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CT Veterans Suicide Rate Rises; VA Monitoring COVID-19's Impact

Nov 16, 2020

In Connecticut, 47 veterans died by suicide in 2018, an increase of 10 from the previous year, newly released statistics show.

The increase reflected a higher suicide rate than in the overall state population. 

A second COVID-19 vaccine now also appears highly effective in preventing illness following exposure to the virus that causes the disease.

The biotech company Moderna Inc. said Monday that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing disease, according to an analysis of its clinical trial.

The news comes a week after Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine was more than 90% effective.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Rising from the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, just south of the Canadian border, this distant city looks like a quaint throwback, with Victorian-era architecture, church steeples and a main shopping street laid with brick.

But over the last few years, Burlington, Vt., has become home to an invisible economy of people who work remotely for the world's most cutting-edge technology businesses — and the pandemic has only increased the number decamping to this bucolic enclave.

The House of Representatives will return Monday to a post-election session with a few major but controversial items to address, including leadership elections, how to deal with more coronavirus relief and a must-pass spending bill.

To help, they'll have a new, widespread testing program to track the coronavirus among members, staffers and workers. The plan is a first for any chamber of Congress eight months into the pandemic, and it comes as cases are spiking across the country and in Washington.

Jake Greenberg, U.S. Navy / Creative Commons

The number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 is rising in almost every state. America averaged over 100,000 new cases every day over the last seven days and 1,000 deaths every day over the same period. The positivity rate is more than 50 percent in some states, straining hospital systems and front line staff. Have we normalized the pandemic to the point where we're no longer taking it seriously enough? 

The COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. is getting worse by nearly every metric. On Friday alone, there were more than 184,000 new confirmed cases and 1,400 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported. Hospitals are reaching capacity.

Gov. Ned Lamont Quarantines As Spokesman Tests Positive For COVID-19

Nov 14, 2020
Mark Pazniokas / CT Mirror

Gov. Ned Lamont and his top aides began a 14-day self-quarantine Friday night after the governor’s communications director, Max Reiss, tested positive for COVID-19, the first known case in the governor’s inner circle since the pandemic hit Connecticut in March.

Sandy Kretschmer imagines her son Henry returning home from college, dropping his bags and then giving her a big hug. But she knows the reality of this homecoming may be a lot different.

"I'll probably have a mask on, and he'll have a mask on when I hug him," she says.

Henry plans to take a COVID-19 test a few days before he leaves Iowa State University where he's a junior, and he'll self-quarantine until he heads home to Chicago.

The University of Connecticut says it has placed all of its residential buildings on its Storrs campus under quarantine or modified quarantine for the rest of the in-person semester, which ends Nov. 20. In a statement, the university said the move was needed because of the “persistently high number of positive cases” of coronavirus. UConn reported seven new on-campus positive cases and 24 new off-campus positive cases. One more employee tested positive. In a letter sent Friday, UConn said it doesn’t have the spread of COVID under control.

Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Coronavirus cases are surging across the U.S., prompting many state and local leaders to impose new restrictions. But some experts say these efforts may be too little, too late — like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.

For more than three decades, Scott Macaulay, a vacuum repairman in Melrose, Mass., has been hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for people who have nowhere else to go — a situation he found himself in after his parents' acrimonious divorce.

His tradition started in 1985, when he put an ad in the local paper, offering to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen guests. Macaulay, 59, realized his family most likely wouldn't get together for Thanksgiving that year, and he doesn't like to eat alone.

free-photos / Pixabay

Connecticut lost four young people to suicide last month, leading Connecticut’s Child Advocate to issue a public health alert.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has taken a huge toll on everyone. This hour, we focus on the unique mental health challenges teens face during this pandemic.

We talk with advocates and survivors about the risk factors for young people who may be in crisis, and how to support them.

What Brandon Fritze misses most this year is belting out Coldplay's "Yellow" at karaoke sessions with his friends.

"I was a big karaoke guy," said Fritze. "I'd be going to the karaoke bar pretty much every night. But since the pandemic started, the bar's been shut down and that wasn't an option. I don't think I've sung in eight months now."

COVID collection specialist Robin Mullaney swabs Gabrielle Butler, 18, of Farmington while administering the test during Griffin Health's COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Tunxis Community College on Nov. 12, 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

As Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to climb, the demand for testing rises with it. And that could mean longer lines at local testing facilities.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

A statewide coalition of lawmakers, activists and health experts Thursday announced that health care reform will be a top priority heading into the next legislative session.

