Connecticut governor seeks 3rd party review of nursing homes
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday ordered an independent, third-party review of how Connecticut’s nursing homes and assisted living centers prepared for and responded to the coronavirus pandemic, noting the findings could be helpful if the state faces a second wave this fall.
The Democrat said proposals will soon be solicited from third-party experts. In the meantime, he expects to meet with state lawmakers to determine the full scope of the review, which will include input from the operators of the long-term care facilities, unions representing the workers, patients, health experts and others.
“Obviously that was the tragic center for our state and the other 49 states, in terms of fatalities,” said Lamont, referring to the nursing homes. “If there’s a chance that there could be a second surge later on this summer, more likely in the fall, we want to be ready.”
Lamont said “a strong outside group” will be able to focus on things like infection protocols, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and what nursing homes might look like in the long-term.
To date, there have been more than 2,500 resident deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes across Connecticut, a number that represents more than 60% of the state’s total deaths, which grew to 4,084 on Monday.
Connecticut took various steps to try and stem the spread of the cononavirus in nursing homes, including halting visitations, eventually testing all residents and creating so-called COVID-recovery facilities where COVID-positive patients discharged from the hospital and moved from other homes could recuperate.
Representatives of Connecticut’s two nursing home associations said they support Lamont’s call for an independent investigation, but recommended it take into account how guidance changed from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the inadequate supply of PPE, delays in testing, and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the communities where the nursing homes and assisted living facilities are located.
On Monday, a national group representing assisted living centers across the U.S. called for $5 billion in emergency federal assistance. Josh Geballe, Lamont’s COO, said state officials are monitoring the needs of assisted living centers in Connecticut, but noted nursing homes have been more financially precarious, requiring state assistance.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
MORE BUSINESSES REOPENING
Lamont said about 95% of the state’s economy will be reopened as of June 17, so long as Connecticut’s infection numbers remain low. That’s when lodging, outdoor amusement parks, libraries, tattoo parlors, nail salons, gyms, pools, bowling alleys, and movie theaters will be allowed to open at limited capacities. Certain smaller outdoor events will also be allowed.
A third reopening is planned in July. Lamont said that’s when bars may reopen, as well as indoor events.
A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit that sought to better protect Connecticut prison inmates from the coronavirus. Announced over the weekend, it requires the Department of Correction to prioritize elderly and medically vulnerable prisoners who qualify for early release programs.
It also requires the department to provide prisoners better access to antiseptic cleaning supplies and allow those isolated after testing positive to have regular access to showers.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut had been seeking the widespread release of inmates, many of whom are housed in dormitory settings where social distancing is difficult. But the state had argued that a widespread release of inmates would jeopardize public safety.
The draft agreement notes the Department of Correction has begun the voluntary testing of all prisoners. It has also required the wearing of masks by staff and inmates outside their cells and has increased cleaning to limit spread of the disease.
The settlement must still be approved by a U.S. District Court judge.
STATE CAMPGROUNDS REOPENING
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection plans to reopen campgrounds for summer camping beginning July 8. Campers with recreational vehicles or RVs will be able to keep their reservations starting July 1. Anyone with reservations before those dates will be provided refunds.
New reservations for the season can be made online beginning July 20.
DEEP is hiring and training staff to clean bathrooms and other facilities to maintain standards required by health officials during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has also obtained protective gear and made safety changes to camp office buildings.
Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.