As of Thursday, April 16, there were 168 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Middletown, according to Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14. Florsheim also announced that there have been 11 coronavirus-related fatalities in the city.
There are a total of 394 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Middlesex County, with 39 of those patients currently hospitalized. There have been 30 COVID-19 fatalities in the county.
As of Thursday, April 16, there were 15,884 confirmed cases statewide, an increase of 1,129 since Wednesday, April 15. There have been 971 COVID-19 related fatalities in the state, and a total of 53,122 people have been tested. The rise in the total number of statewide deaths from 671 on Tuesday, April 14 to 868 on Wednesday, April 15 reflected the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 fatalities Connecticut has seen until now, with 197 more deaths.
Middletown also saw its largest one-day spike in COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, April 15, with an increase from a total of 7 deaths on Wednesday afternoon to 11 deaths within 24 hours. All the fatalities were among residents who lived in nursing homes in the city, according to Florsheim. As of April 16, 23 of Middletown’s 168 COVID-19 cases were residents in nursing homes, staying at either the Middlesex Health Care Center or the Water’s Edge Center for Health & Rehabilitation.
“Over the past few days, I’ve had heartbreaking conversations with a number of residents whose loved ones are living in nursing homes and congregate care facilities, which have turned into hotspots for viral spread across the state and country,” Florsheim wrote in a Facebook post on April 15. “Middletown, sadly, has not been an exception. At the city level, we are doing everything in our power to work with these facilities to send them PPE, coordinate with the hospital, and facilitate communication with families.”
Florsheim also discussed the State Department of Public Health’s (DPH) protocols for positive cases in nursing homes and the planned opening of a third designated COVID-19 Recovery Center in Meriden next week.
“Strict protocols are in place to protect residents and staff, including daily screenings for healthcare workers, and DPH is talking daily with Middletown’s facilities to make sure they are kept up to date with the regulations and that they are being followed,” Florsheim wrote. “People who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are eligible to be relocated to one of the state’s designated ‘COVID-19 Recovery Centers’ to receive treatment in isolation once they leave the hospital and before they return to their home…. I have a follow-up call scheduled to discuss how [the Meriden] location might be used to help decompress our facilities in Middletown.”
In particular, Florsheim criticized the lack of COVID-19 tests available, as well as those tests’ high number of false-negatives.
“As in so many other areas, the lack of available tests has proven to be a major problem for nursing homes and is the main reason we’ve gotten to this point,” Florsheim wrote. “Many residents and family members are being told that even if they get a test they won’t know the result for three, four, or five days, and the false-negative rate has been unacceptably high. This is not the fault of the nursing homes or DPH; our country has had the worst and most ineffective testing response of any country in the world by far.”
However, Florsheim concluded by writing that Abbott Laboratories’ rapid COVID-19 test, which Connecticut began using in early April, would be useful for the state’s nursing homes due to its ability to produce results on a large scale.
“That is ideal for nursing homes, and DPH has a new shipment of those tests that it is sending out to nursing homes this week,” Florsheim wrote. “The increase in testing capacity should go a long way towards helping to curb the outbreaks.”
The City also announced that the second annual Middletown Pride would be rescheduled from June 20 to August 29, 2020 out of an abundance of caution over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Middlesex County also saw its highest single-day increase in the number of COVID-19 related deaths on April 15 with 7 more fatalities. Middletown continues to make up the largest proportion of the county’s COVID-19 cases, followed by Portland, Cromwell, and Chester.
After receiving more than 350,000 unemployment claims since March 13, the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) announced on Wednesday, April 15 that it had launched a new software system to significantly cut down on the processing time for claims. The DOL had processed 174,000 claims and provided over $107 million in benefit payments over the last three weeks before the update to its 40-year-old computer system. Governor Ned Lamont tweeted on Thursday morning that this new software system had allowed the DOL to process 60,000 claims overnight.
On Monday, April 13, Lamont, along with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Delaware Governor John Carney announced the creation of a multi-state council designed to slowly return people back to work and help boost the economies of these seven states, without endangering residents by increasing their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.
“The coordinating group—comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective chief of staff from each state—will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus,” the press release announcement reads.
Lamont also announced on Monday that the nonprofit organization AdvanceCT would be creating the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, a panel of experts from the state’s medical and business communities to advise Lamont on reopening the state’s economy.
In his April 10 executive order, Lamont extended all previous closure, distancing, and safety measures enacted to fight the pandemic through at least May 20. As a result, all restaurants, bars, gyms, malls, and non-essential businesses will remain closed until then, and social and recreational gatherings continue to be limited to five people.
“This is a war that is never won,” Lamont said at his April 10 briefing. “It’s a war that we have to figure out how we wind it down in the safest way possible for people. I know the urgency many of you feel to get back to your everyday lives, but I’ve got to urge you one more time. Now is no time to take your foot off the accelerator. Now is no time to relax the social distancing.”
The order also granted protections to residential renters, requiring landlords to grant an automatic 60-day grace period for rent due in April 2020. Tenants can also request this same grace period for rent due in May 2020, although they must notify landlords that they have lost their job, lost hours, otherwise lost revenue, or faced significantly increased expenses due to the pandemic.
If tenants have already paid a security deposit exceeding one month’s rent, the order allows all or a portion of the excess amount to be applied to rent for April, May, or June 2020. All landlords are also prohibited from issuing notices to quit or starting eviction proceedings before July 1, 2020 unless the tenant is a “serious nuisance.”
Lamont also spoke about Connecticut’s presidential primary at his April 10 briefing and explained that he does not want to cancel the primary outright.
“I just think that sets a bad precedent,” Lamont said. “We have several other options, though. One, we have a June 2 date along with a number of our neighboring states—we can put that off until, say, July. I know a number of the governors are considering that, thinking that the situation might be mitigated by then. Obviously the Secretary of State thinks this may be a good time for voting by mail…. So there are a couple of options we have, but I think just canceling the primary is not the right way to do it.”
In addition, while Lamont acknowledged the federal coronavirus economic relief plan (CARES Act) and said the reimbursement of COVID-19 costs would be helpful, he hoped the federal government would also consider Connecticut’s expected $500 million deficit for this fiscal year.
“90% of our shortfall, that $500 million shortfall we anticipate at the end of this fiscal year, June 30, is related to a loss of revenues,” Lamont said. “Obviously not much sales tax revenues coming in right now. And it’s really important that the feds make some good faith effort to reimburse the states and the municipalities for lost revenue as well. And I’m hearing the same thing from the hospitals. Not only are they jetting up a lot of overtime, but their revenues are down dramatically, especially their most profitable revenues, which are the elective surgeries. So they’re going to need some help, more than just reimbursement, to make up for their difference.”
On April 14, Lamont, with the support of the state’s Congressional delegation, submitted a supplementary request to President Trump asking the federal government to authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover 100% of Connecticut’s costs from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, FEMA will reimburse 75% of COVID-19 expenses for Connecticut’s state and local governments and tribal nations.
Claire Isenegger contributed reporting.
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jiyu_shin.