As Businesses Close, Connecticut Schools To Stay Shut Through Late April | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

As Businesses Close, Connecticut Schools To Stay Shut Through Late April

Mar 23, 2020

Connecticut’s schools will remain closed until at least Monday, April 20, as the state works to contain rising counts of cases and deaths from COVID-19. Meanwhile, Gov. Ned Lamont’s order that “nonessential” businesses statewide close for in-person work took effect at 8 p.m. Monday.

It’s been only a little over two weeks since the state announced its first COVID-19 case

“For many of us, it’s hard to remember before that,” state epidemiologist Matthew Cartter said during a news conference Monday afternoon. “This virus doesn’t share our sense of time.”

The state’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 10, and the number of positive cases is 415. As the virus continues its acceleration, Cartter said the number of cases is expected to double every three to five days.

“We can expect the number of hospitalizations to run in the thousands,” Cartter said. “The number of deaths will probably be much greater than what we see during an average flu season, which is somewhere between 300 and 600.”

Cartter said hospitals in Greenwich, Danbury, Bridgeport and Norwalk can expect to experience some of the earliest impacts. 

Among the newly positive residents is a state correctional officer. The employee was assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown and has been self-monitoring at home since last Wednesday, the state said. The positive test result did not come back until Monday. 

Over the next month, Lamont said he’s prioritizing 2,000 nursing home beds that will be made available for COVID-19-related infections. The governor also said state colleges will clear out dormitory rooms to make them available for intermediary care of COVID-19 patients.

Lamont also said he’s working with other state leaders to get badly needed personal protective equipment or PPE, to doctors and other first responders. 

“If the federal government doesn’t want to do this on a unified centralized basis,” Lamont said, “… the states will go out and try and buy and source as much of the important PPE equipment as we can get, because we are running short.” 

More Cases, More Testing

As the number of cases continues to rise, more testing sites are coming online. UConn Health in Farmington is now running a drive-through sampling site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, by appointment. 

The state Department of Public Health also approved UConn Health for a triage tent, which was set up outside the Emergency Department of UConn John Dempsey Hospital on Monday.

“The triage tent is currently being used for patients who are presenting with COVID-19 symptoms,” UConn Health spokesperson Jennifer Walker said in an email. “This allows us to keep them separate from other patients who come to the ER for reasons other [than] COVID-19 symptoms.” 

Walker said if patients meet the need for hospitalization, they will be brought to the ER and placed in isolation. Others presenting with symptoms that do not require hospitalization will be sent home with education to self-quarantine, she said. 

“Most people who have COVID-19 will not require hospitalization and can recover at home,” Walker said.

More Businesses Close; Unemployment Claims Near 100,000

“Nonessential” businesses statewide were set to close for in-person work at 8 p.m. Monday.

Lamont said New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have all enacted similar closures. A detailed list of exempted businesses, including food, health care and law enforcement, was released by Connecticut officials Sunday night. 

“I do urge people to use their judgment,” Lamont said. “I’m thinking about it this way: Why clothing and not hardware? To me, a hardware store, you need a wrench, your pipe has burst, you’ve got to fix it. That’s an essential activity.” 

But then there were other examples. 

“Clothing, say, I think you can get that online,” Lamont said. “We’re trying to do anything we can to discourage people from aggregating in big and small groups up and down Main Street.”

Movers pack the personal belongings of undergraduate students at Yale University into trucks to be sent to temporary storage. Some graduate students were relocated to undergraduate dorms to reduce density in graduate and professional student housing.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

As more businesses slow or shut down operations, jobless claims are rising at an astonishing rate.

The Connecticut Department of Labor reported 17,000 new unemployment claims over the weekend, and an additional 10,000 claims were filed Monday.

That’s 99,000 new jobless claims in less than two weeks.

Restaurants, which have been shifting to takeout-only options over the past few days, say they have been particularly hard hit by closures. 

In a letter to Lamont over the weekend, the Connecticut Restaurant Association said it would like to see immediate injections of capital to ensure restaurant owners -- and the more than 160,000 people they employ -- can stay solvent. 

“Grants, lines of credit or zero-interest loans from the state will determine whether most restaurants can survive this storm,” the association wrote.

The association also called for the state to forgive sales tax payments for at least three months. It's requesting the state back a business interruption insurance program, which the Connecticut Restaurant Association said would streamline the process for insurance claims. It also is requesting the state to address unemployment compensation issues.

“As the number of filings increases daily, the state needs to be prepared now for insolvency and look for avenues to address the problem other than burdening employers down the line,” the association wrote.