Two young women pause on a trail at Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown to check their cell phone. State parks have set guidelines to encourage social distancing and discourage crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloe Poisson /
Hikers enjoy a trail at Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown where social distancing is encouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The park was closed Sunday afternoon when the parking lot filled to capacity. Cloe Poisson /

Days away from phase one of reopening the state, Gov. Ned Lamont reported that 5,800 people were tested for COVID-19 since yesterday, bring the total number of those tested to 170,607. Of those, 37,419 have tested positive.

Officials conducted 14,647 tests over the weekend, including the 8,847 tests the governor’s office reported on Saturday. Lamont has said he wants Connecticut to be conducting 42,000 weekly coronavirus tests by May 20, when the state begins to reopen. That means the state would need conduct at least 6,000 tests each day to meet the goal.

An additional 69 people died from the virus since yesterday. The virus has claimed 3,408 Connecticut residents’ lives.

Hospitalizations continued to decline. There were 57 fewer people hospitalized from the virus as of Sunday. In total, 937 people are in the hospital with COVID-19.

The majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in New Haven, Hartford and Fairfield counties.

Park closures

Residents flocked to state parks over the weekend, escaping quarantine and soaking in the spring weather. Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7R authorizes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to prevent additional visitors from entering parks after they’ve been filled to capacity. Officials closed almost 20 parks Saturday.

Miller’s Pond, Collins P. Huntington, Southford Falls, Wadsworth Falls and Sleeping Giant state parks were closed by early Sunday afternoon because their parking lots were full.

For the latest on park closures, visit DEEP’s Twitter page.

ACLU to appeal COVID-19 lawsuit to state Supreme Court

Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson granted an application Friday to allow the ACLU of Connecticut to appeal its COVID-19 state lawsuit that was dismissed in April. The suit seeks emergency action to prevent the spread of the virus by requiring proper sanitation and medical care, and by reducing the number of people who are incarcerated in prisons and jails.

“People who are incarcerated remain in danger because of the DOC’s backward, cruel approach to COVID-19. We welcome this swift action from the Supreme Court and are grateful for the chance to seek relief, health, and safety for our clients,” said Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director and an attorney on the case.

Oral arguments for the ACLU’s separate federal class action lawsuit will take place Friday.

Almost 600 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday. After testing 639 symptomatic inmates in the first two-and-a-half months of the pandemic, officials began mass testing of the incarcerated population last week. More than 100 people tested positive at Osborn Correctional Institution, prompting authorities to put all 1,060 inmates at the Somers prison in lockdown to prevent the further spread of the virus. 

Department of Correction offers virtual visits for children in prison 

Minors incarcerated at York Correctional or Manson Youth Institutions can now talk with their families via free video conferencing once a week for 30 minutes. New Haven lawmakers Rep. Robyn Porter and Rep. Toni Walker were the first participants, according to the New Haven Independent. The legislators spoke with three boys they met during previous visits to Manson, a prison that held 43 juveniles as of May 1.

To participate, video participants must be on an approved visitors list. Up to three people can participate at a time. Officials are working to expand the video visits to other correctional facilities. Adult inmates are allowed to make two free phone calls each week. They can pay for additional calls after using up their free allotment.

“Maintaining contact with family members and loved ones during a period of incarceration is essential, especially now during the pandemic, and even more so for juvenile offenders,” DOC Commissioner Rollin Cook said. “Video visits can help provide an important emotional connection and sense of normalcy during these very unusual and trying times.”

Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

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