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Travelers from Florida, other hot-spots could be asked to quarantine as Connecticut’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths continue to slow

New Britain, Ct. - 05/12/2020 - Governor Ned Lamont tours the State of Connecticut's commodities warehouse. Photograph by Mark Mirko | mmirko@courant.com
New Britain, Ct. - 05/12/2020 - Governor Ned Lamont tours the State of Connecticut's commodities warehouse. Photograph by Mark Mirko | mmirko@courant.com (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant)

As Connecticut’s COVID-19 outbreak continues to ease amid surges in other states, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that he now may ask travelers from virus hot-spots to quarantine upon arrival in Connecticut.

“Obviously you’re at some risk if there are planes coming from Phoenix or Miami or Austin, where you have a very high positivity rate even among younger people,” Lamont said. “You would like to see those people tested or self-quarantine when they get here.”

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Lamont’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, said he has discussed the issue with officials from New York and New Jersey and will have more details soon about a required 14-day self-quarantine for visitors from certain states. Lamont said he would suggest an exemption from quarantine for anyone who had tested negative for COVID-19 in the days before arriving in Connecticut.

Last week, in response to questions from the Courant, a state epidemiologist said “COVID-19 is everywhere” and there were no plans to require incoming travelers to quarantine. Lamont also said he wasn’t ready to order quarantines for out-of-state arrivals.

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Infection rates have steadily increased in a number of states since then. According to ABC News, coronavirus-related hospitalizations are currently increasing in 17 states, including Florida, Arizona and Texas.

Connecticut currently has 140 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state numbers, down from nearly 2,000 in late April. According to one measure cited in recent days by state officials, Connecticut now has the third lowest rate of coronavirus transmission of any U.S. state.

Officials announced three new coronavirus-linked deaths Monday, marking the sixth time in the last eight days the state has seen single-digit deaths.

hc covid-19 daily graphic 0622 new

Of 2,115 tests reported Monday, only 27 came back positive, for a rate of just 1.3%. Testing appeared to be down significantly from the state’s recent output Monday, but Lamont blamed the figure on a data-entry issue.

Still, the governor warned against complacency as other states continue to see coronavirus surges, encouraging residents to continue wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

“I appreciate it’s really warm and it’s hot, and [social distancing] is tougher and tougher to do,” Lamont said. “But this is no time to relax.”

No new cases at York Correctional Institution

The Department of Corrections said Monday the York Correctional Institution in Niantic was the first prison in the state to come back with no positive results for COVID-19 infections, after 99% of offenders were tested in the state’s only correctional facility for women.

“We found that to be super promising news,” Karen Martucci, a DOC spokeswoman, said.

The state began mass testing efforts in the state’s 14 correctional facilities on May 13 and still has two more to go: MacDougall-Walker in Suffield and Garner in Newtown. So far, 5,800 tests have been administered, with 820 offenders testing positive without symptoms. All of those testing positive, Martucci said, have completed two weeks of medical isolation. As of Monday, nine inmates showing symptoms were in isolation, she said.

In total, 1,210 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 during the outbreak, according to the DOC, while seven have died.

Martucci said officials hadn’t decided what to do once all offenders have been tested.

“I’m sure there will be further conversations about how we should continue with this process, how it will continue and things of that nature, and we’re also taking a look at our employee testing as well,” Martucci said.

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The health of the state’s prison population has sparked protests in front of the governor’s mansion in Hartford and an ACLU lawsuit demanding the release of inmates, whose incarceration leaves them at high risk of contracting COVID-19

Alex Putterman can be reached at aputterman@courant.com.

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