Gov. Ned Lamont, flanked by his chief executive officer Josh Geballe (left) and State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona on the day the governor declared a public health emergency as COVID-19 began to touch down in the state. (CT Mirror) mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Connecticut grew to 20 Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a third executive order easing restrictions on a number of government functions in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

The executive order signed by Lamont on Saturday covers a laundry list of topics, ranging from allowing pharmacists to make and sell hand sanitizer to easing the certificate of need process so hospitals can open temporary facilities to meet demand related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said the executive order shows that the state is both broadening its attempts to slow the the spread of the virus through social distancing and other means, and responding to issues that have been raised as a result of that effort. The governor banned gatherings larger than 250 people shortly after declaring a public health emergency on March 10.

For example, Lamont’s order authorizes the Commissioner of Social Services to waive requirements that families applying for state assistance attend in-person interviews before receiving benefits. It also allows the state to refund liquor permit application fees due to cancelled events.

The governor’s actions come the same day the state announced nine new cases of the coronavirus, including the first confirmed cases in Hartford and New Haven counties. Unlike past briefings about new cases, however, the governor’s office did not release details Saturday about the nine infected people, such as their ages, gender or where they live.

Some information about the nine new cases is known, however. Three were announced by Yale New Haven Health Saturday, including two patients and the network’s chief nursing executive, Beth Beckman. Yale University also announced a “member of its community” has preliminarily tested positive for the virus.

The governor’s office also announced a reduced train schedule for the Shore Line East and Hartford lines, with both operating on a weekend schedule Monday-Friday, except for a few routes on the Shore Line East line. For a complete list of changes, click here. The new schedule takes effect March 16.

In addition to the actions noted above, the governor’s announcement also:

  • Waives requirements that pharmacists don personal protective equipment, such as gowns and masks, while mixing non-hazardous compounds for drugs.
  • Makes it easier for some state employees to work remotely and provides an additional 14 days of paid time off for state workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Waives rules for opening short-term daycare centers and youth camps.
  • Deploys the National Guard to deliver ventilators to hospitals and help meet other health care needs during the crisis.
  • Establishes there will be no shutoffs or late fees associated with overdue cable and phone bills.
  • Waives open meeting requirements to prevent large gatherings and allow towns to take quick action on closings.

As officials continued their efforts Saturday to slow the spread of the virus, the state’s two casinos also took preventative measures, announcing that they were canceling some large events and closing gaming rooms.

But neither Foxwoods Resort Casino nor the state’s other tribal casino, Mohegan Sun, has followed the lead of neighboring Massachusetts, where the gaming commission closed that state’s three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino — in response to the public health crisis.

Instead, Foxwoods shut down its bingo hall on Saturday and said it plans to close its poker room, Ultimate Racebook, Keno and live table games in its Great Cedar, Fox Tower and Rainmaker casinos on Monday. All tables remain open in the Grand Pequot Casino.

Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have also cancelled or postponed a variety of live shows and events scheduled in the next month.

Elizabeth Hamilton joined CT Mirror as Executive Editor in 2018. She is a 20-year veteran of Connecticut newsrooms, including more than a decade at The Hartford Courant where she was Reporter of the Year in 2000 and where she won the newspaper’s prestigious Theodore Driscoll Investigative Award for a series of stories about deaths in group homes for the developmentally disabled. Elizabeth has a degree in history from the University of Connecticut and an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University, where she also teaches writing as an adjunct professor.

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3 Comments

  1. All schools should really be closed for at least 2 weeks. Closing one or 2 districts isn’t going to work.

    1. As of a couple of days ago, at least 140 schools were closed, mostly Fairfield and New Haven counties, plus some in Hartford and Litchfield counties. That number has likely increased since then, and will likely continue to increase if/when more people test positive for the virus. In addition, most if not all colleges and universities in CT are closed.

  2. Here is a link to the CDC website COVID-19 Tracker ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html ). If you go to the section titled “States Reporting Cases of COVID-19 to CDC”. There is a drop down menu that looks like this:

    “States. +”

    Click on the plus sign to see current number of reported cases on a state-by-state basis. This is Gospel as it relates to the current growth in transmission. Washington, California, New York and Massachusetts are the Hot Zones. How much and how quickly these numbers change dictates “true level” of severity. This table should be shown with every news report. If a historical perspective is not shown, it just stokes the hype. Knowledge and data should be paramount in communicating with the general public.

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