Apr 17, 2020

Governor Ned Lamont COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 17

Ned Lamont Breifing April 17
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGovernor Ned Lamont COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 17

Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut held a press conference on COVID-19 on April 17. He announced a task force for reopening Connecticut. Read the full transcript of the briefing here.

 

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Ned Lamont: (00:01)
We are getting an executive order there. It’s really guided by common sense. If you’re an employer, provide your employee a mask, especially if you’re in a grocery store or a place where you’re public facing. And if you can’t get a surgical mask, and we’re getting more and more of those every day into the state, then provide a scarf or a bandana. If you’re walking around and you’re in a crowded area and you can’t keep that six feet of distance, then you must put on a mask to protect yourself if you can’t keep the necessary social distancing. I think I showed you what’s going on in areas where we’ve maintained strict social distancing and some states where they were a little more casual about it, and I don’t want that to happen here in Connecticut.

Ned Lamont: (00:47)
Look, speaking personally, I’m doing great. I don’t know, some of the TV guys say, “You look tired on TV.” I feel wonderful. I feel proud that I have an opportunity working with amazing people like Miriam and Vannessa, making a difference in people’s lives every day. That’s why I wanted to be governor, to help make a difference at a time where government can make a difference in people’s lives, but thank you for asking.

Max: (01:15)
We’ll move on to WTIC 1080 News Radio.

Speaker 3: (01:21)
Good afternoon, Mr. Governor, and I think I see Josh sitting there as well. The mass testing that it will take to allow for easing some of the restrictions, that’s a daunting task. How do you see that playing out, and how long could it take to get the antibody tests to be able to prove that various arenas and openings are safe?

Ned Lamont: (01:46)
I was on the phone with the CEO of Stanford Hospital. They’re going to be ramping up hundreds of antibody tests on a daily basis pretty soon. I think you can see that extend around the rest of the state. I mentioned the CVS testing that’s launching in New Haven today. That’s going to be 1,000 tests a day. We’re working with other Connecticut companies with a variety of other testing mechanisms, including a saliva test that would be just transformative in terms of people being able to self-test at home.

Ned Lamont: (02:16)
I think all that testing is going to ramp up in a way that gives us the data, the information we need to tell you when it’s safe to start up your business, when it’s safe to go back to school, and how we phase that in over a period of time. We’re going to have a decision out on May 20th. We talked about that yesterday, because we stipulated earlier that no schools are going to open up before May 20th, and probably no stores as well. But we’re reaching a point where we’ll be able to start making some decisions, and that will be a decision node.

Speaker 3: (02:50)
Josh, you think we’ll reach that level? Dr. Ko called it mass testing. Will we have that level within a month or so?

Josh Geballe: (02:57)
We’re certainly working very hard on that. The advisory group has a lot of great connections, and we’re working with the major commercial labs in discussions. We’re focused very much on the labs here in Connecticut. We have a number of CLIA-certified labs here in Connecticut who have raised their hand and say they want to participate in helping us scale up our testing considerably. The examples the governor just gave of things that are already happening, I think you’ll see more and more of those every week.

Speaker 3: (03:23)
Thank you.

Max: (03:25)
Move on next to the Connecticut Mirror.

Speaker 5: (03:31)
Governor, or really, Josh or Paul, is the state able to track COVID infections among state employees, and are you able to do any analysis as to who are the folks most at risk, whether it’s Connecticut Transit drivers, DOC employees, or what not?

Josh Geballe: (03:51)
Yeah, we get daily reports from each of our commissioners about our employees and infections in our various agencies. We do take actions across the agencies. Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon, for example, Commissioner Dorantes have both dealt with a number of cases in their respective agencies, and they’re working with our Department of Public Health team to take all the appropriate precautions, make sure we have the right PPE out on the front lines. This is a daily discussion that’s going on.

Paul Mounds: (04:20)
I will also add that as we get further down this crisis, the numbers that you’re also seeing, not only from the same employees that we are putting out in our various agencies of those who have been afflicted with COVID-19, you’re also seeing the numbers of those who have returned back to the workforce who have recovered from COVID-19 as well. We’ll be continuing to provide those numbers in our various agencies throughout this crisis.

Speaker 5: (04:48)
Do you have those numbers handy, and if not, can you bring them out perhaps at the next briefing?

Josh Geballe: (04:55)
Yeah, we can provide that information.

Ned Lamont: (04:57)
Correct.

