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State News Stories

Free, reduced-price meals program participants to receive additional, emergency benefits

Because in-person pre-K-to-grade 12 classes have been canceled for the rest of the school year, the families of approximately 265,631 public school students and 1,748 private school students who participate in the free or reduced-price meals program will soon receive additional, emergency food benefits, the Department of Social Services announced Friday.

Pandemic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be deposited in EBT accounts of approximately 70,000 households participating in SNAP and another 800 households enrolled in the Temporary Family Assistance Program on or about Sunday. Another 80,000 households not enrolled in SNAP are expected to receive emergency food benefits on June 7.

Initially, when schools were slated to reopen on May 20, the state received federal approval to provide $71.3 million in EBT benefits. That amount, however, increased to $97.5 million when the decision was made to cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the academic year.

Benefits can be used at any location that accepts SNAP/EBT cards. This includes famers’ markets and direct market farms. Pandemic EBT participants will also have online access to eligible food purchases through delivery or curbside pickup when it is implemented in the overall SNAP program

Families do not need to apply for Pandemic EBT benefits, as children are automatically eligible because in-person classes are not in session. The planned one-time benefit is $364.80 per child enrolled in the free and reduced-price meals program.


New coronavirus data on nursing homes released

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — New data on nursing homes released by the state Friday shows coronavirus-related deaths increased by more than 260 compared with last week, bringing the total to 2,190.

The number of nursing home residents who have tested positive for the virus increased by more than 900 to 7,875, as the state moves to test all residents and workers at nursing homes. In all, 165 of the state’s 215 nursing homes have at least one resident who has tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, 79 assisted living facilities across the state have had at least one positive case of the virus that causes COVID-19. There have been 231 deaths associated with the virus and 75 deaths considered probable COVID-associated deaths.

Leaders of industry groups for nursing homes and assisted living centers say the amount of infections reflects how easily the coronavirus spreads, not the quality of care.


Coronavirus: Connecticut hospitalizations tick up slightly

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Coronavirus hospitalizations in Connecticut increased slightly on Sunday, with five new admissions making for a total of 706, according to state data released Monday.

The state reported 49 new deaths from the disease on Sunday and 405 new positive tests. All three numbers are still far below peak levels reached in mid-April.

In all, more than 40,800 people in Connecticut have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,742 people have died.

The state on Monday closed several parks to additional traffic for the Memorial Day holiday because parking lots had reached capacity under social distancing guidelines.

They included Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, Paugussett State Forest in Newtown and Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown.


77,000 eligible to apply for 13 weeks of emergency extended unemployment benefits

Newly released numbers show Connecticut lost a historic 266,300 net jobs in April, due mostly to the coronavirus pandemic. While all industries experienced signifcant declines, the leisure and hospitality, retail trade and education and health services sectors were hit the hardest, according to the Department of Labor.

Andy Condon, the agency’s director of the Office of Research, said Thursday it’s too soon to tell how many of the jobs were suspended and will return as more of the state’s economy is allowed to reopen, and how many were permanently lost.

“If you talk about on a percentage basis, the Stamford area was hit very hard. The pandemic issue there was very difficult,” Condon said. “The southeast part of the state on percentage basis was hit very hard, perhaps a little worse on a percentage basis that other parts of the state. But everyone was significantly damaged.”

While the federal government’s statistics indicate Connecticut now has a 7.9% unemployment rate, state Labor Comissioner Kurt Westby said that’s inaccurate and the figure is more likely 17.5%.

Leadership at the Connecticut Department of Labor today announced that the agency is planning to mail instruction letters this Friday to approximately 77,000 individuals in the state who have been identified as potentially eligible to apply for 13 weeks of emergency extended unemployment benefits.

Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said that the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act included an extension of the 26 weeks of regular state unemployment insurance to 39 weeks through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. This could be retroactive to March 29, 2020 and will be in effect through December 26, 2020. Weekly PEUC benefits are based on wage history using the same formula for determining state unemployment insurance benefit amounts. It also includes the additional $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit.

The notifications will include instructions on steps that potentially eligible claimants will need to follow to receive the emergency extended benefits.

The 12,000 individuals who recently exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits will receive letters instructing them to file for PEUC benefits. This can be done by using the green button on filectui.com and accessing the PEUC application site. If eligibility criteria are met, claimants will be entitled to collect up to 13 weeks of extended benefits. This same letter will be provided to an estimated 500 individuals each week as they exhaust their 26 weeks of state benefits.


