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Protesters waved flags and carried signs outside the state Capitol in January in opposition to the state’s COVID restrictions and in protest of a proposal to eliminate the state’s religious exemption from mandatory childhood vaccinations.
Stephen Busemeyer / CTMirror.org

Legislation that would remove Connecticut’s religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations is now headed to the House and Senate, after the Public Health Committee approved two identical bills Wednesday, saying it wanted to give the proposal the best chance of succeeding by sending it to both chambers at once.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

A new wave of Connecticut residents became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines Friday morning.

Predictably, not everyone could secure an appointment right away, but state officials said they hope accessibility will improve in the coming weeks with bigger shipments of vaccine doses and more vaccinators.   

  An unprecedented year; how many times have you heard that one? Did you anticipate that masks would become a staple part of our wardrobe?

Last Saturday marked the anniversary of the Connecticut pandemic lockdown. This hour, Yale Health epidemiologist Dr. Albert Ko joins us to reflect on one year in the coronavirus pandemic. 

We want to hear from you. What has this last year been like for you and your family? 

GUESTS:

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

The former manager of communications and government relations for the state Department of Public Health filed a wrongful termination lawsuit Tuesday against the department, citing violations to whistleblower protections.

Av Harris, who had held the position since early 2019 and had served the state in other roles for nearly a decade, alleges that his rights were violated when his former employer fired him on New Year’s Eve. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Gov. Ned Lamont’s announcement this week that Connecticut’s vaccine rollout will be done almost exclusively by age has stirred major controversy, particularly among some essential workers and people with preexisting conditions.

But top state officials said it’s a decision based both on data and a lack of it. 

David Wurtzel / Connecticut Public

Gov. Ned Lamont this week announced he’ll end an executive order that had extended civil immunity to Connecticut nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the pandemic.

Stacy Fields, a registered nurse with Yale New Haven Health and health chair at the Greater New Haven NAACP, talks to people in the community about getting a flu vaccine through Yale's School of Medicine's Community Health Care Van, Fri., Dec. 11, 2020.
Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Health providers and hospitals at this time of year would typically see rising numbers of patients coming in with fever, cough, sore throat and body aches -- classic symptoms of the flu.

“In a bad year, hundreds by this time,” said Keith Grant, director of infection prevention at Hartford HealthCare.

But this is far from a normal year. 

In a series of changes to initial guidelines, Trump administration officials announced Tuesday that states should vaccinate all residents 65 years and older sooner rather than later.

Federal health officials are also encouraging states to expand the next phase of vaccine distribution to all adults who have preexisting conditions that put them at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

A Hartford HealthCare worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Transportation workers, mail carriers, teachers, first responders, grocery store employees and others are positioned to be the next groups of people eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut.

State officials said during a public meeting Tuesday that the state’s Phase 1B vaccination distribution could begin as early as this month and include up to 800,000 workers and residents. 

Sipa via AP Images

With few answers on how and when a COVID-19 vaccine will actually be available, Connecticut has submitted a draft plan to the federal government on how it will execute statewide mass vaccination.

The 77-page document, submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the Oct. 16 deadline, outlines potential groups of people who would receive priority status for getting doses early on and how the state will coordinate vaccine administration by medical providers. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

A large group of people in red and yellow reflective vests huddled together on the Wolcott Town Green at around 9 a.m. Tuesday. Some of them work for the Chesprocott Health District, and others were volunteers with the region’s Medical Reserve Corps.

The day began with overcast skies. It looked like it might rain, again. The grass was still wet. 

Cloe Poisson / CT Mirror

Health experts around the world recognized early in the COVID-19 pandemic that older people were most at risk of becoming seriously ill and dying from the new coronavirus.

But despite those early findings, thousands of Connecticut residents in long-term care facilities have died. 

DAVE WURTZEL / Connecticut Public

Friends and families of Connecticut’s nursing home residents are now allowed to make indoor, in-person visits under new guidelines from state officials. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Weeks of state investigations, monitoring and intervention at Three Rivers Nursing Home in Norwich following a COVID-19 outbreak has culminated in the imminent relocation of all residents.

In a rare and unprecedented move, the Department of Public Health's acting commissioner Deidre Gifford signed an emergency order Wednesday requiring the facility to discharge its 53 residents to other long-term care facilities. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

State Republican lawmakers say Gov. Ned Lamont shouldn’t have extended his emergency powers under the pandemic for five more months.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public

A viral video of UConn students at a recent campus dorm party brought a swift rebuke from the university. But both the party itself and the school’s official response are raising more questions about whether students should be back at school.

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State officials are investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Three Rivers Nursing Home in Norwich, where one resident has died and several have been hospitalized.

