Apr 14, 2020
Governor Ned Lamont COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 14
Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut held a press conference on COVID-19 on April 14. He said he will reassess opening the economy on May 20. Read the full transcript of the briefing here.
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Governor Ned Lamont: (00:00)
I’m thinking about dates a little bit because we talked about our plan to get this state back to work as soon as we can. As you know President Trump has put out the date of May 1, which I think, most of the governors think, is very premature, I just showed you that hospitalizations are going up and infections are going up, and this is no time to take our eye off the ball. I put out a date of May 20th, is our next decision though. That’s a little more than a month away. I said we’re not going to be reopening schools before May 20th, but by May 20th we’re going to have a lot of our testing in place by then, we’ll have a lot more of the PPE, the protective gear and that will give us a lot stronger indication about who and when and how people can start getting the work.
Governor Ned Lamont: (00:48)
Obviously we’re hustling to get those masks right now, and that’s going to be focused on healthcare workers now, but then it’s going to be retail and food service and others so that we can begin to get back to work. And that brings me to the Connecticut manufacturing retool. It’s really extraordinary the number of companies that have come forward and are redoing their manufacturing capacity, focused on the COVID crisis, doing everything they can to help us get the materials we need so we don’t have to sit there with a tin cup waiting for the strategic reserve down in Washington D.C. to get us the gear we need. I told you that we’re going to be able to sanitize about 90,000 masks a day in a week or so.
Governor Ned Lamont: (01:36)
In the meantime, ctcovidresponse.org is a place that manufacturers can go. We can get you some funding to help you retool. We’ve got Modern Plastics, and Shelton, and Wepco Plastics, and Middlefield, and Curtis Packaging, and Sandy Hook and Enhanced Color doing face shields, and that will be additional protection for our frontline healthcare workers, and then more beyond that surgical mask. You know how desperately we need surgical masks. Josh will tell you we’ve got big orders scheduled for delivery. They were scheduled for yesterday, today, tomorrow. They will be coming. That’s so key to us getting our people back to work, and that’s part of the timing.
Governor Ned Lamont: (02:19)
That said, we have a lot of smaller shops that are beginning to make these masks, and I just thanked them, Top Deck out of a North Haven, Gilman Gear out a Gilman, and Incord at Colchester. These are the folks that are already there. We’re able already to buy hand sanitizer. I told you about some of the local shops that have done it, Powder Hollow Brewery in Enfield. We’re already buying 200 cases of sanitizer there. So Connecticut is standing up on its own two feet. Commercial Sewing in Torrington is getting going now on surgical gowns.
Governor Ned Lamont: (02:54)
So we’re going to be better equipped to know what we have to do. And I got to tell that Yukon is right there to test each and every one of these new pieces of PPE coming from our homegrown and to make sure they’re safe and responsible, we know how best to use them. But these are some of the variables that determine our May 20th date, and what we can do on May 20th and what will take a little bit longer. The last date, I think about a lot, and I think about this with [inaudible 00:03:24] OPM is July 1st because you know that a lot of our bridge loans, a lot of the loan forgiveness programs, a lot of the healthcare extensions and grace periods, a lot of what’s coming out of the federal government takes us through till July 1st and that is a key date to either get that unemployment rate way down and our economy moving again or the federal governments can have to step up big time.
Governor Ned Lamont: (03:52)
So those are the dates I have in my head as I think about where we go over the next a month and two months. With that, I just want to introduce two mayors I’ve gotten to know really well and I think the world of. And I want them to also talk about what they got right, what they got wrong in Danberry and in Norwalk and I think all the time about, we see the expanse of the COVID Fever and I also worry about Spring Fever, that we take our eye off the ball and don’t take it as seriously for the next month as we have for the last month. With that, I’d like to introduce my friend Mark Boughton who’s been on the front lines in Danbury for a long time. Mark.
Mark Boughton : (04:38)
Well thank you governor, and we just appreciate all the hard work that you’ve been doing on this issue for us. Danbury announced its first positive about six weeks ago on Friday, and you were right there at our site as we went through that process. So on behalf of this community, I want to thank you. Look, this is uncharted territory for any mayor, any first selectman. I think I could speak for Mayor Rilling when I say that we both know way more about COVID virus than we ever would want to know ever. But having said all that, it’s been remarkable to watch local government move forward and address a difficult issue, and it shows that government works. It works on the local level and it works on the state level and certainly the state of Connecticut has been our strategic partner as well as all of our partners here in Danbury.
Mark Boughton : (05:26)
We work closely with Danbury hospital, with our school system, with Western Connecticut State University. We’ve been able to put together a first in class homeless shelter in one of our hotels that’s currently occupied by some of our residents who are most challenged among us. These things are real markers that we put down so that we can follow that path. God forbid we should ever have to go through this in the future.