Missing mom defendant: I don't know what happened to her

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A woman accused of being part of a conspiracy to murder a Connecticut mother of five said Thursday that she never should have trusted the accused killer — Fotis Dulos, her boyfriend and the victim’s estranged husband — knowing what she knows now.

Michelle Troconis, a dual American and Venezuelan citizen, released an audio statement in Spanish that were her first public comments on the case, only days before the one-year anniversary of the disappearance and presumed killing of Jennifer Dulos. She also said she knows nothing about what happened to Jennifer Dulos, whose body still hasn’t been found.

Troconis’ lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn, provided a translated transcript of the statement, in which Troconis says people have said cruel things about her and expresses her frustration at not being able to tell her side of the story.

“Whether or not Fotis Dulos was capable of doing the things the police and prosecutors accused him of doing, I do not know,” she said. “But based on what I have learned in the last year, I think it was a mistake to have trusted him.”

Jennifer Dulos disappeared on May 24, 2019, after dropping off her and Fotis Dulos’ five children at a private school in New Canaan. At the time, she and Fotis Dulos were mired in contentious divorce and child custody proceedings.

Police allege Fotis Dulos killed Jennifer Dulos at her home and drove off with her body. He was charged with murder, but killed himself in January.

Troconis, who remains free on bail, and Kent Mawhinney, a friend of Fotis Dulos and his former lawyer, have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder on allegations they helped cover up the killing.

The children have been living with Jennifer Dulos’s mother in New York.


Tribes open to suggestions but still plan to reopen casinos

HEBRON, Conn. (AP) — Plans to partially reopen Foxwoods Resort Casino on June 1 are still moving ahead despite opposition from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, the chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation said Thursday.

Chairman Rodney Butler told The Associated Press in an interview that Lamont is welcome to tour Foxwoods and see firsthand the safety precautions being taken to prevent spread of the coronavirus, ranging from fewer open slot machines to air filitration systems. But he said Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have been working with experts and following federal and industry safety guidelines to begin reopening parts of the resorts in two weeks.

“We’ll modify it. If they point out opportunities that we’ve missed on being safe from a health perspective, if they think that there’s something that we’re doing in operations that we can do for the better, we’re certainly open to those conversations,” Butler said. “But we’re definitely focused on reopening that first week of June.”

On Wednesday, Lamont said he hoped to talk with leaders of the sovereign nations and persuade them to delay their planned partial reopenings, but acknowledged the state might have to reach out to unions representing some casino workers, as well as patrons driving to the casinos, and warn them about the potential health dangers.

On Thursday, Lamont noted the state controls the casinos’ liquor licenses, and while the possibility of pulling those licenses is “premature,” it’s one option in the state’s toolbox that’s been suggested to him.

“I talked to my fellow governors and they feel very strongly that this should be put off,” Lamont said, referring to reopening casinos. “So, we’re going to work collegially, I hope, with the tribes. They want to do everything they can to keep their people safe, keep their customers safe, keep the broader community safe.”

Lamont, a former businessman, also said it could be a terrible business decision for the casinos to open up too early.

“One of two things happen,” he said. “People don’t show up because they know it’s not safe or they show up and there is an infection.”

But Butler said the casinos are taking smaller reopening steps than shopping malls, which were allowed to operate at 50% capacity starting Wednesday. Their occupancy will be closer to 25% and restaurants will be limited to take-out orders.

Butler takes issue with one of Lamont’s informal medical advisors who opposes reopening casinos now and warned this week there’s a predominantly older clientele that could be at a greater health risk.

“There’s an inherent bias towards gaming and what our employees look like and what our patrons look like,” Butler said. “It’s just like, oh, my god, they really don’t understand gaming and what we are. They’re stuck in these movies of what the casinos in the ’70s looked like. And that’s just not who we are now.”


Conn. Gov. signs executive order allowing all universal absentee voting in August primary

Governor Ned Lamont has signed an executive order allowing all registered voters in Connecticut to vote absentee in the August 11 primary elections.

Current state law authorizes the use of an absentee ballot for six reasons, including a voter’s active service in the Armed Forces; absence from town during all of the hours of voting; own illness; religious beliefs; duties as an election official; and physical disability.

