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A.G. Barr orders some Danbury FCI inmates released amid COVID-19 outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons on Friday to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates at three federal prisons where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed.

Officials were told to give highest priority to inmates who are being held at FCC Oakdale, a prison complex in Louisiana where five inmates have died and more than a dozen others remain hospitalized. Also listed were FCI Elkton in Ohio — where three inmates have died — and FCI Danbury in Connecticut, which has reported 20 inmates testing positive for coronavirus.

“We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement, where appropriate, to move vulnerable inmates out of these institutions,” Barr said in a Friday evening memo to the prison system’s director.

As of Friday night, 91 inmates and 50 staff members had tested positive for coronavirus at federal correctional facilities across the U.S., the agency said. Congressional leaders and prison advocates have been pressing the Justice Department for weeks to release at-risk inmates ahead of a potential outbreak, arguing that the public health guidance to stay 6 feet away from other people is nearly impossible behind bars.

Earlier this week, the agency moved into a new phase of its coronavirus response plan: a nationwide lockdown, keeping all federal inmates locked in their cells for 14 days.

In the memo, Barr said the protections the Bureau of Prisons has put in place “have not been perfectly successful at all institutions.” He ordered the agency to conduct a review and identify all inmates who may have coronavirus risk factors, beginning with those at Oakdale, Danbury and Elkton.

Under the order, once the Bureau of Prisons identifies an inmate as someone who could serve a sentence at home, they must immediately prepare to release them to home confinement, Barr wrote. All of those inmates would be subject to a 14-day quarantine, officials said.

Projected hospital beds needed

Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that Connecticut is expected to need about 12,000 COVID-19 hospital beds and 4,000 ventilators during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor said the peak will vary in different parts of the state, but is still about three weeks away in Fairfield County, which is expected to experience the surge first. He said the state currently has 7,000 hospital beds, and about 4,000 are COVID-19 ready. He said the state currently has about 1,000 ventilators.

The governor’s office reported Friday night 132 people in Connecticut have died from COVID-19, with 909 currently hospitalized. The governor said a new 15-minute test for the coronavirus is being implemented at Stamford Hospital, which he said will free up beds as people test negative.

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.

Danbury Library providing 8 unique platforms for digital content

With communities nationwide grappling with the realities of social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are providing more digital content.  Kanopy has more than 30-thousand streaming classic films, independent films and documentaries.  Freegal Music features over 12 million songs, and over 40,000 music videos. Hoopla Digital allows borrowers access to movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics, and television shows.  Danbury Library has redirected some of their funding for this fiscal year to more digital content so patrons are still able to read, view and listen to various material.  In total, Danbury Library provides 8 unique platforms for digital content, which can be accessed through a computer, smart phone, or tablet.

FAITH Church to provide weekly meals to families in need

On Wednesday, Faith Church in New Milford distributed 12 pallets of groceries.  Now Faith Church is hiring local restaurants to be able to distribute meals this Wednesday, and all subsequent Wednesdays in April and May to those in need. The drive up system will be available Wednesdays at Faith Church from 4 to 6pm.

NUVANCE CEO explains why southwestern Conn. harder hit with COVID-19 cases

Fairfield County continues to experience the most residents in the state testing positive for COVID-19.  NUVANCE Health CEO Dr. John Murphy says there's a reason Fairfield County has more coronavirus cases than other parts of the state.  Most diseases they've tracked over the years follow a pattern from JFK and then 684 coming north, out of the city.  He says it then migrates along I-84 or the rail line.  Connecticut officials put Stay Home orders in place to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 to other parts of the state.

Newtown officials outline details on how to support Danbury Hospital COVID-19 efforts

Newtown officials have released information for residents looking to support Danbury Hospital efforts during the health crisis.  Nuvance Health staff have been working around the clock and any resident who can provide financial support or an in-kind donation such as Personal Protective Equipment, are asked to consider doing so during this critical time. 

Demands on the health care system are immediate and growing. 

The list of approved donation items include new,clean disposable face masks, gowns, head covers, gloves, goggles/eyeshields, shoe covers, scrubs, coveralls, and unopened bleach wipes. Masks: N95, N25, P95, R95, N100, P100, R100.