Mark Boughton : (05:50)
Having said that, there’s always things you wish you had done or wish you had known. Certainly I don’t think anticipated how contagious this virus really is, that really will make decisions for us as we go forward in terms of what the impact is on our nursing homes and of course our elderly residents throughout the city. So those are areas that we can always continue to work on, particularly our nursing homes and our elderly care facilities. In general, I am so proud to be leading this community to be working with you. We’re working with other mayors like mayor, out there everyday trying to make this a little bit better for people as we go through these mitigation steps.
Mark Boughton : (06:32)
And the last thing I’ll say is that we can’t quit. We’ve got to put our foot down, we’ve got to put the pedal to the metal. We want to open, we have to open, and we have to do it safely, and that’s the most important thing. As we look forward together, we cannot backside and I don’t think anybody wants to go through this mitigation process again.
Governor Ned Lamont: (06:53)
Thank you, Mark. Let me ask one question before we introduce Mayor Rilling. You’re a border town, border city, right next to New York, I’m trying to work with Cuomo as much as I can just because it makes sense on both sides. Do you have relationships on both sides of the border?
Mark Boughton : (07:10)
Yep, we do governor, and that’s a great point. We actually have a strategic partnership with Putnam County and the County executive, Mary Ellen O’Dell, and really about 50% of our economic activity that goes on in Danbury and the greater Danbury area, including employees that come to Western Connecticut State University, Danbury hospital, our corporate partners, come from New York state. So these two entities, while separated by a line, there’s really no separation between us, and we have to work together. We have stayed in touch, we’ve been working together. And the decisions that you’re making with Governor Cuomo on a basis of really looking at this holistically are going to make a difference here in the greater Danbury area. We have to work closely with New York state, otherwise it’s just not going to make any sense the things that we’re doing. So that strategic partnership has been invaluable.
Governor Ned Lamont: (08:05)
Well thank you. And Mayor Rilling, I assume you’re there. Harry Rilling’s been on the front lines there at Norwalk. Norwalk was hit hard. They have a number of big stores there, so they have a fair amount of population that comes in and out of a Norwalk all the time, which may be accelerated some things there. Harry, how are you doing in Norwalk?
Harry Rilling : (08:24)
We’re doing well governor, and thank you again for inviting me to be a part of this. This is so critical that we are having these conversations. Norwalk now has almost 780 positive cases and 36 deaths, and those deaths, you hit it spot on. Every one of those deaths cuts to your core because it’s a member of your community. We did get hurt early on, and we knew that we needed to get everybody to the table as quickly as we possibly could. We’re right in the middle of Darien, Westport, Wilton and Buchanan, and we have two Walmarts, two ShopRites, two Stop & Shops, a [inaudible 00:08:59], a Costco, a Stew Leonard’s.
Harry Rilling : (09:04)
We knew that people were coming into our community, but moreover we have people on a daily basis that were traveling into New York City, thousands of people then coming home in the evening. So we knew we had to get on top of this immediately. We needed to bring people to the table. So immediately on a Thursday morning, we started having conversations, conference calls with our hospital, our public school system, our health department, our community based health centers, EMS, police, fire, our state delegation, our common council, so that we’re all talking and constantly figuring out where we are at any given time and what the next step is.
Harry Rilling : (09:41)
So early on we had to make some very, very difficult decisions, as I know you have as well, and you’ve been there with us right away from the very beginning. And I truly, truly appreciate that. We couldn’t have done it without you and without the other stakeholders that are so critical to making sure that we get through this. We now have a virtual ELC meeting every Tuesday morning, just going through all the things where we are. Thankfully our hospital is doing relatively well. They’ve repurposed a lot of rooms, but they knew they had to do this early on because they saw what was happening. Norwalk at a point in time was the epicenter of Fairfield County. We had continued to grow.
Harry Rilling : (10:25)
I agree 100% with Mayor Boughton, we have done so much, and may move so forward, and we know that social or physical distancing is the most effective way and we have to continue that. The biggest mistake we can make right now is to go back and be complacent and get a false sense of security that this is over. This is not over. And I agree that May 20th is a date that needs to be looked at as to what to do going forward. So again, thank you and I’m very pleased to be a part of this.
Governor Ned Lamont: (11:00)
Thank you Harry. And Harry and Mark are both available for questions, if anybody has any questions for our front line mayors.
Speaker 1: (11:08)
We’ll start with NBC, Connecticut. NBC, Connecticut. Connecticut Mirror. Go ahead Matt.
Matt Austin: (11:30)
Hi, governor? Matt Austin with NBC Connecticut. Just wondering in terms of the testing you were talking about and that we were down in sample kits, can you explain what the snag is right now and how we could go about fixing that?
Governor Ned Lamont: (11:43)
You want to start with that?
Josh Giballe: (11:46)
Hi Matt? Josh Geballe. So there’s a global shortage right now in the swabs, in the transfer media for a number of the technologies that are used to perform the PCR testing for COVID-19. We and our hospitals and our state lab and all of the drive street testing facilities are in a constant battle every day to procure more supplies, and that happens to be the commodity which is in short supply now, but we know more is coming. We also are working through CDC guidelines on some additional alternate approaches to collect samples using more commonly available materials and saline solution. Our state lab is actually helping to produce some of those kits. And then another Ray of hope on increasing the testing going forward is there are some technologies now that are being piloted that could collect samples via saliva samples as well? So that would be a real game changer and that should not be too far down the horizon.