The Department of Public Health has so far identified 13 residents and two staff members infected with the virus -- it’s the largest outbreak at a single nursing facility in about a month, according to state data. 

A sign for coronavirus testing outside of a CVS drive-through in Hartford, Conn.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Pubic

Scientists at the Yale School of Public Health say they have developed a quick, affordable COVID-19 saliva test, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted it emergency-use authorization. It’s called SalivaDirect, and one of its project leaders is Anne Wyllie, an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health. Wyllie spoke on All Things Considered about why this testing method is better than the swab method, the crucial role the NBA played in its development, and the price she and her team had to pay to make this dream a reality.

Report Offers Clues To What Went Wrong In Lethal COVID Outbreak In Nursing Homes

Aug 18, 2020
Some of the nursing staff at Parkway Pavilion Health and Rehabilitation Center in Enfield in the early stages of the outbreak.
CTMirror.org

COVID-19 hit nursing homes in the Northeast states particularly hard, but those living in Connecticut long-term care facilities died more frequently than in any other state – a result of missteps by the state and a nursing home industry hamstrung by limited knowledge of the pathogen’s nature, how it spreads and to whom it posed the greatest risks.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

The former commissioner of the state Department of Public Health is firing back over her May termination ahead of an impending report this month on Connecticut’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two months after Gov. Ned Lamont announced her dismissal, Renée Coleman-Mitchell said in a written statement released late Monday night by the law office of Eric R. Brown that she was going to “set the record straight in my own words.” 

David Wurtzel / Connecticut Public

State officials continue to assess the vulnerability of long-term care facilities to the coronavirus in advance of a potential second wave of infection.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Wearing a mask and speaking through a megaphone, Jesse Martin prompted a crowd that had gathered outside the state Department of Public Health building in Hartford late Thursday afternoon.

“What do we want?” he asked.

“Hazard pay!” the crowd yelled back.

“When do we want it?”

“Now!” 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

With the second phase of Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to reopen state businesses set for Wednesday, the governor’s office announced Saturday afternoon that the number of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 continued to decline. The governor’s office said 233 patients are hospitalized in Connecticut with COVID-19 -- 11 fewer than Friday. 

Vape Marketing Linked To COVID-19 Draws Critics

Jun 2, 2020
Vernon Police Officer Joshua Wells holds an e-cigarette that contained THC “juice,” the active ingredient in marijuana.
Kate Farrish / Connecticut Health I-Team

Vape manufacturers have long been accused of marketing to teens with flavors like mango and cotton candy. Now vaping opponents say vape manufacturers are exploiting the coronavirus with face mask and hand sanitizer giveaways and #COVID-19 discounts.

A Mayor And U.S. Senator Sit For A Public COVID-19 Test

May 28, 2020
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker gets tested with a nasal swab for COVID-19 by nurse John Grimes on the New Haven Green. At right, are Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The walk-up testing  was conducted by Murphy Medical Associates.
Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal sat under a pop-up canopy on the New Haven Green, tilted his head back and submitted to a nasal swab for a COVID-19 test. The moment was a photo op for a media-savvy senator and a public-service pitch for a state promoting testing as it slowly loosens restrictions on commerce.

A screenshot of one of Painter's video chats.
Connecticut Health I-Team

Families with loved ones in nursing homes–unable to visit while getting frustratingly sparse information about them–have found a champion in Mairead Painter.

Lamont Removes Connecticut's Public Health Commissioner

May 12, 2020
Renée Coleman-Mitchell
Mark Pazniokas / CTMirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont has fired Renée Coleman-Mitchell as commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, a reflection of concerns that first arose last year during a school vaccination controversy and came to a head during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Shady Oaks Assisted Living
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Given that Connecticut’s long-term care facilities house those most vulnerable to infectious diseases, the coronavirus has had a devastating impact. According to the CT Mirror, 57.6% of all COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut have happened in the state’s nursing homes, forcing facilities to take drastic measures to try to keep the disease out.

Union Says Economic And Racial Inequities Plague Connecticut's Nursing Homes

Apr 24, 2020
Photo Courtesy SEIU 1199

The federal and state response to COVID-19 in nursing homes is riddled with economic — and racial — inequities that are taking a greater toll in deaths and illnesses than government officials have disclosed, Connecticut’s largest health care workers’s union charged Friday.

Yujin =) / Flickr

From ancient mixtures of boiled goat fats and ashes to modern artisanal soaps with calendula and coffee grinds, humans have been inventing clever ways of cleaning themselves since the very beginning.

This quest for cleanliness has wound its way through religion, sexuality, culture, and more. It has been the source of everything from comedies to conflicts to consumer crazes. This hour we talk to experts and historians about the history of hygiene.

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