Hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic experienced the largest one day drop to date, Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday, while other public health data indicate positive trends are continuing as the state gradually reopens its economy.
Numbers released Friday afternoon show 577 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19, a drop of more than 70 people since yesterday. The governor said it was the largest one day decline to date. The state reported 203 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 41,762 total cases overall.
Lamont said social gatherings inside homes and other buildings can increase to 10 people and outdoor gatherings can increase to 25. The previous state guideline was to limit gatherings to five people.
“Outside is safer than inside,” Lamont said.
Members of the governor’s Faith Advocacy Council joined Lamont on the steps of the State Capitol Friday to discuss the public reopening of places of worship.
They also shared reaction to the death of George Floyd and the riots in Minneapolis, Minn.
“George Floyd could have been me. George Floyd could have been you,” said Kelcy G.L. Steele, pastor at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church in New Haven. Steele asked for a moment of silence for Floyd after speaking about “the disease of racism.”
Minnesota officials announced Friday afternoon the former police officer who pinned Floyd under his knee would be charged with murder.
Lamont said Connecticut residents have reason to be angry about the death of Floyd.
“It reminds all of us every day what it means to be part of a common humanity,” Lamont said. He called for a need for diversity in state and local police forces, teachers, and faith leaders.
Casinos plan “soft open” this weekend
The governor repeated his disagreement with tribal leaders’ decision to reopen Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in the next few days. Both casinos said Friday that they invited a select number of guests to the casinos this weekend and that they plan to reopen Monday to the public, with limits on visitor numbers.
But Lamont said his administration and tribal leaders had reached some common ground, however, and that he agrees with the casinos’ decisions to bar out of state guests from staying at their hotels. He also he is pleased the casinos will make dining takeout or outdoor only through June 20.
Tribal leaders and the governor’s office are still discussing whether smoking will be allowed and how alcohol will be served.
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun both have announced safety measures that include checking people’s temperatures as they enter, plexiglass at table games and the closure of certain slot machines to encourage social distancing. The casinos are on tribal land which are sovereign nations not held to the state’s COVID-19 regulations.
Lamont said Friday that the state may post electronic signs warning of the danger of returning to the casinos.
Worship spaces to reopen under phased approach
Lamont announced Friday loosened guidelines to reopen in-person worship services. Places of worship could open to 25 percent capacity or 100 people — whichever is smaller — for inside services and 125 people for outside services as long as social distancing standards can be observed, under the new guidelines.
Members of the governor’s Faith Advisory Council voiced support for a slow reopening along with new standards. “What was, will never be again,” said Lindsay E. Curtis, pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Norwalk.
Many churches in the state will remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future. While some church staples, like communion and singing, at those that open their doors will depend on the guidance of individual church leaders.
Episcopal churches in the state will remain closed, said Ian Douglas, Bishop Diocesan of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Steele said his church has begun offering communion in individual, single-use cups. First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven will have one soloist instead of its usual choir when it does reopen, said Boise Kimber, president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association and senior pastor of the church.
Catholic churches announce limited reopenings
The three Catholic dioceses in Connecticut say they will be gradually resuming weekday masses, funerals, and weddings. But churchgoers looking for Sunday services will have to wait a little bit longer.
The Dioceses of Bridgeport announced Friday that it would resume daily mass, funerals and weddings inside churches beginning the weekend of June 13 and 14.
Daily masses may resume inside churches in the Archdioceses of Hartford and Diocese of Norwich beginning June 8. Services will be limited to 50 attendants.
Churches in the Archdioceses of Hartford and the Diocese of Norwich will also reopen for funerals and weddings, but Sunday masses will remain temporarily closed to parishioners to attend in person, both dioceses announced Wednesday.
State’s second COVID-19 rapid testing center to open
The state’s second COVID-19 rapid testing site is planned to open at the Samuel V. Arroyo Recreation Center at 30 Pope Park Drive in Hartford, U.S. Rep. John Larson and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced Friday. Patients will need to call Hartford 311 at 860-757-9311, Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to schedule a same-day appointment to be tested.
The state’s first rapid testing center opened on April 17 at the former Gateway Community College campus at Long Wharf in New Haven.
“Testing is key to overcoming this pandemic, especially in communities of color that have been hard hit. This is a significant step forward in addressing these disparities and stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Larson said in a statement.
Deaths, infections grow at slower pace among nursing home, assisted living residents
Coronavirus-related deaths and infections among Connecticut’s elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities continue to grow at slower rates, new data from the Lamont administration showed Friday evening.
According to data collected through Wednesday, 2,398 nursing home residents and 327 tenants of assisted living centers have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Total deaths among nursing home residents rose by 208 over the last weekly reporting period, an increase of 9.5%. That marks the fifth consecutive week this growth rate has declined.
Deaths among this group had risen by 13% during the week ending May 20, by 15% through May 13, by 30% through May 6, by 63% through April 29 and by 105% through April 22.
Reports before mid-April had understated coronavirus-related deaths among nursing home residents. Local health officials initially didn’t disclose to their state counterparts the untested seniors who’d displayed COVID-19 symptoms before dying.
“We continue to believe that our state’s efforts to combat COVID-19 are moving in the right direction,” representatives of the assisted living and nursing home facilities wrote Friday in a joint statement. “We are the near completion of the point prevalence survey testing of all nursing home residents and will soon be launching widespread employee testing – all part of a comprehensive plan to further curb the spread of the virus.
Mag Morelli, president of Leading Age Connecticut; Matthew Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities; and Christopher Carter, president of the Connecticut Assisted Living Association added “We have continuously modified the normal infection control concepts as we learn more about the disease, and we are cautiously optimistic as we witness more and more residents recovering.
Infections also are growing at a slower pace in nursing homes for the fifth straight week.
The latest report says another 447 residents became infected between May 21 and May 27, an increase of nearly 6%.
Infections among nursing home residents had grown by 13% during the week ending May 20, by 17% through May 13, by 24% through May 6, by 41% through April 29 and by 100% through April 22.
State health officials haven’t been tracking coronavirus cases as long in Connecticut’s more than 130 assisted living facilities. These centers serve residents age 55 and older who need some assistance with daily living activities but not the skilled care provided by a nursing home.
The latest report found an additional 21 residents of these managed care centers died during the last weekly reporting period, an increase of 6.4%.
Deaths had risen by 11% during the week ending May 20.
Infections among this population increased by 34 over the last period, a bump of 3.5%, after growing by nearly 12 percent during the week ending May 20.
Utility help for Connecticut businesses
Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority announced Friday that it extended a moratorium preventing the shutoff of natural gas, electric and water services to businesses through July 1.
The authority had announced a similar moratorium for residential customers as long as the governor’s civil and public health preparedness emergencies are in effect.