To speak to the Foundation office regarding an in-kind donation, contact Danbury Hospital at (203) 739-7227.  https://www.westernconnecticuthealthnetwork.org/novel-coronavirus-covid19-update/support-our-efforts/give-now

HARTransit calls on riders to only take essential trips

HARTransit continues to be committed to serve essential workers and riders who rely on public transit to access critical resources. But officials are asking the community not to travel on the bus if it's not necessary.  People who must use HARTransit are being asked to be diligent in protecting the health of drivers.

Brookfield officials believe positive COVID-19 cases higher than reported

Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn says the State reporting system is under severe pressure.  The town's Director of Public Health believes the number of positive cases in town is higher than the number reported.  Dunn says Brookfield has seen some stabilization in the number of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few days though suggesting the Stay Home order is working.

Extra SNAP Benefits available this month for nearly 100,000 households

Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says extra SNAP Benefits are available this month for nearly 100,000 households. The Department of Social Services is providing Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to nearly half of Connecticut SNAP participants on April 9 and April 20.  The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 authorizes the maximum benefit per household size, even if they aren’t usually eligible for the maximum benefit.

Regional Hospice seeks donations of new, unused disinfectant products

Regional Hospice is seeking donations of new and unused disinfectant products such as wipes, liquids and gels.  They are collecting donations of new disinfectant products outside of their lobby at 30 Milestone Road in Danbury. Hospice officials do not expect the community to go out and shop for them specifically, but if they're in a household stock or someone is already going to the store, they ask to consider purchasing an extra bottle for Regional Hospice to help support their frontline safety efforts.

New Milford grad is Command Master Chief of Naval hospital in NYC

Command Master Chief Todd Mangin, of The U.S.N.S COMFORT Naval hospital stationed in New York City, is a 1993 New Milford High School graduate.   Mangin enlisted in the United States Navy prior to graduation and achieved the highest enlisted position in the Navy, Master Chief Petty Officer.  He is currently a Virginia resident.  A Facebook post touting the position, says his mom, Eileen Mangin, and brother, Troy, are residents of New Milford.  Eileen works in the public school system.

Bethel groups to host virtual concert this afternoon

The Bethel Lion's Club, Bethel PBA and Bethel Business Network is hosting a virtual concert this afternoon.  Dozens of performers are sending in videos to be streamed online at BethelConcert.com between 4pm and 8pm.  The Money raised during the event will benefit businesses impacted by the coronavirus shut down.

Danbury cancels Memorial Day parade, considers property tax deferral

Next week's Danbury City Council meeting will be a virtual meeting.  The governing body meets monthly, so this is the first one since the coronavirus outbreak started in Connecticut. 

Mayor Mark Boughton says they'll have only a few agenda items, but one is a property tax deferral program for residents, businesses and non-profits.  Boughton says it's a 90-day extension to July 1st.  But Boughton cautioned, it's a deferral program so residents, businesses and nonprofits will still have to pay the taxes that are due-- and 3-percent interest.  Boughton says the City can't waive the interest. 

One thing that can't be held virtually is the annual Memorial Day Parade.  Boughton says it's been canceled this year.  Some questioned why the decision was made this far in advance, and Boughton says it's because non-refundable deposits on bands and expenses start now. The parade takes about 10 weeks of planning.

Boughton says his personal recommendation is that people wear a mask, as much as possible, particularly when outside shopping.  He says a surgical mask or a bandana covering your nose and mouth can be beneficial.  Boughton says N95 masks are difficult to come by and should only be used by health care providers and first responders because they have to be properly fitted.

A mask does not guarantee you won't get sick. Health officials urge everyone to still wash hands frequently, practice social distancing, and not gather in groups larger than 5 people.

Right now the CDC has not taken a position on wearing a mask.

New Milford officials work to enhance local farm operations

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass says the town's COVID-19 task force continues to meet. One of the goals is to monitor logistical supply chains, including the availability of fresh, locally grown food, rich in Vitamins and Minerals.  A representative from a local farm is part of the task force and has been asked by Bass to speak with other local farms to see about increasing production.  He's also asked the Youth Agency to increase production at Sullivan Farms as well.  Bass noted that during World War II, residents had so-called "victory gardens". He's asked the New Milford Garden Club President to help create a Frequently Asked Questions run down on how to set up and tend a garden, with merchants that sell garden seeds, materials, equipment to develop a starter kit.

