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Assembly Doctors Call for Greater COVID Precautions; CCM, CT Partnership Push Need For Summer School, Youth jobs

Assembly Doctors Call for Greater COVID Precautions; CCM, CT Partnership Push Need For Summer School, Youth jobs

CT Post, May 5, 2020

By Ken Dixon

Two physicians who are members of the General Assembly on Monday joined Gov. Ned Lamont in stressing the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for people to maintain safe distances in public, even as plans are being made to slowly reopen Connecticut after May 20.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, a South Windsor pulmonologist, and Rep. William Petit, a retired endocrinologist, who are both on the legislative Public Health Committee, said the virus is extremely contagious, and that there may be many people who are carrying the infection and can give it to others, but have no outward symptoms.

Anwar, a Democrat who is quarantined from his family in his efforts to treat COVID-19 patients in Manchester Memorial Hospital, said the virus makes patients oxygen-deprived and hinders their ability to expel carbon dioxide. That leads to multiple organ failure, including the lungs and kidneys.  

Anwar warned of “scare tactics” among the minority of state residents who want to hurry back to a full reopening of business. “It’s quite disappointing,” Anwar said, speaking as doctor and patient advocate. “In the midst of a pandemic the responsible thing to do, is do it based on science and not emotion,” he said. “Just because the number of deaths has decreased does not necessarily mean that we’re safe.”  

Another 61 COVID-19 related deaths were reported Monday, with a new statewide total of 2,556. But with a net decrease of 24 hospitalizations, the total of 1,464 statewide is equal to the number hospitalized back on April 9. There were 1,972 hospitalization on April 22, the last day there was a net increase.  

“Some people want to open the state tomorrow and I say you have to understand it’s incredibly dangerous,” Petit said. He said that while most of the fatalities occur in people over 60, there have been many in their 20s and 30s who have also died with a couple weeks of showing symptoms.

“We really don’t understand the susceptibility and some of the genetic variations,” in the virus, said Petit, a Republican.

For the state to seriously consider going forward with a May 20 reopening, social distancing, hand washing and banning customers and workers from places if they are ill or spiking a fever must be enforced. Businesses also need time to obtain protective equipment and even physical barriers for work areas.

Lamont, in reply to Petit, said that businesses should have enough planning time after the Reopen CT Advisory Group soon issues reopening guidelines.

The statewide decrease puts the hospitals in a slightly better position than several weeks ago, Anwar said.

“Our ability to manage this disease is getting better because we’re getting far more experienced in managing it and the scientific component is actually kicking in,” said Anwar, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals. “We are putting a lot of pieces of the puzzle together to be able to manage this based on scientific criteria.”

He stressed the need for antibody testing in order to obtain donations of plasma from those who have overcome the infection to help hospitalized patients recover. Anwar said that all businesses should review their sanitation and disinfecting protocols as the state continues to plan for reopening some of the closed businesses, including retail and restaurants — but not tattoo shops — on May 20.

“We are in the midst of a disaster,” Anwar said. “The best way to do this is to work together in a collaborative way and try to have feedback mechanisms and systems to make sure we make the best decisions.”

Also on Monday, Lamont announced that over the next two weeks, more and more personal protective equipment will be arriving from the national stockpile. Lamont said Monday’s meeting with the White House task force on the pandemic went satisfactorily, and a new seven-state effort to purchase equipment will help the states prepare for a possible second wave of the pandemic expected in the autumn.

“We don’t give up any of our freedom of movement, but it gives us a better base going forward to make sure we’re never stuck in the situation of two months ago,” Lamont said. “I’ve heard a lot of different predictions from the experts. That’s why we’re being cautious about reopening and I want to be ready if there was another small surge later on this year.”

Lamont said that during the latest round of the federal disaster relief for small businesses, more than 30,000 Connecticut companies were approved for $2.5 billion.

CCM, CT Partnership highlight summer school, summer job concerns back to top

In other related pandemic news, high school kids could take summer jobs formerly held by senior citizen volunteers who are now vulnerable to the coronavirus, under ideas that municipal leaders want to explore as part of an effort to pay and educate youngsters in coming weeks.

The idea was floated last week during a conference call led by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the non-profit Partnership for Connecticut during a teleconference with school leaders, mayors and first selectmen.

“Among the first actions that were taken in response to COVID-19 was the shutting down of schools,” said Joe DeLong, CCM executive director. “Now municipalities and schools must look for innovative ways to bridge the gap to youth for summer school programs and summer employment.”

Lamont said his administration will decide on Tuesday whether students will return to classrooms this academic season. It seems less likely, now that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced continuing school closures through the academic year.

DeLong credited the Partnership for CT and Dalio Philanthropies with focusing on the issue as summer creeps up within the next seven weeks, whether or not in-class instruction goes ahead during the traditional end-of-June period.

Local officials from Bethany, East Hartford, Hamden, Hartford, Milford, Naugatuck, New Haven, North Branford, Waterbury, West Hartford and Wolcott joined in on the Zoom videoconference calls.

Officials are concerned that under-served communities do not have extensive WiFi access needed for kids to participate in distanced learning, even with the 60,000 laptops worth $24 million that hve been ordered by the Partnership for CT.

Summer camps, team sports, public job programs and internships are likely to be cancelled in the pandemic. .

In reaction to the event, Donald E. Williams, Jr., executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said the pandemic and school closures of Friday, March 17 underscores the “dramatic inequities” among school districts.

“It is critical that the state and municipalities meet their responsibility to fund the resources students need when they return to the classroom — teachers, counselors, psychologists and strong academic programs,” Williams said. “Additional resources, including summer school, wellness programs, and smaller class sizes to accommodate social distancing, will be necessary in the next school year. In addition, students will require emotional and academic support as they transition back to school while the effects of the pandemic are still present.”

Early Monday evening, Miguel Cardona, state education commissioner agreed that the inequities of public school have been further exposed in the pandemic.

“We must keep at the forefront the current educational needs of our students, especially those whose access to quality education may face barriers due to the distance measures required in this pandemic, despite the herculean efforts by their teachers and district personnel,” Cardona said. “We cannot go backwards.”