“Nobody should need to make a decision between their health and their right to vote,” Governor Lamont said. “Our state has taken every responsible step to this point to ensure that our residents are safe, and the next step we must take is to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 when Connecticut residents cast their ballots. We must guarantee access to the ballot, and this is a way to do that during these extraordinary circumstances. I do not take this decision lightly, and it is with the public health and welfare of residents in mind.”

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano says he understands the need for vulnerable populations, but is concerned.

"No matter how well reasoned the intentions are, the act of circumventing the constitution is not a luxury any governor should resort to and begs for legal challenges," Fasano said.  "I also have significant concerns about the proposed drop box collection method for ballots which I have raised to the Governor's administration and Secretary of the State. Setting up unattended outside drop boxes for people to submit their ballots contradicts state law which requires in-person return of absentee ballots for security purposes and to protect the integrity of the voting system. Drop boxes present unique security issues related to stuffing ballot boxes, which is why state law clearly emphasizes the importance of in-person absentee ballot returns."

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill intends to mail every registered voter in the state an application they will need to fill out and return in order to obtain an absentee ballot. That application, which will be sent via U.S. Postal Service, will include a postage paid return envelope. After processing the applications at the local level, all voters who requested an absentee ballot will receive the ballots in the mail, which will also include a postage paid return envelope.

Each town will also have a secure dropbox in a prominent location to allow voters to deliver their absentee ballots in person without close personal contact.


Tribes plan to partly open casinos; Lamont opposes the move

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes on Wednesday announced plans to begin reopening portions of their sprawling Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun attractions on June 1, despite calls from Gov. Ned Lamont to remain shuttered to prevent another wave of infections from the coronavirus.

The Democratic governor said it’s “too early and dangerous” to reopen the casinos and hopes to persuade the sovereign nations to hold off in order to protect their employees, patrons and the greater community. But when pressed, Lamont said Connecticut has “a number of options,” including talking to unions that represent some of the casino workers about the potential dangers and warning casino patrons.

“We could always advise people driving into the casinos, ‘Hey, do you know that the governor has said this is not safe? Especially if you’re over 65. He has said stay safe, stay at home.’ These are the type of warnings I think I’m obligated to tell people before they take part in risky behavior.”

Responding to Lamont’s remarks, Mohegan Tribal Chairman James Gessner said the tribes’ plan makes it clear they’ll advise older customers to take specific precautions and to stay home if they are part of an at-risk group.

Under the state’s reopening plans, large venues would not reopen until possibly late July.

In a joint statement, the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans said they’ve collaborated on new safety protocols and operating procedures to mitigate risks, such as infrared temperature scanners, ongoing disinfection, required face masks and the replacement of dice, tiles and cards used in table games. The tribes said their policies are consistent with or exceed the state’s rules.

Neither property plans to immediately open concert venues, buffets or poker rooms. Tenant restaurants will only be open for take-out. Also, no out-of-state buses will be accepted and the casinos will only market to Connecticut and Rhode Island residents.

Late Tuesday, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler bristled at comments made by an informal advisor to Lamont who expressed concern about reopening casinos and suggested the state focus on “employment, economic impact and reduced public health impact” when deciding the “sweet spot” for what to reopen.

Butler said that “one need only look at the tragic map depicting the disproportionate share of unemployed in eastern and southeastern Connecticut” to understand the economic impact of closing the two casinos, which employ more than 10,000 people.

“We, too, have the best and brightest advising us on how to safely and responsibly restart our facilities,” he said. “To suggest otherwise conveys a level of disrespect that is insulting.”


'It's awesome.' Outdoor dining returns in Connecticut

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — For the first time in two months, customers dined outdoors at restaurants under a warm spring sun Wednesday across Connecticut as the state began a lengthy process of easing restrictions meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

At the Crab Shell Restaurant on the waterfront in Stamford, Ken Thompson made the trip to Crab Shell from Bronxville, New York, to have lunch with a friend, calling himself a regular of the restaurant. He had no fear of sitting among the crowd of tables that was about half of its normal capacity.

“It’s awesome,” Thompson said. “Everybody’s sitting here. You’re supposed to have a mask on, but what do you do in a restaurant? You can’t eat or drink with a mask on. We’re all sitting here, it’s all good.”

Outdoor dining service returned Wednesday under guidelines set by Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat. Malls and stores also can welcome customers, but seating areas, food courts and fitting rooms must remain closed. More offices can also open, but Lamont is urging people to continue to work from home, if possible.