Matt Austin: (12:41)
And just a quick followup in terms of increasing the testing, have experts given you a clearer idea of exactly how many tests we should aim for in the state on a daily basis?
Governor Ned Lamont: (12:51)
Well, that’s why we have the advisory board that we talked about yesterday. We’re going to roll them out formally in the next few days, and those are the type of questions they’re going to focus on, how expansive should be testing be? Where do you want to have the antibody testing? Where do you want to have the molecular testing? But I think it’s really imperative that we get going on this soon, so we have a better idea in two, three, four weeks exactly what the infection map looks like here in the state. That tells us what our options are.
Speaker 1: (13:21)
Speaker 2: (13:24)
Governor, let me ask you, I guess, a political question. You got pushed back on Friday, really for the first time about your handling of the crisis, and then today I’m seeing some opposition among a couple of Republicans to the idea of Connecticut working that closely with New York in particular. So is the presence of Mayors Boughton and Rilling meant to counter that?
Governor Ned Lamont: (13:55)
No, the presence of the mayors is to give us a first line example of what’s going on. But you’re right, you did hear Mayor Boughton talk about, and I.
Governor Ned Lamont: (14:03)
Going on, but you’re right. You did hear Mayor Boughton talk about, and I prompted him, how important it is to work with your neighbors, and in his case the neighbors are another state. You did hear Harry Rilling say, look, a lot of people come in and out of Norwalk every day. A lot of them come from neighboring towns. A lot of them come out of New York City, which is one of the reasons, New York was hit particularly hard and particularly early. No, I’m trying to send the message that I’m trying to work with our legislative leaders as well as the healthcare professionals. Follow the lead of the experts. Let’s hear what they have to say. Tell us when we can safely start getting people back to work and give us a roadmap on how we get there. It starts with testing.
Governor Ned Lamont: (14:43)
So yep, I’m hearing a little bit of some folks saying, “Open it up tomorrow.” I’m hearing other people say, “Lock it down.” I think we’ve got the right balance going forward. I think you see that we are bending the curve, and certainly in Fairfield County. I think we’re beginning to see that in New Haven. The social distancing is working, but I don’t want to go a false sense of complacency. It’d be just terrible if we had a second round of this pandemic,
Speaker 3: (15:10)
But how much effort are you putting into making sure you are in effect bringing people along with your thought process on working with other states as well as your closure order through May 20th?
Governor Ned Lamont: (15:25)
Well surely I talk to the scientific community all the time and I ask them to speak out and give them, ask them to give us their best advice and you’re going to get some formal advice from the advisory board within a week or so on that. I talk informally with the legislative leaders quite a bit. Paul talks [inaudible 00:15:43] with them a lot more than quite a bit, just to make sure that we all know exactly what we’re doing. I can tell you that Rollin cook, our commissioner corrections was on with, I think most of the legislators yesterday, maybe Democrats and then Republicans. Just to give an idea of what we’re doing in corrections.
Governor Ned Lamont: (16:02)
So look, we’re doing everything we can to give you an idea of how we’re thinking about this, why we’re thinking about this. And there’s no question it’ll get probably a little more political. There’s some noise coming out of Washington as well, but I think the governors are pretty United in terms of how we thoughtfully get our states back to work. Each state’s going to do it at their own pace, but we’re comparing notes every day and I think that’s a good thing.
Speaker 3: (16:26)
And if I could just ask Mayor Boughton because I can see him on my screen, I can see him smiling at my question, so would the mayor care to comment on the extent to which this is starting to get a little political?
Mayor Boughton: (16:39)
Well, look, I think that there’s time for politics later on. Right now, this is about healing our state, healing our nation, if you will, and our communities. And there is really no value in sniping at each other. I think the governor has struck a solid path. I want to get open too, but I don’t want to have to go to our residents and say, “Well, you’ve got to shelter in place for another six weeks because we didn’t do it right the first time.” This is a tough medicine for us, but we all have to take it and we’ve got to wait this thing out. And working strategically with other states is the right thing to do. I noticed that Massachusetts now has been pulled into that orbit as well and that’s important because there’s no sense just going across the border and having a different set of rules. So I think we’re doing all the right things. I know it’s hard and it’s frustrating for people, but it’s what we have to do.
Speaker 4: (17:30)
Thank you gentlemen.
Move on to [BoSato 00:17:34] Media.
Bosato Media: (17:38)
Hi Governor. I have two questions for you. My first question is how will the state make sure to identify business sectors that will be able to reopen easier with safe distancing standards? And my second question is, what is your opinion on the series of tweets that President Trump posted this morning criticizing the new coalition formed by the seven states to reopen the economy? Thanks.