Speaker 5: (04:58)
All right, thank you.

Max: (05:00)
Move along next to The Day. The Day of New London? We will get back to The Day.

Speaker 6: (05:21)
Am I off there now? Can you hear me now?

Max: (05:24)
Got you.

Speaker 6: (05:25)
Hi. Governor, I wanted to ask about the rapid testing sites. Do you know where and when more of them might be located? And I want to make sure I understand how it works correctly. Does the patient actually know their results of the test before they leave the site?

Ned Lamont: (05:42)
I’ll start and then hand that over to Paul. The Abbott Lab tests, it’s five minutes, 15 minutes. You know immediately. You go to the CVS site, as we explained before, cvs.org. They’ll tell you whether, you fill out an immediate online form, whether you have the symptoms that justify you being tested. While New Haven is our first site, Paul can tell you about other plans going forward.

Paul Mounds: (06:08)
Yeah. As you probably know, the governor reached out to the head of Abbott Labs, and we were able to be one of the first states to actually receive an Abbott machine, which was at Stanford Hospital, and then we eventually received additional Abbott Lab machines through the Department of Public Health, which has been distributed to our various hospitals across the state. This partnership with CVS is one of four in the nation that came about when the governor had a conversation directly with the CEO of CVS.

Paul Mounds: (06:36)
All of our teams, including the City of New Haven, Mayor Justin Elicker, Senate Leader Martin Looney, Representative Toni Walker, and the whole New Haven community, really got together, in addition with our National Guard, Department of Public Health, Department of Emergency Management and Public Protection, to really bring this site to fruition. We are hopeful that we’ll see if we can get additional sites of this type throughout the state, but we’re very optimistic about what this site will actually do, and be really a standard-bearer, not only for this region, but also for the nation.

Speaker 6: (07:18)
Thank you.

Max: (07:21)
Move along next to NBC Connecticut.

Speaker 8: (07:26)
Governor, can you clarify about the marinas? Will you be closing them or doing something to prevent New Yorkers from coming over to the state and putting their boats in the water?

Ned Lamont: (07:37)
Whatever we do with marinas, it’ll probably be in conjunction with our neighboring states at the same time.

Speaker 8: (07:44)
But that has not been decided yet?

Ned Lamont: (07:46)
That has not been decided yet.

Speaker 8: (07:47)
Okay. Can you explain, a couple of viewers actually have asked us why the lottery is considered essential?

Ned Lamont: (07:58)
I’ll start. Right now, the lottery is up and operating. I guess you would get it at the convenience stores, and you’re already going there for something else, so we decided not to discontinue it at this point. But that’s something we’re looking at all the time.

Speaker 8: (08:13)
Okay. And my last question is, why hasn’t the state suspended the practice of charging a bottle deposit while redemption centers are closed and stores are not accepting recycling?

Ned Lamont: (08:25)
Right. How come you haven’t done that, Paul?

Paul Mounds: (08:27)
Thanks, Governor. I know the original mindset of various retention sites was about the health element. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection put out guidance to those redemption centers, as well as stores, as it deals with if they decide to accept bottles, what are the safety protocols, and also gave them the option to not accept. That was one of the very earlier executive orders put forth by the governor, so we did take action on that, providing the option to redemption centers as well as stores on accepting the bottles during this COVID crisis.

Ned Lamont: (09:02)
So you’re basically saying it was optional whether or not to accept them, so therefore the charge continues today?

Paul Mounds: (09:09)
Correct.

Speaker 8: (09:12)
Thank you.

Max: (09:13)
Move on next to CT en Vivo. CT en Vivo?

Max: (09:32)
Move along next to Connecticut Public Media.

Speaker 9: (09:39)
Thank you. Governor, on the issue of unemployment claims, you had mentioned on Wednesday concerns about the state’s unemployment fund getting totally drained by this massive spike in jobless claims, so I wanted to ask, how close is that to happening? And if it does, will the burden fall on Connecticut employers and workers in the future to replenish this fund?

Ned Lamont: (10:01)
Yeah, that’s a very good question. The good news is we put about 200 million in additional funding into the unemployment fund over the last year and a half, so we had a relatively good balance, but no balance is enough to deal with the nature of the unemployment claims that we’re seeing right now. We’re negotiating right now via our great congressional delegation to see how the feds are going to respond. They either lend us money at a very, very low interest rate, but unfortunately you do have to pay that back, or they’ll make that available as a grant, which obviously small businesses and states would love them to do it that way. That would not impact anybody’s rating and keep us whole.