While infection rates have been declining, the southwestern part of the state was affected by an outbreak in the greater New York City area that was worse than any other in the country. Fairfield County has had 122 deaths associated with COVID-19 per every 100,000 residents, compared with 119 fatalities per 100,000 in Manhattan, according to state figures.

Restaurants that reopen for outdoor dining are required to maintain a log of when employees are on duty to support contact tracing. The state is also requiring restaurants to train staff on new cleaning protocols, rearrange workstations so that food workers do not face one another, and stagger shift starts and break times to minimize contact.

Crab Shell co-owner James Clifford said he normally begins putting tables outside in mid-March ahead of the nice weather. Eager to reopen after he says coronavirus restrictions cost him about $860,000, he used a 6-foot-long stick to make sure chairs weren’t too close together for Wednesday’s reopening.

“I just hope the outdoor people don’t get greedy and they don’t overstep their bounds, because then they’ll screw it up for the indoors,” Clifford said. “Because if you can’t get it right outdoors, how can you get it indoors?”

At the Mexicue restaurant in Stamford, Emily Black and Adam Weinstein were among the early diners, saying they weren’t particularly worried about being among the crowd. The governor said it was alright, they noted.

“We have a lot of friends who work in the restaurant industry and it’s been really tough for them without tips, so I think it’s important for us to support local restaurants,” Black said.

Matt Storch, the owner of two Fairfield County restaurants, said after going over the logistics and finances, he came to the conclusion that it just doesn’t make sense to open the Match Restaurant in South Norwalk and Match Burger Lobster in Westport — at least not yet.

“I’m questioning whether or not I take the expense to purchase all the tables and umbrellas and the signage needed,” he said. “It’s a hefty out-of-pocket expense and I’m trying to conserve as much capital as I can.”

He said he’s also not convinced that being open during a holiday weekend would be safe for his staff, with people potentially coming in large numbers including from neighboring New York.

At a news conference last week, Lamont said he would be wary of customers visiting from nearby sections of New York, where restaurants and other businesses remain closed. He said there was a desire to avoid traffic across state lines for restaurants and bars.

“I’m going to watch that like a hawk,” he said.

Under the state guidelines, restaurateurs who decide to open must print out disposable menus or have the options posted on boards, silverware must be packaged or rolled up and patrons must abide social distancing.

In Glastonbury, the Max Fish restaurant in Glastonbury opened for lunch at noon with 16 tables on outdoor patios. Customers filled about half the tables by the early afternoon.

Friends and retirees Jill Perry and Debbie Lawrence, both of Glastonbury, usually ate out together every other week before the pandemic. They said they were thrilled to get back out for a meal at Max Fish on Wednesday.

“We haven’t been out for two months,” Perry said. “I don’t mind being at home, but I really miss being out in the community.”

Lawrence added, “It was terrific. It’s just wonderful to be outside. But I’m still a little leery of going to any stores.”


Not all stores, restaurants ready for partial reopening

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Many Connecticut stores, attractions and restaurants aren’t planning to immediately set up shop Wednesday when some restrictions are lifted in the first phase of Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to reopen the state from its COVID-19 shutdown.

The state will allow the reopening of outdoor dining areas, offices, retail shops and malls, museums and zoos, and outdoor recreation businesses — all with social distancing requirements.

Scott Dolch, the executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said he expects only about 25% of the state’s restaurants will have the ability to offer the outdoor-only service.

He said many are weighing the financial benefits of having just a few outside tables open, with seating limited to parties of five or fewer, against costs such as buying patio furniture and umbrellas. Others are still waiting for municipalities to finalize plans for street closures or get needed approvals to use parking lots and other non-traditional spaces for dining.

“This is about survival right now,” he said. “This isn’t about a business model to make money in any capacity. This is about deciding what it looks like for your restaurant and what it might look like in 30 days or 90 days from now.”

Max Restaurant Group founder and president Richard Rosenthal said all but one of his seven Connecticut restaurants will open on Wednesday, even though the most prudent thing to do financially would be to stay closed. He said Max Downtown in Hartford will remain shuttered, because they could not figure out a viable outdoor seating plan.

“We want to be open,” he said. “We want to be relevant. We want to be on people’s mind. We want to see our regulars. It just feels like we should be open.”

He said he and other restaurant owners are desperately hoping for a warm and dry May and June. He’s also hoping the businesses and offices around his restaurants begin to reopen, to provide a customer base.

The Mystic Seaport Museum, which replicates a working 19th-century seafaring village, will start allowing tourists back on Saturday with free admission. But nobody will be allowed inside the buildings or onto the boats and tall ships, including the Mayflower II.