Governor Ned Lamont: (18:05)
Well, I didn’t read the president’s tweets, so that saves me an answer to that question. But I will tell you that, look, when we think about opening businesses, I think about those that are critical businesses that we have to keep open and obviously that includes food and that includes pharma and the things that are open. I want to make sure we can do them as safely as possible going forward. I want to make sure all of our food service workers have a mask. I want to do everything I can to make sure that others coming in and working with them or buying from them have a mask as well. So we have some protection there.
Governor Ned Lamont: (18:37)
I think about our manufacturing, those are big enormous plant floors with seven, eight hundred people. Make sure they have the gear they need and the testing they need.
Governor Ned Lamont: (18:47)
And then finally I think about, the retail going forward. Maybe we move towards doing more retail by appointment. Maybe they make sure that somebody is tested, so whoever is serving you, you know is safe. Make sure they have a mask so that you’re protected and they’re protected as well.
Governor Ned Lamont: (19:06)
And that’s a lot of what I’m going to hear from the advisory board over the next couple of weeks. What are those companies? What do they need to open up, and how quickly can we do that?
Move along next to The Day of New London.
Day of New London: (19:23)
Hi. I have another two questions. One, do you know how many nursing home workers have tested positive for Covid-19? And the second is that your office had started to break down cases and associated deaths by race and that data is no longer online. Can you explain why?
Governor Ned Lamont: (19:40)
Want to take that?
Yeah, so our informatics team that produces that report every night is actively working on the several other requests, including the number of nursing home cases, a number of Covid positive cases by nursing home. And so we’re rationalizing the frequency with which we produce some of those. The age and ethnicity data doesn’t change much day to day. Those trends are very consistent. We’ll continue to publish that data on a regular basis. But that’s why that was not in the report yesterday I think.
Governor Ned Lamont: (20:12)
Let me just say one thing on the nursing homes, because I know there’s been a lot of concern about, let’s get the information out, not just broadly nursing home by nursing home in terms of infections, and I want you to know that while Josh is gathering all that information, we’re also making sure that each nursing home has an opportunity to share the information with all the families of the loved ones there now, so that nobody is surprised going forward. And that process is going to take another day or so. But we are going to get all that information out to each and every one of you.
Move on next to Hearst Connecticut Media.
Hearst Connecticut Media: (20:56)
Oh sorry for the delay there. Hi Governor, hey Mayors. I was on a conference call a little while ago with Yale New Haven Health Systems officials, including the chief medical officer, who was talking about how the next month is going to be a plateau into a decline and they were stressing the need to keep the social distancing and they were not saying nice things about the word mutiny during the call. Governor, are you seeing the doubling of cases? Is that distance growing? It was three to four days a while ago, but it seems like now it’s longer. Is that becoming plainer to you?
Governor Ned Lamont: (21:51)
I think it is. I think you’re seeing that the social distancing works, but it’s erratic. I wish I could show you it’s a nice parabolic curve and it’s not. And I also know what a difference that curve will be if we all go out and party and that’s why our strict… It’s getting tougher and tougher to be disciplined out there. It’s getting warmer and warmer out there. People are getting cabin fever. They’ve been at home for an awful long time. I hear that wherever I go. But when Yale New Haven and other doctors talk to us, they say, “We need a little more time to see what this curve looks like.” And anything I can do to flatten that curve, make sure a loved one will have a bed waiting for them if they need it to keep safe.
Hearst Connecticut Media: (22:37)
So do you think the weather has something to do with the germination of political motivations here and some of the statements out of Washington and within the general assembly?
Governor Ned Lamont: (22:50)
I’ll let somebody else play with that. Anybody want to talk about the weather and politics? How about you Rilling? Oh, we lost Rilling.
Mayor Rilling: (23:00)
I agree with Mayor Boughton. This is not a time for politics. We’re all in this together. We’re part of history. This is something none of us have ever experienced before. We were the epicenter, Fairfield County, we hit the ground running and I think we’re leading the charge because we had to do that early on. So politics aside, this is not what this is all about. There’s no Republican or Democratic way to deal with this pandemic. It’s talking to each other, moving forward together, putting aside any differences that we have, listening to each other and like I said, learning from each other. It’s critical and this is the time to do that.
Governor Ned Lamont: (23:42)
Harry, you said that so well and I’ll also point out, you’ll hear that from the governors on both sides of the aisle. You’ll hear that from Mike DeWine in Ohio. You hear that from Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. Everybody on the front lines and those who the governors are, know how important it is to get this crisis behind us as soon as we can, but get it behind us in a way that’ll be permanent, lasting and safe.
Hearst Connecticut Media: (24:07)
Move on to the Waterbury Republican American.
Waterbury Republic American: (24:14)
Thanks Max. I have a question for the two mayors. We’ve heard a lot of praise from you about the state’s response. Where did the state’s response fall short? Where were some of the areas that you were frustrated as mayors with, how the Lamont administration has handled this out outbreak?
Mayor Rilling: (24:41)
You want me to start, Mark?
Mayor Boughton: (24:42)
Yeah, go ahead Harry. You got this.
