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COVID-19: Closing doors, a reprieve from school assessments, more coronavirus tests coming and primary postponed

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab. (Courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases {NIAID}.)

NORWALK, Conn. — The latest COVID-19 updates:

  • Rilling orders spas, salons and barber shops to close
  • State seeks federal waiver to suspend school assessments this year
  • Lamont thanks lab for providing COVID-19 tests
  • Connecticut primary postponed

 

Closing businesses

Mayor Harry Rilling has ordered hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, massage spas, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, body care and body art shops to close by 8 p.m. today.

Rilling can do that because he signed a Civil Preparedness Declaration five days ago, a City press release said. The order covers all establishments governed by Chapter 18A, Chapter 18B, and Chapter 65 of the Norwalk Code of Ordinances.

“Social distancing is the only way we are going to slow the spread of COVID-19. These salons and spas provide services that simply cannot be done without personal, close contact. I know this order is going to impact these businesses, but my top priority is the health and safety of our community,” Rilling is quoted as saying. “The state and federal government has resources available to help business owners and employees during these tough times. My Economic Development Team is also here to assist. Together, with a lot of effort and shared sacrifice, we can slow the spread of coronavirus and keep our community healthy.”

 

Reminder

Members of the public are encouraged to sign-up for the City’s CodeRED Emergency Alert Notification System at norwalkct.org/codered.

Updates on City services and hours will be routinely published at norwalkct.org/citynews. The latest health updates will be shared at norwalkct.org/coronavirus.

 

 

 

‘If and when they return’

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) will be pursuing a federal waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE) to suspend all state-mandated student assessments for all grades and subjects, as well as district/school accountability measures, for the 2019-20 school year, a press release from Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and Gov. Ned Lamont said.

“CSDE is working closely with The College Board to determine the best course of action to take in regard to the administration of the SAT since the test plays an important role in high school students’ college acceptance, placement, and entrance,” it said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already taken an emotional toll on our school communities with significant disruptions to classroom learning that will affect Connecticut’s ability to administer assessments and produce valid results. When students and educators return to school in Spring of 2020, they will be coming back from an extended absence. Districts should prioritize re-acclimating students, addressing their social-emotional needs, and providing high quality learning opportunities that prepare them for the following year,” Cardona is quoted as saying. “This is not a decision I make lightly, however, this is an unprecedented time for public education. We are committed to supporting our students, teachers, leaders, and families and ensuring they feel a sense of normalcy and stability if and when they return to the school building this year.”

Administering assessments will be difficult, given the statewide school closures coinciding with Connecticut’s upcoming SAT School Day testing window, the release observed.

“While schools are currently closed until March 30, 2020, federal guidance suggests closures will likely extend beyond that timeframe,” the release said. “CSDE has asked school districts to immediately begin providing opportunities for continuity of education, as well as meeting other basic needs, for all students to the greatest extent possible and consistent with federal and state guidance.”

 

 

JAX-GM to provide tests

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) will begin providing coronavirus diagnostic testing for Connecticut residents, a press release from Gov. Ned Lamont said. It elaborated:

“JAX-GM is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), UConn Health, and Hartford HealthCare to provide the state with significant additional coronavirus diagnostic testing capacity.

“Officials with the institution said expanding testing capabilities is integral to its mission to improve human health. JAX-GM will utilize its expertise in genomic solutions and its Connecticut-licensed CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) and CAP accredited laboratory to test patient samples for a specific RNA signature unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. JAX’s participation in this effort will enable (DPH) to quickly ramp up its diagnostic testing capabilities.

“JAX-GM estimates that with its current staffing and equipment, it can test 100 to 150 samples per day. However, as this is an evolving situation, JAX-GM is already working to increase its staff and equipment to meet the growing needs of the state.

“This additional testing capacity will both allow DPH to diagnose patients who have the virus, and will allow researchers to learn more about the virus for broader epidemiological purposes. Ultimately, this will enable the State of Connecticut to test more people, faster.”

“Here in Connecticut, we are doing everything we can to protect our residents from the spread of coronavirus while ensuring our testing capabilities help prevent further spread of the virus,” Lamont is quoted as saying. “Today’s partnership with The Jackson Laboratory, the Department of Public Health, UConn Health, and Hartford HealthCare will provide diagnostic testing at a time when we need it most. By having an increased testing capacity at our disposal, Connecticut will be able to be more proactive against this illness. This collaborative effort is also a reminder that we are all in this together and so many are stepping up in our state in a big way.”

The lab is honored to contribute, Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, director and professor, The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, said in the release, calling the nonprofit biomedical research institute a leader in research to improve human health for more than 90 years.

“We view our participation in this unprecedented health crisis – in this case by using our clinical laboratory in Farmington for COVID-19 testing – as our humanitarian duty. At our Bar Harbor, Maine location, we are also producing special mouse models that can be used for COVID-19 research in the hope of providing the scientific community with a critical resource needed to stem the current outbreak” he said in the release

JAX-GM expects to start receiving samples and begin the diagnostic testing the week of Monday, March 23.

 

Primary moved to June 2

Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered that Connecticut’s 2020 presidential primary election be rescheduled to Tuesday, June 2.

“Faced with an unprecedented health crisis throughout our state, we need to do all we can to protect the health and safety of Connecticut residents, especially our most vulnerable citizens,”  Lamont said in a press release. “During these difficult times, we also want to make sure that democracy is not impacted and voters can still cast their ballots safely. Rescheduling the primary election will enable voters to still safely participate in our state’s elections while also protecting their health and the well-being of those who help to carry out elections — our town clerks, registrars, voters and dedicated poll workers.”

Story updated at 5:17 p.m. to include the primary postponement.

 

2 comments

John ONeill March 19, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Anyone who’s upset with insufficient hospital infrastructure in the upcoming weeks may want to thank CT Dems and Malloy administration for diverting away BILLIONS of Dollars from Hospitals in what turned out to be an illegal scam. Lamont finally settled issue, but not before CT Hospitals cut back in 10 different ways due to this budget balance gimmick in Hartford. Funny, I don’t hear any outrage coming from anyone on this.
Note to Duff et al: If you want to blame Trump, take a look in mirror. I never heard you second guess Malloy/Barnes shell game over 8 year period.
Note 2 to Duff: You are doing a good job keeping Norwalkers updated on latest local coronavirus issues. Keep it up, BUT stick to communications work not editorializing.

Stuart Wells March 20, 2020 at 7:56 am

On Tuesday the Registrars of Voters and Town Clerks were told that the Presidential Primary was still “on” for April 28. I think everyone is glad that it has been postponed.
We had plans in place for cleaning polling places and election equipment (marking pens, voting booths, etc.) frequently during election day and for ways that voters could keep proper separation while voting — and these plans will no doubt still be needed this year.
However, no one could resolve issues like how to train 100+ poll workers when city hall and other venues were closed and gatherings of over 25 or 10 were forbidden. The state was suggesting that the number of poll workers for each polling place could be reduced somewhat, but the necessary constant cleaning and the expected increase in the demand for curbside voting said otherwise.
Currently we are working a reduced schedule to keep up with voter registration changes and the returns from about 5,000 canvass letters to voters who were reported to have moved. It will take a while to return phone calls, and we suggest emails for questions. I can get them, and return them, at home.
Will the Presidential Primary be held? or will everyone drop out? I have no inside info on this, so stay tuned. There aren’t a lot of candidates left on either side, so I am hopeful — better to save the city’s money and reduce poll worker and voter risks.
Stuart Wells, Registrar

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