There won’t be the usual demonstrations and exhibits, but people will be allowed to walk around the village and the museum’s 19 acres of waterfront, said Dan McFadden, the museum’s spokesman.

Officials are still working out how to handle logistics, such as lines at the restrooms, where only one family will be allowed in at a time.

The Seaport has estimated it could have 800 visitors and still be able to maintain social distancing, but plans to cap visitation for the time being with at 250 people and re-evaluate staffing and programming later in June.

“We are going to see how people behave and what people do and want to do while they are there,” he said.

The Shoppes at Buckland Hills, a mall in Manchester, will open on Wednesday. But General Manager Virginia Pepe said some stores are still in the process of training staff and implementing all the social-distancing guidelines, such as making separate entrances and exits and putting up Plexiglas at the checkouts.

“The feedback from some retailers is they might not open with us Wednesday, but they will be open by the weekend or even next week,” she said.

There have been nearly 38,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, resulting in 3,472 deaths — an increase of 23 since Monday. Testing continues to increase as hospitalizations continue to decrease.

“These are trend lines that I think give us some confidence that what we’re trying to do tomorrow, with our slow and methodical reopening, the timing is right. We’ve hit the key metrics that we thought we would,” Lamont said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Connecticut resident who appeared on Lamont’s daily briefing said he also believes the state is at the point where it can “contemplate a thoughtful staged reopening of the economic activity, having been successful in flattening the curve.” He said it’s now time to move from “population-based mitigation” to targeting the virus by identifying infected people, getting them tested, and reaching out to anyone they came in contact with and helping them self-isolate. He said it’s important to make sure that testing positive doesn’t become “a punitive thing.”

For most people, the virus that has swept the globe 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.

The governor issued an executive order Monday night extending a ban on large gatherings and keeping restrictions on off-track betting, indoor fitness studios and movie theaters until possibly June 20, at the earliest. Lamont said he plans to keep tabs over the coming weeks on how many people are following social distancing rules, such as wearing masks, as well as infection and hospitalization rates, before making a final decision.

“I think it’s too early to say what’s gong to happen on the (June) 20th,” Lamont said.

Lamont’s latest order also allows police, local and district health directors, and municipal leaders to enforce restrictions on this week’s partial reopening.

Additionally, the order allows day camps to begin operating June 22 but prohibits residential or sleepover camps from operating during the duration of the public health emergency. Day camps must follow health and safety requirements, including limits on the number of children that can gather in groups and stricter health and sanitation practices.

Summer school and other educational programs operated by local or regional school boards may not begin until July 6, with some exceptions.

The governor delayed the opening of hair salons, which had been expected to be part of Wednesday’s reopening, until early June.


Connecticut ending partnership with hedge fund foundation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s partnership with a charity backed by a wealthy hedge fund founder has been disbanded “due to a breach of trust,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday, alluding to leaks that have resulted in negative media coverage.

The Democrat, a former businessman, said he was “very sad” that the arrangement with Dalio Philanthropies, the foundation founded by Barbara and Ray Dalio, was ending.

The decision came after conversations with Barbara Dalio, Lamont said. A recommendation to end the arrangement will be made in the near future to the Partnership for Connecticut’s board, he said.

“Due to a breach of trust, we both decided that it’s time to disband the partnership,” Lamont said during a news conference on the Capitol steps.

“It really is important to have trust there and make sure nobody is trying to undermine the core mission,” he said. “And this case, I think there’s a sense from the Dalios that there are some people that really wanted to undermine the mission of the board.

“A lot of that was reflected in leaks,” he continued, apparently referring to media reports about efforts to force out the partnership’s new executive director and other negative news coverage.

“Every time there’s maybe a touchy personnel matter, those are the types of things that, as you all know, that’s handled in executive session. You don’t just have a turnstile and run it right out to the press, put that right into a column and then have a lot of partisan commentary that goes along with it,” he said. “I think that was a bridge too far.”

Lamont last year announced an arrangement with Dalio Philanthropies under which the foundation would donate $100 million to public education initiatives. That gift would be matched by $100 million in taxpayer money.

The arrangement had raised some concerns of transparency and making the partnership exempt from the state’s open records laws.

Barbara Dalio said in a written statement that the foundation had tried to make this “unique model” work but that “it has become clear that it’s not working because of political fighting.”

