HARTFORD — All 14 Republican members of the Connecticut Senate on Friday urged Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to allow allow safe indoor family visits at nursing homes for all residents and not just those who are near death or whose conditions have seriously deteriorated during the pandemic, as outlined in a new state policy.

“The elderly in our nursing homes do not have time on their side, and they deserve to be able to see their loved ones,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the governor. “The negative impact of isolation on mental and physical health can be just as dangerous as the pandemic itself and must not be overlooked.”

Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said Thursday that the administration understands the importance of family visits but is “very aware of what we saw in the spring with respect to COVID infections in nursing homes” and is taking any expansion of visitations “step by step.”

In another letter recently sent to Lamont and Gifford, AARP of Connecticut said all residents of long term care facilities “should be afforded regular opportunities for in-person visitation, in accordance with guidelines established by governmental authorities.”

In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:

MORE UCONN CASES

Seven more University of Connecticut students who live on campus have tested positive for the coronavirus, including five more in a dorm that has been placed under medical quarantine because of a cluster of cases, school officials announced Friday.

The Garrigus Suites dorm now has 26 cases, according to data released by UConn. All 270 students in the dorm are in medical quarantine until further notice.

A total of 59 on-campus students have tested positive for the new virus. Fifty are in isolation, six have recovered and left isolation and the rest returned home to isolate, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. The positive test rate for residential students is 1%, which school officials say is very low.

Thirteen students who live off the Storrs main campus also have tested positive, along with two faculty and staff.

Meanwhile, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas told members of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee on Friday that both the university and the UConn Health Center are facing the largest budget shortfalls in the university's 133-year history, due mostly to the coronavirus pandemic.

UConn estimates it will lose $52.6 million during the fall semester alone, because of fewer students on campus and less revenue from housing, dining and fees.

NURSING HOME FINES

The state Department of Public Health has fined two nursing homes for failing to test dozens of employees for the coronavirus.

Avery Nursing Home in Hartford and Hamden Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Hamden were both fined $1,140, Gifford said Thursday. An executive order signed by Gov. Ned Lamont in June requires weekly testing of nursing home staff until no employees or residents test positive for the virus.

Inspectors said Avery Nursing Home did not test 37 employees and the Hamden home failed to test 39 workers in late July and early August.

Avery officials told inspectors that they have since made testing mandatory. The home's nursing director told inspectors that not all staff had been tested at the time because some were on vacation or did not attend the scheduled testing and an administrator whose approval was needed to make the testing mandatory was on vacation.

An administrator at the Hamden home told inspectors that many employees were not available to come in on assigned testing days and staff could not prohibit staff members who were not tested from working because there would not be enough employees to care for residents.

Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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