials approved more than $34 million in contracts with private vendors to test for coronavirus at nursing homes, the contracts shared a common clause: The Department of Public Health wanted quick results, ideally, within one day.  But interviews with health officials, contracted vendors and state documents show that hasn’t always been the case.

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State public health officials say violations at a Norwich nursing home are presenting “imminent harm” to the lives of staff and patients. So far, 21 residents and five staff members of Three Rivers Nursing Home have been infected with COVID-19. Three residents have died and one is hospitalized. 

Dave Wurtzel / Connecticut Public

State public health officials said they’ll work to more aggressively test staff at nursing homes for COVID-19. But officials in the eldercare industry said Friday they’re still waiting for formal guidance on those changes from the state Department of Public Health. 

An inpatient treatment facility for substance abuse is the site of one recent COVID-19 outbreak in Danbury, according to the state Department of Public Health. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

The arcane world of energy surcharges dominated a virtual conference call Monday, as hundreds of participants watched a public hearing between Eversource and state regulators. 

At issue was a controversial rate increase implemented shortly before Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Eversource customers.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

As state officials continue to investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home in Norwich that killed one resident this month and hospitalized several more, one outstanding question is whether workers tested for COVID-19 were properly notified of their results.

Patrick Skahill / Connecticut Public

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal gathered a coalition of postal workers and health care advocates outside a post office in downtown Hartford Tuesday to warn that disruptions to the U.S. Postal Service could threaten the November election. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

The opaque world of energy policy continues to roil the surface of state government as regulators again have chastised the state’s two biggest utilities: Eversource and United Illuminating. This time, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority fined both companies, alleging an “insufficient” rollout of a program called shared solar.

Dave Wurtzel / Connecticut Public

Once a week outside a Newington nursing home, Peggy Johnson stands masked, 6 feet apart from her 94-year-old mom, imagining what it would be like to hug again. 

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