This post has been updated.
Two state universities are transforming athletic centers into mobile field hospitals in anticipation of a COVID-19 patient surge. The move comes as the state enters what’s expected to be its worst month of illness, death and hospitalization ushered in by a worldwide pandemic -- a surge marked by the state’s first reported infant death from the coronavirus.
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The baby girl was 6 weeks old.
“Probably the youngest person ever to die of COVID has died here in Connecticut,” Lamont said. “It just is a reminder that nobody is safe with this virus.”
Lamont’s office said the infant arrived at the hospital unresponsive before dying. The infant later tested positive for the virus. That death was among an additional 16 reported fatalities Wednesday; the number of positive cases in Connecticut grew by more than 400.
Speaking outside the Moore Fieldhouse at Southern Connecticut State University, Steven Choi with the Yale School of Medicine said, “The worst weeks are ahead of us.”
In response, emergency workers have turned two gyms -- SCSU’s Moore Fieldhouse in New Haven and Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center in Danbury -- into mobile field hospitals.
Together, both gymnasiums will provide around 450 beds for coronavirus patients.
“This field hospital allows us to transfer recovered COVID patients out of our hospital, who can then recover here,” Choi said. “Patients who do require some oxygen, IV fluids, assistance with food, can come here [and] be placed safely away from other household members.”
In addition, Southern also made nine residence halls and 2,500 rooms available for emergency use. They are expected to be ready by the end of the week, according to Leigh Appleby, a spokesperson for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.
Meanwhile, the battle for personal protective equipment continues.
Lamont said Tuesday the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies was nearly empty, and “for now, we are on our own” to get ventilators, masks and other badly needed PPE.
“We need it,” Lamont told reporters Wednesday. “We don’t have the capacity to protect all the people that we need to.”
In addition to making space available for patients, state colleges said Wednesday schools have also donated more than 180,000 gloves, 11,000 masks, 1,800 gowns, and 15 ventilators to local hospitals and front-line health care workers.
Meanwhile, the list of executive orders related to COVID-19 continues to expand.
Lamont said Wednesday he plans to sign another executive order, which will formalize an earlier agreement among grocery chains to limit the number of customers inside their stores to no more than 50% of the building’s fire code capacity.
Lamont Announces $10 Million In Charitable Donations
Lamont said Wednesday the state has launched a new charitable organization called 4-CT, which will help support state nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization will be an independent 501(c)(3) organization funded by private philanthropy.
Lamont said the charity had already raised more than $10 million from 20 donors, including himself.
“Early money is like yeast,” Lamont said. “I believe in this. I believe they can move fast. I think getting that money to the people most in need soon is best. I wanted to lead by example, and I’m really proud of many other donors who have come on board.”
Ted Yang, the group’s chief operating officer, said 4-CT will immediately focus on food insecurity, housing insecurity, shelters for domestic violence, and child care.
Right now, 4-CT is planning to support 26 day cares for the children of health care workers and first responders. Some will be located near hospitals.
Beth Bye, commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, said she has received commitments so far for 24 child care centers. She said 10 are operational.
“The other 14 should be up and running within three to four days,” Bye said.
Individuals looking to donate can do so on the agency’s website.
More State Courthouses Close
After an employee exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll III said late Tuesday that the Stamford Courthouse is temporarily closed, effective immediately.
Stamford, which lies in heavily infected Fairfield County, reported just over 400 COVID-19 cases Tuesday.
“This closing will allow for a comprehensive cleaning and sanitization of the courthouse,” Carroll said. “The employees who may have been exposed to the other employee who was exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms have been instructed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days or until such time as test results are received regarding the employee who was exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms.”
Additionally, Carroll said two more courthouses will temporarily close: Ansonia-Milford Judicial District Courthouse in Milford and Middlesex Judicial District Courthouse in Middletown.
Cases from Stamford and Ansonia-Milford will transfer to the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse in Bridgeport. Cases from Middletown will transfer to the New Britain Judicial District Courthouse, Carroll said.
State Parks Reduce Visitor Capacity
State officials are urging residents to limit their visits to state parks, threatening fines or, in extreme cases, felony charges for possible violations.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said state parks remain open for solitary recreation, but parking restrictions are in place at some state parks to limit visitors and encourage social distancing.
“No state parks have closed to visitors entirely due to COVID-19,” DEEP spokesperson Will Healey said in an email Wednesday.
But DEEP said it has still observed people circumventing parking restrictions by parking their cars outside of state parks and walking in.
Lamont’s executive order gives DEEP discretion to penalize violators, officials said.
“These penalties include fines and even arrest, up to and including Class D felony charges for interfering or obstructing any lawful civil preparedness activity,” DEEP said in a statement. “In addition, any person who violates the ban will be subject to a 30-day eviction from all state parks and other lands under DEEP’s oversight.”
DEEP manages more than 100 state parks and more than 30 forests. Residents are advised to monitor @CTStateParks for updates.
MDC Limits Public Trail Access
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan District of Hartford is also limiting access to its public walking trails.
Outdoor recreation areas in West Hartford, Bloomfield and Hartland remain open, but MDC spokesperson Nick Salemi said Wednesday the agency has further restricted parking at the West Hartford Reservoir to encourage smaller crowds and social distancing.
“Per the CT Department of Public Health, anyone using public watershed recreational areas in CT, such as MDC’s West Hartford Reservoir and Reservoir #6 in Bloomfield, must maintain social distancing of 6 [feet] or more when walking, hiking, jogging or biking,” Salemi said in an email. “Due to MDC’s limited staffing availability as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, failure to comply with these protocols may force the closure of MDC recreational facilities.”