Mayor Rilling: (24:45)
Well, I’m going to be accused of just cow towing to the governor, but I have to tell you, I deal with my people in my health department, my chief of community services, my chief of staff, we have reached out to the State of Connecticut frequently and we’ve always gotten good information, always good support. Again, I applaud the governor for working with the other six governors, other parts of this particular area. That’s how we’re going to get through this. If we’re all doing the same thing and working together. I can’t think of one thing that I felt the state did not respond when we reached out to them and asked them for help, for guidance, for support, for equipment. Whatever we needed, it was always there. It’s easy to point fingers, but I always think of Teddy Roosevelt when he said, “It’s not the critic that counts. The person in the arena, that is out there doing the job and getting it done.”
Mayor Rilling: (25:48)
Yeah, I would just add that we struggled a little with our Shelter In Place, our homeless shelter, we reached out to the state. They were great at pulling a bunch of resources together for us to do something that’s never been done before, and now it’s operating very smoothly. So I just don’t see the state falling down at all on this. I think they answered the call just like local government stepped up every day to do things we’ve never done before. We figured out and got it done.
Mayor Rilling: (26:20)
I would say that the next challenge for us will be, “What do we do after this? Where do we go?” I mean, I know Harry’s probably dealing with a budget disaster as I am, as I know the state is, we’re all going to need stabilization and trying to be able to deliver core services along with getting the economy restarted and fired up again. So there’s a lot of work to be done throughout the summer, the fall and next winter even. Right now though, we know what we have to do in front of us and that’s to tackle the virus and make sure that we don’t backslide at all in terms of our fight.
Waterbury Republic American: (26:55)
This is a question for the governor and Josh. Why shouldn’t people be concerned that you’re rationing information, rationing numbers that are important to the public to hear regarding whether it’s the rate of infections and deaths among racial and ethnic groups or the number of cases in state prisons?
Governor Ned Lamont: (27:26)
Yeah, I don’t think there’s any truth to the pretext of that question at all. I think you’ll find this has been incredibly transparent. I’m here every afternoon. I take every single question I can. I bring all of our commissioners here to answer questions and now we have mayors as well. We’re getting the information as fast as we can. I will tell you, this is an incredibly fast changing situation and a lot of the assumptions and numbers we thought we could count on maybe just a month ago, are different today. We are all learning as we go, but I got to tell you that I think we got the best team working on it and I’ve got to maintain the credibility.
Governor Ned Lamont: (28:03)
That I think we got the best team working on it and I’ve got to maintain the credibility with the people of the state of Connecticut, and that starts with giving you the truth every day.
Well, doesn’t that also include providing the statistics on nursing homes? Are we waiting just on nursing home operators to react or prepare reactions to the news of the level of infections and deaths in their facilities?
Speaker 5: (28:27)
Yeah, Paul, as the governor said earlier, this is a very sensitive topic for the people in those nursing homes and we want to make sure that when we publish that data, we get it perfectly correct, and that those families have time to be notified and that there’s no confusion about those numbers. So, we’re taking the time to get that exactly correct before we publish it. But as the governor said, we have tried at every turn through this crisis to be exceptionally transparent and share every bit of data that we have. And I hear that very consistently from people about the governor’s approach to this crisis.
We’ll move on next to News Eight.
Speaker 6: (29:03)
Maybe mayor Boughton could start with this one. So, you had the first case in Danbury of a worker at a hospital. It knocked out a lot of the frontline medical workers. How fast did it ramp up in the hospital? How close do we get? We can’t see in them. Paint the picture of how close they got to being full. Did they get full? Did you have to send patients elsewhere? How did you deal with it inside the hospital?
Mayor Boughton: (29:24)
Well I think we were we were prepared. We weren’t scared, we were ready for it and we saw that coming that there would be because of how contagious disease is. And I think it’s fair to say that people even today don’t really understand the virus completely and how it spreads. Having said all that, we had set up overflows shelters at the O’Neil Center with almost 300 beds ready to go with the National Guard who came in to help us set up that facility and we were ready. We fortunately haven’t had to use it much, but if there is an additional problem later on, if there’s another flare-up, we certainly have enough capacity now to handle way beyond what every hospital is rated for. But definitely a scary situation initially because there was so much co-mingling of that individual with staff as well as other hospitals in mayor [inaudible 00:02:15]’s community and other communities. That person have worked in other buildings and again, just it’s so contagious that you just don’t know what the impact will be.
Speaker 6: (30:24)
So, did the hospital ever gets full? Did you ever have to shift patients away to other hospitals? I know we saw plenty of capacity, one third, but how hard was it on that hospital?
Mayor Boughton: (30:34)
Well, it was hard on staffing. There’s no question. We had staff members that were working multiple shifts, but in terms of space and beds, we didn’t get close to being full.
Speaker 6: (30:46)
No, and what advice would you give to say mayor of New Haven or Hartford about what’s coming?