“I am not a politician and I never signed up to become one. I only want to help people,” she wrote. “Through this experience I’ve learned about our broken political system and I don’t see a path through it to help people.”

She put the blame on two top House Republicans, who’ve raised concerns about the foundation’s dealings and how they’re exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. She accused them of trying to “sabotage” the partnership.

“It can’t go on like this, so I suppose they ‘won.’ That is tragic because the other board members wanted The Partnership to succeed,” Dalio said. “It saddens me because it denies the students the resources needed to give them basic education and to get them into jobs.”

Lamont said the Dalios’ contribution of thousands of laptops to needy students during the coronavirus pandemic will still move forward.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, a member of the partnership’s board of directors, along with other top legislative leaders, said the education partnership and Lamont’s advisory committee on easing coronavirus restrictions were “both established without any public scrutiny or oversight and operated without any transparency.

“In neither case was this about politics — it was about public trust,” she said in a written statement. “We applauded the efforts of the Dalios and their commitment to helping underprivileged students. But the way the partnership was conceived was flawed from the outset and, as elected public officials, we felt an obligation to correct those flaws by shining a light on how it functioned.”


Trooper reassigned after video shows profanity-filled tirade

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut state trooper has been reassigned temporarily after a video appeared online showing him berating a driver in an expletive-fueled outburst that derided the general public and expressed how he can’t wait to retire.

The driver also accused the trooper of threatening to throw him off a bridge, but that could not be verified from the video because both men were outside the car and the trooper was nearly inaudible because of traffic noise.

The state police commander, Col. Stavros Mellekas, announced Tuesday that the trooper has been placed on paid administrative duty, with no contact with the public, pending an internal affairs investigation.

Mellekas did not name the trooper, but the video shows his name tag, which identifies him as Matthew Spina. An email seeking comment was sent to Spina on Tuesday. Andrew Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union, said the union does not comment on pending internal affairs investigations.

Mellekas called the trooper’s behavior “disturbing” and not reflective of state police personnel.

“We hold our Troopers to high standards and the behavior displayed in the video is not reflective of the values of Commissioner (James) Rovella or my administration,” Mellekas said in a statement.

The driver, who is not identified, posted the video on YouTube. He wrote he was pulled over by Spina on Monday on the Interstate 95 Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, after “flipping off” Spina for “driving erratically,” not knowing Spina was a state trooper.

The video shows Spina was not wearing a mask or gloves amid the coronavirus pandemic. It recorded the following interaction:

Spina approaches the passenger door window, and the driver asks Spina why he was tailgating another driver and speeding. Spina says he was running the license plate and asks the driver why he was speeding. The driver says he was “only going 60,” and Spina explains the speed limit is 40.

After berating the driver for questioning his actions before the traffic stop, Spina says, “Unbelievable. It just never (expletive) end in this (expletive) job. I’ve got 14 months (to retire). I can’t (expletive) wait to be done.”

Spina then says state police are understaffed.

“There’s a (expletive) clue to the public — what a bunch of (expletive) you are,” he says.

Spin takes a plastic cup ashtray out of the driver’s car, throws it to the ground and stomps on it. He then goes to the front of the car where the driver is handcuffed. This is when the driver said Spina threatened to throw him off the bridge if he ever saw him again.

That part was inaudible. Spina then says, “You think I’m kidding? Don’t you ever (expletive) with me again.” The encounter ends with Spina walking back to his vehicle without citing the driver, and the driver asking him to be safe.

Mellekas said troopers, like everyone else, are under stress because of the pandemic.

“For our troopers, they are dealing with the impact on their personal lives along with workplace stressors of being on the frontline,” Mellekas said. “While not an excuse, we are sensitive to this and also referred the trooper to our employee assistance program.”


Disability rights advocates urge Hartford Hospital to change no-visitor policies

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Disability rights advocates are urging the president and CEO of Hartford Hospital to change the hospital’s strict “no-visitor” policies and allow people with disabilities to bring a support person with them.

In an open letter to Jeffrey A. Flaks, released Sunday, one family told the story of a 73-year-old woman who arrived at Hartford Hospital on April 19 alone, unable to communicate, with severe short-term memory loss.

Earlier this month, several disability rights organizations submitted a complaint to the federal Office for Civil Rights, arguing that Connecticut’s guidance on hospital visitation policies during the pandemic violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. In an addendum released Sunday, the groups said Hartford Hospital continues to violate the unnamed 73-year-old woman’s civil rights.

