No plans for more restrictions despite doctors’ plea

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut has no plans at the moment to impose more restrictions on businesses amid rising coronavirus infections and deaths, despite a group of doctors calling for the closure of gyms and a pause on indoor dining to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

The Democratic governor’s comments came as virus-related deaths in the state topped 5,000 since the pandemic began.

Last week, nearly three dozen doctors and a nurse sent a letter to Lamont and Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s public health commissioner, urging them to shut down gyms, ban indoor dining and prohibit unnecessary public gatherings to save lives and help hospitals avoid being overwhelmed by the second wave of the virus now hitting the state.

“Even though it is still early in the second wave, we are already spilling outside our ICUs, calling for extra volunteers, and we are exhausting the supply of advance-practice nurses and medical residents who help us provide the best possible care,” they said.

“At the current pace, we will soon fill up all our hospital floor beds within 7-14 days and be forced to move into our postanesthesia care units and operating rooms, which will require our surgical colleagues to stop elective operations,” said the letter, signed by staff at the Yale School of Medicine, the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and Yale New Haven Health, which operates several hospitals in southern Connecticut.

During a news conference on Monday, Lamont said he is listening to doctors around the state as well as others who advocate for keeping gyms and indoor dining open to prevent economic hardship on business owners. He said he has a scheduled call with doctors on Tuesday.

“Obviously people are stressed. There’s a lot of pressure,” Lamont said. “We’ve got to listen to that, see if we can address that, ways that we can address that without necessarily shutting down big pieces of the economy.”

Lamont said on Friday that he would consider further restrictions based on hospital data including capacity and staffing data. Yale New Haven Health reported recently that only about 20% of its intensive care unit capacity was available.

But the governor on Monday said current hospital capacity in Connecticut is better than in other states and did not necessitate new restrictions. He also said field hospitals could be set up quickly.

Of the 8,000 hospital beds in the state, 71% are occupied, said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer. Of the 1,000 intensive care unit beds, 33% were occupied by coronavirus patients and 26% were occupied by other patients, he said.

New data released Monday showed about 4,700 more people in Connecticut tested positive for the virus since Friday and 59 more people died. Since the pandemic began, more than 117,000 people have tested positive and 5,020 have died.

Another 81 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 since Friday, bringing current hospitalizations to 1,098, the highest number since mid-May.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the state has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,503 cases per day to 1,587 cases per day. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths has increased over the past two weeks from about nine per day to 19 per day.

The state has seen a slight drop-off in the positive test rate. The seven-day rolling average of the positive rate has decreased to about 4.9% from 5.3% last Thursday. The rate was below 1% most of the summer.

Also Monday, Lamont announced that Connecticut will be giving $9 million in grants to more than 150 nonprofit arts organizations including theaters and symphonies to help them offset losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The largest grant recipients include the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, $551,400; the Hartford Stage in Hartford, $542,200; the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, $532,100; The Bushnell theater in Hartford, $480,900; the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, $376,200; and the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, $365,800.

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