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A pregnant woman
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Scientists and researchers have been talking about COVID-19 vaccines since last spring when the virus first surged through communities. But the timeline for development was really unknown.

“So it was there in my mind, but it wasn’t something I was counting on in terms of protection or timing with pregnancy,” said Samantha Morris. 

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. 

Bain News Service / Library of Congress

Cartoonist Bill Griffith based his legendary character Zippy the Pinhead on Schlitzie, a real life sideshow 'pinhead' who appeared in Todd Browning's 1932 film Freaks. Early audiences were appalled by Browning's use of real sideshow characters to seek revenge on those who treated them cruelly.

Griffith's graphic novel is his effort to understand Schlitzie and the sideshow family who cared for him. We talk to Griffith and a member of Schlitzie's sideshow family.

Also this hour: the man who saved thousands of premature infants by exhibiting them in incubators at the Coney Island sideshow.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

An overwhelming number of people signed up to testify Tuesday during what was expected to be a contentious public hearing on school vaccination requirements -- so many that lawmakers, by a majority vote, decided to cap the duration of the virtual hearing at 24 hours.

The limit was criticized by several Republican members of the state Public Health Committee, as well as those who testified throughout the day. 

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.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Connecticut has so far administered nearly half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to eligible residents and workers, but emerging data on the vaccine rollout in individual towns and cities indicate early signs of inequity.

It’s why local health providers, community advocates and leaders are working together to identify residents who are being missed, particularly people in underserved populations within larger cities. In Hartford, collaborators are undertaking more targeted approaches to vaccine education, messaging and accessibility. 

Paloma Munoz
Yehyun Kim / CTMirror.org

Last March, days after returning home from a family trip to Spain, Paloma Munoz’s 4-year-old son started to cough.

He spiked a fever overnight and began feeling short of breath. Alarmed, Munoz found a hospital with drive-up COVID testing and took her son to get swabbed.

When the results came back negative, she was relieved. Then a bill for $270 arrived in the mail.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

New state data revealing town-by-town COVID-19 vaccination coverage shows that the rollout in some areas of Connecticut is happening at a faster rate than in others.

The preliminary numbers confirm what some public health experts and health equity advocates have suspected all along, which is that vulnerable and underserved communities, including Black and brown neighborhoods already suffering high infection and mortality rates, are at risk of falling through the cracks. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Several public health proposals are making a comeback to the legislative arena this year, including a couple that have sparked significant controversy in past sessions.

The COVID-19 pandemic cut short the 2020 legislative session. Lawmakers managed only a few weeks of committee meetings and a handful of public hearings before the Capitol was shut down in late March.

School-Based Health Centers Remain Vital Resource During Pandemic

Jan 28, 2021
Nurse practitioner Shannon Knaggs examines a student at the health center at Augusta Lewis Troup School in New Haven.
Yale New Haven Hospital

Thirteen-year-old Estrella Roman and her mother have made the 30-minute walk to Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury several times during the pandemic, even when the school has been closed for in-person learning. That’s because the school’s on-site health center is where Estrella, who emigrated with her family from Ecuador in 2019, receives routine vaccinations, wellness care, and treatment for headaches, among other health services.

Access Health CT

Nearly 1 million people in Connecticut chose health insurance plans for 2021 through Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, new data show.

That includes a year-over-year uptick in the number of people eligible for low-income insurance programs under HUSKY Health. Experts say some of that was likely driven by 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. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

A small team of nurses and support staff set up tables and medical supplies inside the Open Hearth homeless shelter for men in Hartford.

Shelter clients and employees, all masked, lined up to register at a check-in table. Geriann Gallagher, an advanced practice registered nurse, brought clients over one at a time to her vaccination station. Austin Anglin, 67, sat down. 

Sodanie Chea / Creative Commons

State lawmakers want to ban all flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products for good this legislative session to cut off their popularity with kids and teens.

