HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut public schools will be closed until at least April 20, the governor said Monday, and the state is looking into re-purposing old nursing homes and empty college dormitories to help free up space for hospitals as they brace for more COVID-19 patients.
The state's latest efforts to quell the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 comes as the Department of Correction reports the first prison employee has tested positive. The unidentified employee works at a prison in Newtown.
Over 400 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the virus, and 10 patients have died.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Gov. Ned Lamont plans to issue a new executive order that will require schools across the state to remain closed until April 20, a spokesman said. Lamont, a Democrat, had previously instituted a two-week closure on March 17.
To help students learn while schools are closed, Lamont said the Partnership for Connecticut, a public-private education partnership with Dalio Philanthropies, plans to make 60,000 laptop computers available to high school students. He said the laptops will come at “virtually no cost" to the state of Connecticut.
“Laptops are going to mean that not just suburban kids from wealthier areas, but all kids, can have an access to online learning and education,” he said.
FIRST INFECTED PRISON WORKER
Connecticut's Correction Department says an employee at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown been found to be infected. The department says that person hasn't been in the facility since March 17 and has been self-monitoring at home. The Department on Monday instituted a policy requiring staff to pass a wellness screening, including a temperature check before entering a facility. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees won't be allowed inside.
STATE CAPITOL CLOSURE
All state legislative business in Hartford will now be postponed until April 13. Democratic and Republican leaders of the General Assembly said Monday the state Capitol complex and the Old State House will remain closed during that time. Legislative leaders plan to meet the week of April 6 to determine if further action needs to be taken.
TRIAGE TENT AT UCONN HOSPITAL AND MORE HOSPITAL SPACE
Connecticut's first triage tent for treating those believed to be infected with the coronavirus was set up outside the emergency department at UConn's John Dempsey Hospital.
UConn Health says the tent is not a testing center, but will be used if the expected surge in COVID-19 patients occurs to give hospital staff additional work space.
Patients who are stable will be sent home and educated on how to quarantine there. If doctors determine they need more testing, treatment or admission, they will be sent inside the hospital to be treated in an isolation area.
Meanwhile, Lamont said his administration has prioritized 2,000 nursing home beds that should be available over the next month or so for patients with COVID-19 infections. He said mobile field hospitals are also about to be deployed at Danbury Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. Additionally, the administration is working with colleges to possibly use empty dorm rooms to house intermediate care patients.
Connecticut businesses are closely reviewing a long list of industries that have been exempted from Gov. Ned Lamont's order directing all nonessential businesses and not-for-profit entities to prohibit all in-person functions as of 8 p.m. on Monday.
Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the office received hundreds of calls over the weekend from companies seeking guidance with how to meet the governor's order. A detailed explanation of the order was released late Sunday evening.
Glenn Cunningham, a partner and business litigator with the law firm Shipman and Goodwin, said his clients were pleased to see that all manufacturers in Connecticut can keep working, unlike some other states that have exempted limited manufacturers.
Cunningham said some businesses are concerned whether the order prevents staff who handle payroll and other financial duties from coming into the office, an issue La Luz said the administration is reviewing.
The list of industries considered “essential” is wide-ranging. It includes commercial trucking, walk-in medical clinics, big box stores, grocery stores, news media, farmers markets, gun shops, liquor stores, doormen and pest control services.