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Connecticut unveils preliminary vaccine distribution plan

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday unveiled the state’s planned distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, which includes an initial focus on frontline health care workers and nursing home residents.

The goal is to have everyone in the state who wants a dose to be vaccinated by early fall of 2021.

While the state’s final detailed plan was not yet ready to be released, Lamont said the first phase of distribution will include 204,000 health care workers, 22,000 nursing home residents and 6,000 medical first responders, such as paramedics and EMTs. Lamont said those figures represent 80% of people in those groups agreeing to take a vaccine.

The Democratic governor said his state advisory group followed federal guidance, which he called “very sensible.” Lamont said it makes sense, for example, to vaccinate residents of nursing homes early in the process, noting how the population has been hit hard by COVID-19.

“Number one, these are the folks most likely to suffer complications. These are the older folks who most likely suffer fatalities. And these are the folks most likely to go into the hospital,” he said during a briefing for reporters. “So not only will we hopefully be saving lives, we’re hopefully keeping these folks out of the hospital, which again, adds to our capacity in the hospitals.”

Connecticut tentatively expects to receive its first shipment of 31,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer on Dec. 14 and its first shipment of 61,000 doses from Moderna on Dec. 21. He provided a chart that projected Connecticut receiving up to 380,000 doses of the two vaccines in batches by Jan. 25. Dr. Reggy Eadie, chief executive officer at Trinity Health of New England and the co-chairman of Lamont’s advisory group, said health care workers in key specialties, such as emergency room staff, would be prioritized.

About 31,000 second doses are expected to be shipped to Connecticut on Jan. 4, with 212,000 delivered by Jan. 25, according to the Lamont administration.

Under the state’s preliminary distribution plan, Phase 1B will run from mid-January to late May. That’s when “critical” workers, people living in other congregate settings such as prisons and group homes, adults 65 years and older and people under 65 who are considered “high risk” for getting infected, would be vaccinated. Under Phase 2, which is expected to begin in early June, those under age 18 and remaining residents over 18 would receive the vaccine.

As of Thursday, 1,191 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Connecticut, a slight decrease of 11 since Wednesday. Meanwhile, there have been 5,111 COVID-related deaths, an increase of 20 since Wednesday.

Danbury Mayor reminds businesses of assistance for partial unemployment

Connecticut has expanded its decades old Shared Work program, which helps businesses prevent layoffs by allowing them to temporarily reduce employee hours and use partial unemployment benefits to supplement lost wages.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has been talking with the Governor's Office about more help for businesses and says there's about $7 million in funding available, and that few people are taking advantave of the program.

The federal government will reimburse the Trust Fund for unemployment costs normally charged to the employers. 

The Shared Work program helps employers retain a talented workforce during economic downturns. Rather than laying off the workforce – and having to recruit, hire, and train new labor when the economy recovers – Shared Work employers are able to reduce overhead by temporarily cutting hours. Their employees keep their jobs at a reduced schedule, keep their benefits, and are able to file for partial unemployment benefits for the lost wages.

Employer eligibility includes companies with two or more workers that have hourly reductions within 10 to 60 percent of normal hours, provided that the lost hours are not related to seasonal separations. Shared Work runs for a maximum of six months for each employee.

In the year prior to the pandemic – from March 2019 through March 2020 – the program served 288 companies and just under 2,900 workers.

Companies interested in participating in Shared Work must apply with the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Annual Christmas tree lighting in Newtown modified

The annual Christmas Tree lighting in Newtown will be held tonight, but it will be modified.  The tree at Rams Pasteure and Main Street will be lit before dark and there will not be a ceremony.  Newtown Residents are invited to drive by the illuminated tree from 5-10pm.  Hawley Road will be temporarily closed from 4:30 until 8pm, but all other roadways will remain open.  Police asked motorists to use caution when driving in the area, and enjoy the evening.  The Newtown Parks and Recreation Department, The Tree Lighting Committee and The Borough of Newtown will be lighting the luminary.

Another setback for Candlewood Mountain solar project as contracts get cancelled

Companies are canceling agreements to buy power from the proposed solar farm on Candlewood Mountain.  The Newstimes reports that a letter was sent to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities saying that the company contracted with Candlewood Solar have sent written notice of termination of their respective power purchase agreements.  According to the letter, Candlewood Solar didn’t notify the companies in writing ahead of a deadline about whether it satisfied Critical Milestones like being approved for required permits.  The grassroots opposition group Rescue Candlewood Mountain called the cancellation a huge setback for the project and a boon to the protection of an endangered species.  Ameresco planned to offer access of up to 20 megawatts of renewable energy.