Mayor Boughton: (30:53)
Well, I would just say that we have systems that are designed and put in place for a reason. Use those systems. Utilize them in any way you can. Utilize and rely on the people that are there. Look at your strategic partners, count on them to do work and ask them to do work. If you try to do it all yourself, you’re never going to get the job done that you want to get done and you’re not going to serve your residents well. There are times I think we wake up in the middle of the night and you’re scared because you just don’t know what this will mean for some of the most vulnerable in your community. But at the end of the day, if you leverage all of your resources, you’ll find you’ll be able to meet the challenges that the virus brings. We’re by no means over. It’s not finished, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think that our system is solid and sound and you should leverage it and use it.
Move on to CT News Junkie.
Speaker 7: (31:53)
Governor, last week you were very optimistic that the PPE that this [inaudible 00:31:59] had ordered would arrive in the state. And earlier today in your comment, you had mentioned that [inaudible 00:32:06] on the delivery. So, what is the status of that?
Governor Ned Lamont: (32:11)
We’ve got 10 shipments absolutely scheduled for this week and I’d be delighted if two of them actually arrived. That’s just the fact of the way it is right now with everything’s getting rerouted into the gray market, which is why I’m so happy that we’ll have the Battelle sanitizer up and operating in seven or eight days. What that means in terms of expanding our capacity, that’s why I emphasize some of the smaller businesses that are retooling right now. Look, we are doing everything we can to buy the PPE where we need it. It’s not just for the health of the frontline workers, it’s for the health of our greater community right now. It’s part of our back to work strategy and that’s why I can’t rush right now until I have enough of the masks and the gear we need so that everybody can get back to work.
Speaker 7: (33:00)
So, you think that you’re going to get two out of those 10 orders. That doesn’t seem like enough. You’ve got correction officers in the Department of Corrections complaining that they don’t have the protection enough to make them safe to go to work.
Governor Ned Lamont: (33:17)
Well, I’ll start. Let me hand it over to Josh, but we have gotten tens of thousands of PPE over the last few days. So, it’s not like everything is dead stop. We’re doing deliveries to all of those frontline responders and to our municipalities. We’ve gotten N95 masks, we’ve gotten the surgical masks, we’ve gotten a lot of gloves. Is it enough? No. Is it enough right now that I think we can power through for another period of time, say a week or so? I think absolutely is the answer to that question. That’s no way to run a railroad though. I’ve got to build up some capacity. That’s why we have significant orders out there and I’m ready to see them delivered.
Speaker 5: (33:55)
Yeah. Just to build on that, Christine. Yesterday, we received about 100, 000 pieces of PPE, N95 masks, coveralls, gloves. We distributed over 100,000 pieces of PPE, so we’re delivering the immediate term needs of our state agencies, of nursing homes when they run into shortages, our hospitals have supply. What the governor’s talking about is wanting to build up a war chest and a real stockpile of PPE that we can then broaden the circle of who we’re providing. He’s spoken about wanting to give masks out to people in essential retail businesses and others that we want to give those tools to. We want to give our first responders and our hospitals more than the week’s supply that they have at any point in time and get into a more comfortable position knowing that we’re going to be in this situation for weeks to come.
Speaker 7: (34:46)
Move on to the Hartford Current.
Speaker 8: (34:51)
Thanks, Max. This question is for the governor or for Josh, can you talk a bit about the virus’ movement across the state? Is it moving as quickly across the state as you expected it to and what county do you think will be the next hotspot to take over Fairfield County?
Governor Ned Lamont: (35:06)
Well, I’ll start and all I’m doing is repeating things that people smarter than me have told me, like Dr Carter and the new team that we’ve got in place. I think it hit Fairfield County hard and spread fast and the infection rate was a surprising to some of us. And we got the social distancing in place and fortunately, we saw it slow. I think you’ve heard Dr Carter say a couple of times that we thought at this point New Haven County would have been hit harder. And thank God due to the social distancing, we’ve got things temporarily for now under control in New Haven County. Same is true of Hartford as you keep going further north. Obviously, Bridgeport was a flare up. So, you’re going to see flare ups in different parts of the state over a period of time. Eastern Connecticut, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how slow the rate of increase has been there over a period of time. But I think I mentioned to you, electric boat and big factory space there, we’ve got to keep an eye on it as well. So, I think everything is progressing the way we modeled it but perhaps the growth has been a little slower outside of Fairfield County and that’s a good thing.
Speaker 8: (36:21)
And I also have a question about antibody testing. How much of a factor do you think that will play as the state moves toward reopening businesses and schools and things like that? And do you expect to do widespread antibody testing or would it be more targeted?
Governor Ned Lamont: (36:35)
Want to have fun with that?
Speaker 5: (36:37)
Yeah, I think that’s exactly one of the issues that our advisory group is looking at right now. Dr. Albert Ko and the other scientific experts that have been brought in to help inform that testing strategy, because there is a lot of new technology coming online and there is a lot of strategy and biostatistics around where do you want to start and under what conditions. But we’re looking forward to receiving their recommendations as the governor said and getting started on that in the coming week.
Speaker 8: (37:06)
Move on next to News 12.
