Prison locked down, 105 asymptomatic inmates test positive
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut prison has been locked down after 105 asymptomatic inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, state prison officials said Friday evening.
The move came after the Department of Correction began testing all staff and inmates at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers on Wednesday. A total of 617 of the prison’s approximately 1,060 offenders were tested. Of the 339 results returned so far, 105 have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.
Results are still pending from the remaining 278 tests.
DOC said all inmates will be monitored. If any become symptomatic, they’ll be isolated and tested. If positive, they’ll be transferred to the Medical Isolation Unit at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.
“We are grateful to see the availability for mass testing become a reality. By testing everybody, staff as well as offenders, we are better able to protect everybody, those who are infected and those who are not,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook, in a written statement.
A portion of the inmate population opted out of being tested. DOC said they’re being treated as if they are asymptomatic carriers of the virus and are being isolated for 14 days. At least two inmates at Osborn recently died after having confirmed COVID-19 infections.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.
In other coronavirus-related developments around Connecticut:
COVID-19 RECOVERY HOMES
Connecticut’s nursing home and assisted living industry wants greater access to available beds in long-term care facilities dedicated to treating discharged hospital patients recovering from COVID-19.
“Today these centers only address hospital surge patients,” representatives of several state nursing home industry organizations said in a written statement Thursday evening. “However, as those numbers continue to decrease, the alternative recovery centers should be made available to accept transfers directly from other nursing homes or assisted living communities.”
New data released Thursday night show there have been 1,487 laboratory-confirmed COVID-associated deaths and 440 probable COVID-associated deaths in nursing homes and 207 laboratory-confirmed COVID-associated deaths and 69 probable COVID-associated deaths in assisted living facilities.
Josh Geballe, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief operating officer, said Friday there is flexibility to help nursing homes that cannot properly separate residents for infection control.
“There is still significant additional capacity in those COVID recovery sites that we’ve stood up,” said Geballe, noting there are currently 267 people in those facilities. “But there’s significantly more capacity than that, and people are being discharged from them every day.”
The Hartford HealthCare system has begun testing children under age 12 for the coronavirus.
The ramped-up testing comes amid concern over a rare childhood syndrome believed to be linked to COVID-19 that can cause inflammation and serious problems in organs, including the heart.
Dr. Lucia Benzoni-Diek, a pediatrician with Hartford HealthCare, said the condition, which is believed to affect about one in 1,000 children with the coronavirus, could complicate plans to reopen schools in the fall.
The syndrome, which is similar to Kawasaki disease and occurs after someone has recovered from COVID-19, can be treated but is unpredictable, she said.
“It’s going to be kind of hard, unless we do some active screening for the active disease, to keep it out of the schools and out of the day care settings,” she said. “It is a scary risk. The benefits of opening versus the benefits of staying closed are going have to be weighed very carefully.”
CVS Health is opening 12 new COVID-19 test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations in Connecticut. Self-swab tests will be provided to individuals meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to age guidelines. Patients could begin registering in advance at CVS.com on Friday to schedule an appointment. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions. Tests will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing and the results will be available in approximately two-to-three days.
Testing will not take place inside any retail locations. The new drive-thru sites will include stores in Bethel, Cheshire, Coventry, East Hampton, Enfield, Glastonbury, Guilford, Hartford, Rocky Hill, South Windsor and Stratford.
The city of Hartford has launched an online permit application for restaurants and stores that want to set up outdoor seating areas beginning May 20, the first in a multi-stage plan to reopen the state. Mayor Luke Bronin says the city is willing to work with restaurants to establish dining areas on sidewalks, in parking spaces, even in nearby vacant lots or public parks. Bronin says businesses that already have outdoor seating and aren’t looking to expand it can open without a special permit.
“We want to make this simple and easy for our businesses so they can restore operations to the extent they are allowed to under the governor’s order,” he said. Businesses can apply on the city’s website for these special outdoor eating, outdoor alcohol, outdoor retail activity, and outdoor signage permits.
Connecticut businesses eligible to open on or soon after May 20 are required to self-certify that they understand and will comply with the COVID-19 rules and regulations set by the state. A link to the self-certification process is available online at business.ct.gov/recovery. Businesses include in phase one of the state’s reopening plans include hair salons, barbershops, offices, retail and malls, museums and zoos and restaurants with outdoor dining only.
Small businesses, nonprofits and places of worship can request infrared thermometers to test for fevers, a possible symptom of the coronavirus, as the state begins the process of slowly reopening.
The state of Connecticut has partnered with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association to distribute 50,000 of the devices. They will be delivered to the municipalities where the organizations are located. Those cities and towns will then contact the recipients and arrange a pickup time.
Application forms are located at ct.gov/coronavirus in the “Access to Personal Protective Equipment” section. The distribution will continue will the supply lasts.