Dr. Kumar said Hartford HealthCare continues to evaluate its policy and has made accommodations for patients who need support. He said the hospital also is using electronic tablets and other measures to make sure patients remain in contact with family members.


Department of Correction finishes COVID-19 testing at Osborn Correctional Institution

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The state Department of Correction has finished testing for the coronavirus at the medium-security Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers and determined 146 inmates tested positive even though they showed no symptoms.

That figure includes the 105 asymptomatic inmates announced on Friday.

The Department of Correction previously reported that another 123 inmates with symptoms had come down with COVID-19. The prison houses about 1,100 inmates. DOC spokeswoman Karen Martucci said movement has been modified at the facility.

“We have folks that could be spreading the virus and don’t know it because they weren’t showing any obvious symptoms,” she said.

Martucci said inmates with no symptoms who tested positive and those who chose not to be tested have been separated from the rest of the population and isolated in cells at the prison for 14 days.

Any inmates who show symptoms will be transferred into two-week quarantine at the maximum-security Northern Correctional Institution, also in Somers. Staff who test positive are sent home to self-quarantine.

Martucci said the prison has instituted contact tracing for all staff and inmates who test positive to help stop the spread of the virus. Osborn was the first prison to undergo mass testing in Connecticut, she said. The department plans to test facility-by-facility, starting with the prisons that have seen the most cases.

Testing begins Tuesday at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, where 102 inmates are know to have contracted the virus.


Connecticut delays haircuts until early June

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — That haircut will have to wait. Salons and barbershops across Connecticut are not being allowed to reopen on Wednesday after all.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that Connecticut is now aligning its plans with neighboring Rhode Island to reopen hair salons and barbershops sometime in early June.

Lamont said the decision came after having extensive discussions with the shop owners and employees. He said it’s in everyone’s best interest to have some additional preparation time.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from many owners and employees, and at this time I think the best approach is that we hit pause on the reopening of hair salons and barbershops, take a step back, and allow some more time as preparations continue to be made,” Lamont said in a written statement.

Over the weekend, the Connecticut Beauty Association, which has more than 3,600 members, expressed concerns for members’ safety given Wednesday’s planned reopening. CBA noted the industry is comprised of more than 90% women, many of whom are responsible for homeschooling their children.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a fellow Democrat, said in a written statement that she understands how hard the pandemic has been on close-contact businesses like hair salons and barbershops.

“We’re working around the clock to get you back to work quickly and safely,” she said.

Connecticut still plans on Wednesday to begin the gradual, multi-stage process of lifting restrictions on businesses and activities, including allowing limited outdoor dining at restaurants. Retail establishments, outdoor exhibits at zoos and museums, outdoor recreation and university research programs will also be allowed to open with detailed, social distancing restrictions.


Conn. Attorney General receives complaints about wedding contracts amid pandemic

As Connecticut enters its peak wedding season, Attorney General William Tong today urged vendors to work with couples forced to cancel and postpone their celebrations due to COVID-19.   The Office of the Attorney General has received multiple complaints from couples recently who have been denied refunds, quoted high fees, and given limited flexibility in attempting to reschedule weddings planned for this spring and summer.

Every contract is different, and many venues and vendors may have clauses in their agreements that limit couples’ abilities to reschedule and obtain refunds. Given the unprecedented public health crisis and economic collapse, the Office of the Attorney General is urging both vendors and couples to be flexible and to work collaboratively to find compromise.

Examples of complaints include one couple looking to postpone to next year, having the venue charge a $5,000 cancellation fee and increase the per-plate fee.  One couple looking to postpone their September wedding due to future uncertainties was refused a refund by the venue due to the scheduled expiration of the state’s emergency order.

The state Attorney General does have an online complaint form for people looking to obtain a refund or other relief due to COVID-19  at dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint.


Businesses eligible to open May 20 required to self-certify

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.

The rules were developed by public health officials and the business community and include detailed information about physical distancing, hygiene, sanitizing, personal protective equipment, scheduling, and training.  Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman says they were designed to protect employees and customers and begin the reopening of our state as safely and efficiently as possible.

After completing the certification, companies can download Safety Signage and a Badge to display at their place of business and post on their website or social media channels. Posting of these materials is voluntary.

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.


Judge to hear arguments about virus in Connecticut prisons

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge is set to hear arguments this week in a lawsuit that attempts to force the state of Connecticut to take new measures to protect prison inmates from the coronavirus.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton will hold the hearing by video conference next Friday.