Speaker 9: (37:11)
Hi, governor. I want to ask you about a school bus drivers real quick. Two weeks ago, you issued an executive order directing school districts to keep paying bus drivers and the private companies they work for. But we’re hearing instances in Stanford and Bridgeport where the bus drivers are still waiting to get paid. In some cases, the school districts are not engaging. In other cases, the district and the private company seem to be pointing fingers at each other about who’s willing to come to the negotiating table to rework their payment agreement. What would you say to the bus drivers? What are you guys doing to make sure that they get paid promptly and aren’t waiting for the rest of the school year for something to happen?
Governor Ned Lamont: (38:01)
John, I’m going to hand that off to Paul and the mayors since they have more direct responsibility there, but what we’ve tried to do is when it comes to our state employees, when it comes to the not-for-profits, when it comes to our municipalities is to hold everybody harmless and keep making those payments. Whether you’re in work or not work right now, everybody’s telecommuting or doing something for the state. So, I’ve tried to do that and that’s just been the same policy the DECD and the federal government has had for our small businesses. Keep those paychecks going, keep people in check so that on the backside of this crisis, there will be a job. There will be a business there going forward, but do any of you want to speak specifically to the school buses.
Paul Mounds: (38:43)
Yeah. Hi, Paul Mounds here. We will be putting out additional guidance as part of a FAQ document as it deals with that particular executive order that the governor issued. And as the governor stated, our main message and main goal is to make sure that those frontline workers in the educational field are continuing to get paid. As the state is continually to provide educational funding to the board of educations, we thought it would be extremely important that those fundings that are supposed to go to those workers continue to go to those workers. So, we will have an additional FAQ document that will be posted tomorrow on this very issue.
Move on next to Channel Three Eyewitness News.
Speaker 10: (39:31)
Yes, governor, I want to go back to unemployment. We’re still hearing from many who are wanting to know when they’re going to get their checks and you gave that answer, it’s going to be coming in a matter of days. But does this apply to everyone who is not self employed? Does this indicate that the backlogs that we’ve seen at the Department of Labor are now days rather than the five, six weeks previously?
Governor Ned Lamont: (39:51)
Yeah, I think that is right. We have processed and I think most of the checks that are direct deposited have gone out to I think a majority of the people who are in that backlog. I think that’s what I heard this morning. I think the fix is working right now for everybody except for those self-employed workers. Let’s say it’s another week to get those out the door, but I think we’ve caught up and really, my hat’s off to the folks over at DOL. They’ve been working their heart out and I know how frustrating it was. You need that check that was supposed to be there. You’ve probably gotten some busy signals on some phone calls, but there is incredible progress on this in the last week.
Speaker 10: (40:29)
And that federal money, that extra $600 on top of the state claims, is that going to be in these next checks as well?
Governor Ned Lamont: (40:39)
You want to speak to that?
Speaker 5: (40:40)
Yeah, there’s a system coding change that needs to be made to be able to provide that additional $600 payment. We’re hopefully getting very close to being able to test it and execute on that system change and then those funds will be forthcoming in the not too distant future as well. The funding is all available, it’s just dependent on getting the system enabled to provide that.
Move along next to Fox 61.
Speaker 11: (41:11)
Hi, governor. In New Haven today, we shot video of state workers and contractors appearing to prepare a testing site at Gateway Community College. Could you confirm if that’s going to be one of those CVS testing sites mentioned last week. You said Stanford and New Haven, if not an update on those two CVS testing sites?
Governor Ned Lamont: (41:31)
Am I allowed to confirm that?
Paul Mounds: (41:32)
I’ll speak to this one. Sorry. We will be able to have more information to provide later this week as it deals with a potential testing site in New Haven to go along with the governor has talked about last week. We have been in very close conversations and collaborations with CVS, but we will have more information on particular testing sites in the city of New Haven later this week.
Paul Mounds: (42:03)
And in the city of New Haven later this week.
Speaker 13: (42:04)
So is there an update in terms, is there any information you guys could share about Gateway Community College in New Haven specifically in terms of that being a testing site?
Paul Mounds: (42:15)
We’ll be able to have more information on that, any particular testing site of that sort, later this week.
Speaker 13: (42:23)
Speaker 14: (42:23)
WTIC 1080 News.
Speaker 15: (42:28)
Good afternoon. New York City unfortunately went over 10,000 dead this afternoon, revised numbers. As you know, the city’s had overwhelmed hospitals. Your hospital capacity has been going quite well by your judgment as of yesterday. You see down the line accepting some cases from other locations. If your hospital capacity situation remains relatively open.
Governor Ned Lamont: (42:54)
Well, I’ll tell you what we have been doing so far is Hartford \Hospital is actually provided a helicopter to allow some of the folks from crowded facilities in New York City to get up to Albany and Buffalo and other locations like that. There’s been some cross traffic between hospitals. We surely have been in close communication there.
Speaker 15: (43:16)
Well if you continue to be relatively wide open, would you take more potentially or is that the risk of spreading the virus into the state more?
Governor Ned Lamont: (43:25)
I’m hesitant because our hospitals right now are very close to capacity, especially those that are closest to New York.