Anti-smoking and public health advocates hope the bill will ultimately reduce vaping and tobacco addiction among youth, as well as address some racial health disparities. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

In early March, Vic Gara came down with severe muscle aches, headaches and a rising blood pressure, indicators of COVID-19 that weren’t well understood early on in the pandemic.

“Taking a shower, just the water hurt my body,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep. I slowly became hypoxic. I just couldn’t breathe.” 

Eventually, he was admitted to Hartford Hospital, where he was quarantined immediately and separated from his wife, Laura. 

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.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Two New Haven County residents under the age of 25 years old have tested positive for a new, more transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2, the type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Medical experts say this variant, scientifically labeled B.1.1.7 and first discovered in the United Kingdom, appears to spread more easily and quickly. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.” 

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. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Luz Morales was working as a certified nursing assistant at RegalCare at Waterbury, a nursing home, when she fell ill with COVID-19.

At home, her 70-year-old mother, Nicia, looked in on her. 

It’s finally 2021. But that line in the calendar doesn’t mean that the pandemic is anywhere near over, so I want to start this year off by looking back at people whom I interviewed in the series that we launched before Audacious.

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

Several national polls and surveys show that a growing number of people are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s their turn.

But with vaccine supply limited in the first weeks and months of distribution, Connecticut will have to prioritize exactly who comes next in line after hospital employees, health workers and people in long-term care facilities. 

Hm. H Zinn
Ken Turino

If you’ve ever been to a dietician to lose weight, or just to get healthier, you’ve probably heard the same advice and been told to eat the same kind of food. But American dietitians often leave out room to eat diverse cuisines and food groups, largely leaving out a lot ethnic food. 

AP Pool

Nine grueling months into the pandemic, nursing home workers and operators say they’re feeling some relief with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Everybody wants to get back to the lives we had before, so the vaccine is a great step toward that,” said Sophia Walker, a registered nurse at The Reservoir nursing home in West Hartford.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

In anticipation of potential COVID-19 surges in the coming weeks, state officials and health experts are expanding the Hartford region’s hospital bed capacity.

The state National Guard and the Department of Public Health in partnership with Hartford HealthCare are reopening a 600-bed field hospital at the Connecticut Convention Center. They say this is a precautionary move as numbers of cases and hospitalizations continue to generally trend upward. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

More shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived Tuesday at Connecticut hospitals, many of which began immediately vaccinating front-line workers.

That included Ivan Sarmiento, an emergency room registered nurse at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, a member of Trinity Health Of New England. He was cheered on by colleagues as he became the first employee to get a dose shortly before noon. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Surrounded by colleagues underneath a tent that protected them from the freezing rain, Dr. Ajay Kumar rolled up his sleeve as a nurse cleaned the upper part of his arm with an antiseptic wipe.

“Here we go, number one,” someone shouted. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

At almost 16 years old, Emma Heslin knew very little about any type of diabetes. But then she was diagnosed with Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes.

“You’re like, what is that, what does that mean?” said Heslin, now a 22-year-old registered nurse. “So, you’re not going into it knowing it’s lifelong.” 

Graeme Robertson / AP

After more than nine months of a pandemic that has sickened and killed millions worldwide, the United States is on the verge of obtaining its first federally reviewed COVID-19 vaccine.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a group of independent scientists and researchers from institutions all over the country, will hold a public meeting today to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. 

The Trump administration wants to require the incoming Department of Health and Human Services team to review most HHS regulations by 2023 — and automatically void those that haven't been assessed by then.

The recently proposed rule would require HHS to analyze within 24 months about 2,400 regulations — rules that affect tens of millions of Americans on everything from Medicare benefits to prescription drug approvals.

SIPA VIA AP IMAGES

The federal government could grant emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next week, potentially getting doses in the hands of Connecticut hospitals by mid-December.

While official statewide distribution plans are still being finalized, health providers do know enough about the upcoming vaccines in order to take some immediate steps in preparation, with little time to spare. 

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