The ACLU of Connecticut is asking the court to order emergency actions that could include releasing more inmates to protect them from the pandemic.

Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director, said the organization is upset that many inmates, including some who are most at-risk for catching the virus, are still being housed in dormitories where social distancing is impossible.

“The DOC’s reactive, backward approach to COVID-19 has made Connecticut prisons and jails among the most dangerous, unhealthy places anyone could be during this pandemic,” he said.

On Friday the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, which houses inmates in both dormitories and cells, was locked down after 105 asymptomatic inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.

The move came after the Department of Correction began testing all staff and inmates. 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.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, names five plaintiffs, including several housed in dormitories with risk factors including hypertension, hepatitis and HIV.

The state Department of Correction said it has taken steps to limit exposure to the virus, including placing prisoners who have tested positive in isolation at the maximum-security Northern Correctional Institution for 14 days. Department spokeswoman Karen Martucci said inmates in dorms are also required to wear face masks.

She said the department is expediting the release of inmates who meet eligibility requirements, including having suitable housing and programs to be released into.

“We have to strike a balance taking into consideration both public health and public safety,” she said.

As of Friday, the state reported 598 infections among inmates and 369 among Correction Department staff. Six inmates have died of issues related to COVID-19. The department says 444 inmates have recovered from the virus and returned to their original housing units.

A similar lawsuit was struck down last month in state court.

State Superior Court Judge Barbar Bellis found the department’s actions “do not rise to the level of a conscious disregard of an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.”


Lamont moving ahead with May 20 reopening despite concerns

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Despite a call on Thursday by a group of Democratic state senators to delay plans to begin phasing out Connecticut’s COVID-19 restrictions next week, Gov. Ned Lamont said his administration is still moving ahead carefully toward the planned May 20 partial reopening of certain Connecticut businesses.

The governor, a Democrat, noted that hospitalizations are in the third week of a downward progression and the state is on pace to “blow through” a projected 42,000 tests per week beginning next week, ramping up to more than 100,000 by June.

“I appreciate the ongoing concern that people have, but I think we’ve got the right balance going forward right now,” Lamont said during his daily media briefing. “I think you have a sense that we put public health and public safety first and foremost. Whatever we do, we’re doing very cautiously. ”

In one of two letters, lawmakers noted how some parts of the state are still seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. The latest data show cases climbed by 609 from Wednesday, to nearly 35,500. But that comes as the state is ramping up testing. Meanwhile, the number of deaths spiked by 94 since Wednesday, for a total of 3,219. More than half of those are nursing home residents.

“Reopening is essential — but to do it while the first wave of the pandemic is still raging will not lead to a second wave, it will simply add fuel to the first wave, delaying our eventual recovery,” the senators wrote to Lamont.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said he supports the first reopening date — Wednesday, May 20 — noting the state has the medical capacity to deal with an uptick in cases of the coronavirus.

In the meantime, he said, the state is suffering in other ways because of current restrictions, noting an increase in domestic violence, drug abuse and mental health problems.

“Those are all huge health care concerns,” he said. “Huge.”


Conn. lawmakers called on Gov. to authorize tribes to operate internet gambling, sports betting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A bipartisan group of eastern Connecticut state lawmakers on Thursday urged Lamont to to personally engage with Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal leaders to determine how the state can help them reopen Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino as soon as possible and support the roughly 10,000 workers who are currently out of work, as well as the hundreds of impacted local vendors. The lawmakers also called on Lamont to authorize the tribes to operate internet gambling and sports betting, a revenue source they argue is needed to help restart “two economic powerhouses” in the region.

“The continued closure of the casinos is untenable,” they wrote, noting how the situation warrants the governor’s personal involvement. Both casinos have been shuttered since March 17. It remains unclear when they might reopen.

“I really do care about the people. I care about getting those people back to work safely,” Lamont said. “I do worry a lot about the nature of a big gathering place like a casino. It does bring in people from all over the region, all over the Northeast region ... It can be a place that’s a source of high risk.”

Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said the governor and his administration have been in constant contact with the tribes, with more discussions planned Friday.

Meanwhile, Lamont said he’s not inclined to authorize internet gambling and sports betting in an executive order, but said he is open to further discussions. Also, he said he plans to ask his economic advisor to see if there’s a way to help target some federal assistance to the businesses impacted by the casino closures.


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