Speaker 14: (43:35)
Speaker 16: (43:39)
Yes. Governor, can you clarify a little bit more about what you want to see happen on May 20th?Is this a date where you hope certain things will open or it’s a date where you hope to announce another date where things might open? What exactly specifically are you hoping for by May 20th?
Governor Ned Lamont: (43:55)
Want to start with that?
Paul Mounds: (43:56)
Sure. I would say overall with all of our executive orders, and all of the social distancing measures the Governor has put forth as part of the executive orders under the emergency powers, we review them on a day to day basis to make sure that they’re still in line with what the public health information that we have, as well as making sure that it’s in coordination with what is really going on on the ground. So the May 20th date that has been put forth as part of the social distancing measures, as well as closures, is a date that as we get closer to it, we are going to have continued reviews going up to that date, but we’re using that date and backing out from it.
Governor Ned Lamont: (44:38)
We’re backing out from that date. Like Paul said, we’re going to have a lot of testing done by then. We’re going to know what our PPE supply is, the stockpile like Josh said, then that will give us the information we need to know how fast we can get people back to work. At the same time, I’ll be looking at other states and see what their timing is in terms of key businesses, restaurants, bars in the such, since there’s some things that require a lot of social interaction where it does make sense to work on a collaborative basis.
Speaker 16: (45:08)
And secondly, in the prison system, can you discuss what’s being done there other than Northern? Are there other prisons or wings of prisons that are being prepared, like the nursing homes are as COVID-19 only in, and as this capacity at Northern starts to fill up what, what is being done in the prisons?
Paul Mounds: (45:27)
I’ll be happy to answer that question. One thing that we can announce is that there has been 45 DOC inmates that have been reintroduced into the population that have, who were once in the COVID-only units, and back into general population as well as four staff members who were out due to the COVID illness and back to work. DOC is as they have posted their plans that you’ll see on their website, on their COVID specific website, and they continuously are working with their partners as well as having conversations with their partners in other states as terms of the continual best practices, but they are working under their protocols as it deals with everything dealing with this issue.
Speaker 14: (46:22)
And finally, WSHU Radio.
Speaker 17: (46:26)
Okay, Governor, good afternoon, and basically I’d like to follow up on the prison situation. We had our first death yesterday and now the ACLU is taking the state to court asking that incarcerated people be released. Are you thinking of releasing any more people than you’ve released so far, and how is that working?
Governor Ned Lamont: (46:52)
Why don’t you start off.
Paul Mounds: (46:53)
Yeah, thanks Governor. As you saw in the previous month, there has been releases that have occurred through the DOC system. As the governor previously mentioned, is there a mass release or a release of all strategy? No. What there is is an overall strategy that has been previously put in place with the procedures that DOC has had under their purview. Overall, Rowland Cooke and his team, this is an issue that they work on 24/ 7, and as the Governor mentioned earlier, they have done particular outreach, they have spoke to legislative leaders, they have talked to legislative caucuses. While we cannot speak particularly as it deals with the terms of the lawsuit as the Governor showed in previous presentations with Rowland Cooke, that there is continuous work that has been going on and will continue to go on as it ensures the overall safety of those within our-
Governor Ned Lamont: (48:58)
That’s the lowest it’s been in over a generation right now, and that does expand a fair amount of capacity, allows folks who are incarcerated there to have more self-quarantine, and be in a safer environment, often a safer environment than they may find outside of the correctional facility.
Governor Ned Lamont: (49:16)
I’d like to just tell you one nice story that I had today that may make you think that it’s Lego. Lego is the American basis in Enfield, Connecticut, and Skip Kodak gave me a call and 100% of Lego in Connecticut is telecommuting now, and I just said, “Well, how are you doing and how’s business?” And the telecommuting is working. The infection rate is extraordinarily low. People are taking their social distancing very seriously there, but I thought it was amusing. He said, “Believe it or not, with everybody at home, and families at home, and more homeschooling, this is a pretty busy time for Lego and all the incredibly complicated construction games that they are able to put together.”
Governor Ned Lamont: (50:05)
So he said, “Not only are puzzles and maps selling, so is Lego selling,” and in particular some of the most exotic Lego designs, the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star, things that get mom and dad involved as well as the kids. And by the way, a lot of that is sold to the big stores. A lot of it’s sold online via over the internet and those internet sales, and we do have a sales tax on that, sorry to say, but it’s really keeping our sales tax revenues up because otherwise they’d be collapsing.
Governor Ned Lamont: (50:38)
But I didn’t want to end on that. I wanted to end on the fact that Lego took a look at a Bridgeport and saw the spiking going there, and kids are going to be probably spending at least another month at home, and they just announced a great donation of about 1600 to every single first grader in Bridgeport, a new environmental Lego game, which I think is a learning process and a fun thing for these kids to do. And every day I’m inspired by a little story like that that reminds people stay serious about the social distance, but also remember your friends, remember your friends in a community that may not be quite on the mend as fast as your community, and we do that, stick together. Remember a senior who may be at home, drop off a meal for them as well. Knock and drop, don’t have to go visit. And we’re going to get through this together. Thank you everybody.