Newtown Legislative Council blocks proposed ban on carrying guns in town

The Newtown Legislative Council, in a split vote, has blocked a proposed ban on carrying guns in town.  The decision not to send the proposal to a review committee was made because the town can't preempt state law.  The Newtown Action Alliance proposed a ban on carrying guns on town property and at public demonstrations.  The organization said it was to prevent intimidation of teenagers at demonstrations, who have been active in protests since coming of age at the time of the Sandy Hook School shootings.  The Southbury-based Connecticut Citizens Defense League applauded the decsion of the Legislative Council.  There are routine demonstrations held outside the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters.  The proposal was modeled on firearms restriction ordinances at parks and other recreation spaces in Danbury, Ridgefield. and Bridgeport.

SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala to be virtual

The SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala and Auction of Trees will be virtual this year.  The event hosted by the Bethel-based organization raises money for children with life-threatening and critical illnesses.  It will take place virtually on December 5th.  After purchasing a ticket, participants will receive an email with a link to the Virtual Gala and Auction of Trees.  There are different ticket levels, including VICP, which the Scotty Fund says stands for Very Compassionate and Inspiring People. General Admission Kindness Ticket donation includes a link to view the Gala and bid on items.     

Bethel firefighters warn residents to keep Christmas tree hydrated

With Thanksgiving in the books, many are turning their attention to the December holiday season.  For many, that means getting a Christmas tree.  Bethel Fire & EMS are again holding a tree sale as a fundraiser for the department.  They're also offering a safety reminder for people who do get live trees.  Whether it's a pre-cut tree from the firehouse, or somewhere else, or picked fresh from a farm, Bethel firefighters say it’s important to cut a slice off the bottom of the tree to ensure it will take water once home in the stand.  Even if you cut down a tree freshly, you’ll want to make sure the base is fresh because a properly hydrated tree lessens the risk of fire.  Bethel Fire officials say a dry Christmas tree burns with more energy/intensity than a gallon of gasoline.

New Fairfield officials urge residents to prepare for winter weather

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says they have learned from past storms, that it is not unrealistic for residents to be isolated and without power for an extended period of time.  As winter approaches, she urged everyone to plan ahead for the possibility of sheltering at home in the event of an extended power outage.  New Fairfield will not be able to provide shelter, congregate meals or showers for residents like in the past because of state guidance during the pandemic.  Anyone unable to provide a reliable source of heat should make arrangements to shelter with family or friends who may be unaffected by the emergency.  If that's the case though, Del Monaco says residents must wear masks, practice social distancing and stay in a separate area of the home if possible.

Redding contact tracers not getting cooperation from patients

Redding's contact tracer, a medical doctor, is experiencing a lack responsiveness from COVID-19 positive patients who they call.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says any resident who is a patient, should provide answers and accurate answers.  She notes that otherwise they cannot trace potential contacts, and additional lives are needlessly placed at risk. Any information shared with the contact tracer is confidential. The identification of contacts is also confidential.


New Fairfield students to return to in person learning soon

New Fairfield students will return to in person learning soon.  In a letter to families, Superintendent Pat Cosentino said that pre-school through fifth-grade students will attend school in person full-time beginning Monday.  Students in grades 6-12 will be on a hybrid schedule through December 23rd.  The cohorts will alternate in-person schooling on Wednesdays.  The district moved to remote learning when, like many others in the area, they ran into staffing shortages due to teacher quarantines.  New Fairfield parents can opt to remain in distance learning through the New Year, but need to contact the nurse or principal at their child’s school.

Ridgefield High School cancels midterm exams

Ridgefield High School administrators have decided to cancel midterm exams.  In a letter to families, Principal Jacob Greenwood said they decided that high stakes exams are not in the best interests of students in this environment.  There have been a number of disruptions to the academic year at Ridgefield High School.  Greenwood says it's also challenging to administer these types of summative assessments in a hybrid environment and felt it would be better to regain some lost instructional time.  Ridgefield High School students are still in a hybrid model. 

Bethel on track to return to some in-person learning next week

Plans are moving ahead as scheduled in Bethel for students to return to in-person learning.  Superintendent Christine Carver says health officials determined it was safe for students to return to the buildings on Monday.  Students went to remote learning for two weeks due to staff shortages and community exposure of COVID-19.  Berry and Rockwell elementary school students will participate in full in-person learning while Johnson, middle and high school students will be on a hybrid schedule through to Christmas break.  Carver says this will maximize their ability to socially distance students.

