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Lamont Orders Protections For Medical Workers Facing Life-And-Death Decisions

A gate at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, where multiple inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A gate at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, where multiple inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

This post has been updated.

As the number of Connecticut’s new coronaviruscases continues to grow, Gov. Ned Lamont signed another executive order Sunday aiming to provide legal immunity to health care workers facing life-or-death decisions for patients in their care. 

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For the third straight day, Fairfield and New Haven counties had the most new coronavirus cases in Connecticut. The two counties also account for about 80% of the state’s roughly 1,100 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. 

Lamont said he was concerned that health care workers who are under strain to get much needed equipment like ventilators from the federal government may find themselves faced with tough decisions about patient care. 

In response, he signed an executive order Sunday that extends a degree of protection to medical workers and related facilities like hospitals, nursing homes and field clinics. 

In a statement, the governor’s office said the order provides protection “from lawsuits for acts or omissions undertaken in good faith in support of the state’s COVID-19 response.”

“State statutes already provide similar protections for other first responders, including police, firefighters and EMS,” Lamont’s office said. 

But there are limitations.

“Such immunity shall not extend to acts or omissions that constitute a crime, fraud, malice, gross negligence, willful misconduct, or would otherwise constitute a false claim or prohibited act,” the executive order reads.

As of Sunday, the state reported 5,675 coronavirus cases and 189 deaths due to complications from the disease.

Lamont’s latest executive order also provides financial protections to the uninsured and people who receive out-of-network care during the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Access Health CT Extends Enrollment Window In Response To COVID-19 Pandemic

As the state’s unemployment numbers continue to skyrocket, Access Health CT is giving Connecticut residents more time to enroll in private health insurance plans. 

The new special enrollment period was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It began on March 19 and was scheduled to end April 2. That window was recently extended to April 17. Coverage for anyone who enrolled between March 19 and April 2 began on April 1. 

Anyone who enrolls between April 3 and April 17 will have coverage that takes effect May 1. 

Laptops Coming Soon For Some High School Students

Up to 60,000 laptops will soon go to needy high schoolers across Connecticut, the state Department of Education said Saturday. 

The laptops are a gift from the Partnership for Connecticut, a public-private nonprofit associated with Dalio Philanthropies.

All of Connecticut’s 33 Alliance Districts have applied to get the computers, according to a Saturday email from Nate Quesnel and Paul Freeman, co-chairs of the state’s Learn From Home Task Force. 

Connecticut’s Alliance Districts serve significant populations of students who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. The computers will be distributed to students who demonstrate the most need, the co-chairs said.

In addition, Alliance Districts are also eligible for more than 185,000 learning book packets for students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. The packets were donated by former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and her husband, Raj Nooyi.  

Connecticut’s schools are officially closed until April 20. But on Friday, Lamont presented several models outlining how the state predicts COVID-19 will spread over the coming weeks and months. 

“It does imply we’re going to go way past April 20,” Lamont said of the school closures.

COVID-19 Restrictions Cause Fight At Enfield Prison; Dozens Of Inmates Moved

Meanwhile, a fight at an Enfield prison -- which the state said grew out of frustrations with new COVID-19 restrictions -- sent one officer to the hospital and more than 100 inmates to higher-security facilities across the state, according to the state Department of Correction.

The fight on Saturday afternoon at the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution was the latest of several incidents at the prison. 

The trouble began Friday evening, according to an email from Karen Martucci, a spokesperson for the DOC. 

Martucci said “tension climbed” among inmates over the DOC’s new coronavirus procedures, which limit movement and require meals to be served within the housing units. 

In response, inmates began threatening hunger strikes and work stoppages to protest the changes. Martucci said DOC staff then began to remove prisoners from housing units.

The next day, “a fight broke out between three inmates,” Martucci said. During the altercation, a correctional officer was “deliberately punched in the face.”

Martucci said the officer was sent to an area hospital for treatment. 

After the fight, 105 inmates were removed from the prison in Enfield and put into higher-security facilities around the state. 

Martucci said 19 people were transferred to Northern Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility in Somers. An additional 86 individuals were also moved to higher-security prisons, despite being “uninvolved” with Saturday’s fight. Martucci said available bed space was at higher-level facilities.

It’s unclear whether the moves are permanent. “[These] moves reduced the population, which is helpful when managing COVID-19,” Martucci said. “I wouldn’t say they are temporary.”

“The department is working around the clock to keep people safe and healthy during an unprecedented health pandemic. The department has a zero tolerance for acts of violence against DOC personnel, or orchestrated efforts to disrupt operations,” Martucci said.

Copyright 2020 Connecticut Public Radio

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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