Coalition leaders at a news conference at the Capitol building said the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent election have become driving factors in reintroducing a plan for a public option health insurance program for Connecticut residents, small businesses and nonprofits. 

As the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus passed 240,000, and public health officials scrambled to respond to increasing infections around the country, the Federal Trade Commission announced additional steps Thursday to crack down on unproven treatments for COVID-19 and companies that might prey on Americans' fears.

Like many married and working couples first confronting the pandemic, Bianca Flokstra and Victor Udoewa tried to go on with their lives as normal.

Flokstra continued to work full time while taking care of their kids, ages 4 and 2. She also handled most of the housework, with her husband helping from time to time. It didn't work.

"Those first couple of months were really hard," Flokstra says. "There was ... a lot of fighting. A lot of tears."

Nick Lebron

Shootings are up in Hartford in 2020, including what the city’s mayor calls an “unusual and severe” spike into the fall. And while this problem isn’t unique to Hartford, there is a major effort underway to pinpoint the cause of the problem in Connecticut’s capital.

Lamont Eyes Hospitalizations As 36 More People Admitted For COVID-19

Nov 11, 2020
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases by county.

Gov. Ned Lamont took little comfort Wednesday in the daily rate of positive COVID-19 tests falling to 4.76 percent from 6.74 percent the previous day, saying all trends point to a need for Connecticut residents to adhere to the recently tightened COVID restrictions.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

Yale Law School and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress are calling for the release of incarcerated veterans who may be at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Wearing a mask protects the wearer, and not just other people, from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized in an updated scientific brief issued Tuesday. And the protective benefits of masks are stronger the more people wear masks consistently and correctly, the agency says.

Connecticut Ranks Last In Personal Income Growth Over Past Year

Nov 11, 2020

Connecticut is paying a stiff price for more than a decade of poor growth in high-paying jobs.

Unprecedented federal unemployment assistance pushed personal income nationally up 10 percent amidst the pandemic. But Connecticut — with an economy dominated by retail and hospitality jobs — ranked dead last with only half the national wage growth, according to a new analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts.

A nursing home in Wallingford is increasing safety standards after 24 residents tested positive for COVID-19 in a span of 24 hours last week. Masonicare says those who tested positive are being cared for in isolation units. A statement on the company's website also says the unit is carrying out contact tracing, testing roommates of those infected, and has closed the facility to visitors and vendors.

More than 350 students and 20 teachers in New Canaan are in quarantine after a new round of coronavirus testing turned up 15 infections. New Canaan schools on Tuesday reported 13 students and two teachers tested positive, days after all 540 COVID-19 tests of students came back negative. The Stamford Advocate reports there were also 26 new positive tests last weekend. The quarantining includes more than 200 students at New Canaan High School. The new test results come as virus-related infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Connecticut are increasing.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

The state’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to trend upward, hitting 6.74% in the latest released figures.

New data from the office of Gov. Ned Lamont showed more than 1,500 new cases, nine more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and an additional 52 patients hospitalized with the virus. The highest number of hospitalizations is in New Haven County, at nearly 200. 

lesjbohlen / Pixabay

COVID cases in Connecticut continue to rise, and the majority of residents now live in what the state defines as “red zones”. Governor Lamont has ordered a voluntary curfew and the state has required restaurants to begin shutting down starting at 9:30 p.m., with doors closed by 10 p.m.

But what will this mean for an industry already on a knife’s edge financially?

We hear from a restaurant owner and an industry leader.

And, with winter approaching, is there a way to enjoy restaurant dining safely? We talk to an epidemiologist about how we should consider the risks of indoor dining during a winter COVID spike.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

About 200 employees at Pfizer’s Connecticut lab helped work on the COVID-19 vaccine that the company said has proved 90 percent effective against the virus in a large-scale trial.

Pratt Street in Hartford remains empty during the lunch rush on November 4, 2020.  At the end is Dish Bar & Grill, one of several Connecticut restaurants permanently closed due to COVID-19.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

Connecticut has reverted to a modified Phase 2 reopening plan after an increase in coronavirus cases. Among the changes, indoor dining at restaurants had to drop back to 50% capacity. They’re also required to close by 10 p.m., which is a change from the governor’s initial order to close at 9:30. 

Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden named 13 health experts to his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board on Monday, advancing his plans despite uncertainty over how much the Trump administration will cooperate amid its ongoing legal challenge to the election results. The coronavirus has spread at alarming rates in the U.S. in recent weeks.