Bethel COVID cases increase

Bethel's rate of new cases has risen over the past month from 12 per day per 100,000 population to over 53 in the last update.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the most significant single factor in these new cases is small get-togethers. He says some of the November surge may be related to Halloween activities.  Knickerbocker added that with many people traveling this past Thanksgiving weekend, health care professionals are bracing for an even bigger surge over the next few weeks.  He is asking the community to be extra diligent this holiday season.

Danbury bodega owners charged in alleged illegal gambling operation

Two Danbury men has been arrested for their role in an alleged illegal gambling operation. 

State Police charged 41-year old Nilo Espinal and 43-year old Cesar Vasquez illegal professional gambling, illegal possession of gambling devices and illegal operation of a gambling premises.  The State Police Organized Crime Task Force has been investigating multiple bodegas throughout Connecticut operating under the organized direction of several individuals. 

The arrests were made late last month, though search warrants were executed at Torres Grocery on Wildman Street and Pollas Supermarket on Main Street in February.  Troopers had a confidential informant complete a number of controlled gambling wagers. 

The pair were released on bond for appearances in Danbury Superior Court on January 5th. 

During the search of Torres Grocery, police found more than $74,000 in cash rubber banded together with names and amounts written on torn pieces of paper--“pay-outs” from winnings.  According to the arrest warrant, Espinal told police the money for was a program he initiated with residents who frequent his store.  From Pollas Supermarket, police seized a shotgun, multiple passports, ledgers documenting what is believed to be evidence of loan sharking and $192,476 in US currency.

New Milford holding three pop up COVID-19 test events

New Milford will be holding three pop up COVID-19 test events this week and next.  The first session is tomorrow at New Milford High School from 3pm to 7pm.  The next will be held on Friday at the Pettibone Community Center from 1pm to 4pm.  There will also be a test event on Monday at Pettibone from 9am to noon.  The state is conducting the testing and it's being done on a first come, first served basis.  New Milford Emergency Operations Director Jim Ferlow says the limit for the high school testing will be between 200 and 225 tests.  At the town Pettibone sessions, they'll be able to test between 100 and 115 patients.


Danbury Health Department receives grant to hire part time help

The Danbury Department of Public Health has been stressed by COVID-19 case work.  But the Acting Director applied for and has been awarded grant funding to bulk up the staff.  There are temporary part time employees helping out with contact tracing, vaccinations and other work.  There is also a volunteer pool the department can tap.  Danbury is still looking to hire more part time contact tracers.  That information can be found on the City's website.

Redding records more COVID-19 cases in Oct. and Nov. than the previous 8 months combined

COVID-19 cases in Redding are now increasing at a rate that First Selectman Julia Pemberton says is of great concern.  Through September 1st, Redding's total cases numbered 80. In the month of November alone the town had 67 new cases.  In two months, Redding has had more cases than the prior 8 months combined. Statewide and locally, testing over the holiday was significantly reduced and Pemberton says new reported cases are likely suppressed. In the coming week, as testing increases again, she anticipates continued jumps in cases.

Danbury Police raise $3500 to help cancer patients

The Danbury Police Department is thanking community members who donated to the "No Shave November" event hosted by Circle of Care. Police Departments across Connecticut raised nearly $30,000 which they say will make a huge difference in the lives of families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis.  The Danbury team raised more than 35-hundred dollars toward that effort.

Collapsed drain pipe causes problem at Monroe road construction site

A road construction project in Monroe is causing some concerns.  First Selectman Ken Kellogg says town officials were onsite inspecting Pepper Street yesterday.  There was a collapse of a drainage pipe, which is being addressed.  He's been working with the Town's contractor in preparation for the winter shutdown and learned that the status of the road is because of the work being done by contractors of the utility companies, not the Town. 

Hearing to be held on proposed medical marijuana dispensary, Shake Shack drive thru

The Danbury Planning Commission is slated to take up two big items at their meeting tonight. 

One is an application for special exception to put a Medical Marijuana Dispensing Facility on the City's Westside.  The other is a revised site plan for a previously approved Shake Shack, which could allow for a drive thru pick up window. 

Attorney Tom Beecher said at the time of the first approval that this restaurant and another would break up the landscape of a parking lot.  He said it could also improve stormwater flows in an area which routinely floods. 

The owners of the D&B Wellness/Compassionate Care Center in Bethel, which opened six years ago, is looking to relocate to 105 Mill Plain Road, a former bank building which most recently was a yoga studio.  D&B Wellness has reportedly outgrown their Garella Road location in Bethel, Fairfield County’s first medical marijuana dispensary. 

Tonight's Danbury Planning Commission meeting is virtual and starts at 7:30pm.






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