Connecticut’s COVID-19 death toll passes 1,000; first ‘rapid’ testing center opens in New Haven

A worker flags a car into a line in the parking lot of Jordan’s Furniture to wait for test results at the state’s first rapid Covid-19 testing center in New Haven April 17, 2020. The site which is run by CVS Health and the state of Connecticut opened Friday and provides results within about 30 minutes using a rapid test made by Abbott Laboratories free of charge for those who meet federal criteria and register in advance. The center, located in the parking lot at the former Gateway Community College campus on Sargent Drive, will be open seven days a week. (Cloe Poisson, CTMirror.org)

The number of people in Connecticut who have died from coronavirus topped 1,000 Friday.

“It’s a milestone tragic day,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday. The state’s death toll as of Friday was 1,036.

But the somber news came amid optimism from the governor. In the last 24 hours, the state reported a net change in COVID-19 hospitalizations of only 20 people.

“That’s a low number,” Lamont said. “That’s good news. Shows, again, that maybe, just maybe, our social distancing is working.”

Right now, about 2,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. But Lamont said hopeful hospitalization numbers now don’t translate into immediate loosening of sweeping restrictions on business and the economy that have upended Connecticut and the nation over the last month.

“We’ve got to stay serious in terms of maintaining our discipline for at least another month,” Lamont said.

In addition to net hospitalizations, new admission numbers are also trending downward, which Lamont said was another positive indicator. Over the last two weeks, he said the rolling three day average of new hospital admissions has dropped by about half.

As the state enters the second month of living with a pandemic, Lamont said he recognized the anxiety that weeks of social isolation has brought upon residents mentally and the fears people are feeling financially.

In response, the state is launching “Talk It Out,” a hotline where parents and caregivers can speak to mental health professionals about stresses they feel as coronavirus upends daily life.

“Reaching out for support is healthy,” said Vannessa Dorantes, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families. “It’s normal, and it can make you an even better and stronger parent.”


First rapid testing center opens in New Haven

Hundreds of state residents can now get tested for the novel coronavirus each day, for free, and in under 30 minutes at a testing site in New Haven, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday.

Lamont said the initiative was a partnership between the state and CVS Health, which will use a rapid-response COVID-19 test from Abbott, which can return results in as little as five minutes.

Though it’s quick, it’s only happening at one spot for now: 60 Sargent Drive in New Haven, the former Gateway Community College parking lot.

People seeking to get tested must pre-register online, but they do not need a note from a medical professional, a spokesperson for the governor said.

What is needed, however, is a car. Walk-up testing is not allowed. If residents do not have a car, they can call 2-1-1- and the state will provide a taxi service at no cost, a spokesperson for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said Friday.

Elicker’s office also said that New Haven residents without internet access can get help registering by phone with the city’s health department.

“We see the effectiveness of COVID-19 rapid testing sites in other states like Georgia and Rhode Island, and I am glad that CVS has stepped up to open a rapid testing site in New Haven,” Elicker said in a statement. “This partnership will aim to test up to 1,000 people a day in this location.”

“While a vaccine does not yet exist for this virus, one of the ways we can mitigate its impact is through increasing our testing capacity,” Lamont said, also in a statement. “Not only will this new testing site significantly increase the number of people being tested, but the speed at which we can get results will aid in our effort to prevent further spread of this disease.”

Connecticut reported nearly 3,000 more people tested for COVID-19 Thursday. So far, more than 50,000 people have been tested for the virus and nearly 16,000 people have tested positive.


Masks become mandatory in Bridgeport

Bridgeport announced Thursday it is now requiring all people in the city to use facial coverings while in public places like parks and essential businesses.

The move follows the lead of New York and New Haven, which both have also enacted similar measures requiring the use of face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible. All three mask orders go into effect Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people should wear face coverings in certain situations as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and short circuit transmission pathways from asymptomatic people to others.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said in a statement that the use of medical-grade masks or N95 respirators is “discouraged” as those masks should be reserved for health care workers and other frontline first responders. Instead, he’s encouraging people in Bridgeport to wear store-bought masks or homemade coverings like scarves or bandanas.

Lamont said earlier this week that he is considering an executive order spelling out when and where Connecticut residents should wear face masks in response to the ongoing pandemic.


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