Bridgewater firefighters hopeful annual fair can go on as planned

The Bridgewater Country Fair usually takes place in August.  It's run by the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department and the weekend-long event accounts for 90-percent of their budget.  They do not get tax dollars from Bridgewater residents to run operations and maintain equipment.  The volunteers own and maintain all the apparatus, land, and buildings and pay for all the training from donations and the Annual Fair.  With the coronavirus pandemic and it's uncertain timeline, there's a lot of unknowns about future events.  But Bridgewater Volunteer Fire officials say they continue to be available to protect the town.  They encouraged people to be safe in these unprecedented times and hope to see everyone at the Fair in August.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Centers, shelters, privies closed

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Centers are closed until further notice, to ensure all visitors, staff members and volunteers are kept as safe and healthy as possible.  The National Park Service has closed all 56 overnight shelters and 75 privies on land administered by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park Office. 

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Connecticut shelters covered by this order include ones in Sherman, Kent, Sharon in Connecticut, and ones in Wingdale and Union Vale in New York among others. 

Appalachian Trail Conservancy President & CEO Sandra Marra issued an unprecedented request to hikers saying that in these unprecedented times: stay away from the Appalachian Trail.  In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of coronavirus, many have escaped to nature, but they’ve found trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and group trips continuing as planned. 

Marra cautioned that the rural communities adjacent to the Trail may not have the healthcare resources to help a sick hiker or volunteer or manage a COVID-19 outbreak, should a hiker transport the virus in from the Trail. Marra closed by saying the unfortunate truth about this virus is that unless everyone is safe, no one is safe.

Wolfe Park and Great Hollow Lake restricted to Monroe residents

Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg has ordered that parking at Wolfe Park and Great Hollow Lake be restricted to town residents until further notice.  Monroe residents though are being asked to follow social distancing guidelines of not having a group larger than 5 people, and to maintain social distancing.  Vehicles must have the blue valid park sticker issued last spring, or show identification with a Monroe address. 

Fishing licenses will continue to be honored at Great Hollow Lake.  The basketball courts and playgrounds remain closed. 

The Garder Road Landfill remains open as scheduled and will now be accepting brush and wood in addition to leaves, grass, scrap metal, and electronic recycling. There will be no charge, however there is a limit of one trip per day.

Danbury school officials hold off on decision about commencement

Danbury High School seniors are thinking ahead to graduation and wondering if there will be a traditional commencement ceremony.  Mayor Mark Boughton says a decision has not yet been made.  With 5,000 people in the grandstands, Boughton says it can be difficult to have the pomp and circumstance that's expected.  He acknowledged that students will be disappointment, but noted that they have to think of safety first and don't want a resurgence of this disease.  Schools in the state are closed until at least April 20th. 

Pair from Mahopac arrested for alleged break in and fight

A Mahopac couple has been arrested for an alleged break in and fight, which ended with a stabbing. 

New York State Police say 23-year old Tiara Frederick and 26-year old Giovani Fernandez forcibly entered the Cortland home of people with whom they were familiar.  There was a physical altercation, which resulted in Frederick suffering a non-life-threatening stab wound.  Frederick was transported to Westchester Medical Center for treatment. 

Frederick and Fernandez were each charged Friday with felony counts of burglar and criminal mischief.  They were issued tickets to appear in Court on May 11th.

NVCC makes money available for financially struggling students

Naugatuck Valley Community College is making money available for students struggling financially due to the coronavirus outbreak from an emergency fund.  The Newstimes reports that the money is meant to meet students’ immediate needs.  Students are asked to apply for funding through an online application, which asks them to explain their emergency situation and needs.  The Foundation usually supports student scholarships, capital improvements, college programs.  Naugatuck Valley Community College has campuses in Danbury and Waterbury.  Naugatuck is offering classes online for the rest of the semester.  President Daisy Cocco De Filippis is stepping down from that role on August 1st to take on the position in the City University of New York system. She spearheaded the creation of the Danbury campus.






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