Speaker 9: (10:45)
Has that come up in your conversations with President Trump at all?

Ned Lamont: (10:49)
Not that specifically, no.

Speaker 9: (10:54)
Thanks.

Max: (10:55)
Move on next to the Waterbury Republican-American.

Speaker 10: (11:00)
Thanks, Max. Governor, I was looking at the report today. African-Americans, the deaths per 100,000, I believe, are 427, the highest out of any racial ethnic group. The deaths are 40, again, the highest number. How concerning is that to you, and what are you doing about it?

Ned Lamont: (11:29)
It’s scary as hell. Obviously, some people live in denser areas. Some people can’t social distance within their home. Some people have preexisting conditions, be it asthma or diabetes, and that seems to hit the African-American community most severely. That’s one of the reasons, as Paul said, that we wanted to do testing in a place like New Haven with great diversity to make sure that nobody goes without the testing. At least, we can get you the aid you need sooner.

Paul Mounds: (11:59)
I’ll also add this crisis has really shown, not only in our region, but across the country, what social determinants of health really means. When you really look at it at the core, the governor is absolutely correct, in terms of putting a center like this, the CVS center, in a city, New Haven was one that was top of mind.

Paul Mounds: (12:21)
The additional aspect is when you look at how a person gets tested, it’s usually making sure that they have a primary care provider, that they have a doctor to be able to get a doctor’s note. The beauty of this CVS partnership is that an individual can go online to cvs.com, click for Connecticut, and answer a few CDC specific questions, and that will be their doctor’s note. They don’t have to have a PCP.

Paul Mounds: (12:46)
There’s going to be a lot of work that we’re going to do outside of this crisis to really start addressing at the very core the social determinants of health within our state, and that’s the great… I know our Commissioner Dorantes is shaking her head because this is something that her and I talk about on a daily basis, along with Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon, and I can go down the line of all of our other agencies.

Paul Mounds: (13:07)
But yes, it is concerning. I’m speaking as an African-American male who was born in Hartford. It’s something that is top of mind of the governor, and it’s top of mind of this administration. We’re going to continue to work on it, and I look forward for us to roll out more additional testing opportunities within our urban areas so we can address it at the very core.

Speaker 10: (13:28)
Okay, thanks. Governor, the state NAACP has requested a top-level meeting with yourself and your cabinet officials. I believe it was a letter yesterday or the day before. Anything to report on that request?

Ned Lamont: (13:45)
I don’t know about the request, but I’m happy to meet with Scot anytime. I’ll give him a call. Thank you.

Paul Mounds: (13:48)
Yep, and I’ve also been meeting with Scot Esdaile, the head of the NAACP, before a letter came through, talking about the very issues that I just talked about in my previous answer, as well as the main reason why we’re wanting to make sure that the testing numbers on African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minority populations are posted came out of a direct conversation that we already had as well.

Speaker 10: (14:16)
Okay, well, thanks very much, and you guys hang in there.

Ned Lamont: (14:18)
Thanks.

Max: (14:21)
Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

Speaker 11: (14:24)
Yes, Governor, I’d like to talk about nursing homes really briefly. The dedicated coronavirus homes took more than a week to get off the ground, and based on the numbers that we got yesterday, it seems like precious days may have been lost there. What were some of the obstacles in getting these homes up and running, and where do we stand with them right now?

Ned Lamont: (14:43)
Yeah, I’ll hand that over to Josh. But look, we were very early on, I think, the nursing homes, one of the very first to say no visitors there. That took some heat, but it slowed down, at least, the spread a little bit there. Josh has been on the front lines trying to negotiate getting access to these additional facilities so that we can open them up.

Ned Lamont: (15:05)
But it’s tragic. The nursing homes have been a home of the pandemic in virtually every state out there. We have about 40% of our fatalities are related to nursing homes. In Massachusetts, it’s about 50%. This is something that’s not unique to Connecticut by any means. We’ve done okay. We’ve got to do a heck of a lot better, and Josh is going to do that.

Josh Geballe: (15:28)
Yeah. I definitely would give a shout-out, in particular, to our Public Health team, our DSS team, who’ve been working very diligently with the nursing home operators to get these up and running. To be very direct about your question, there was some significant change in CDC guidelines in the middle of that week that you described that caused the team to have to change course, recognizing the contagious nature of COVID-19 before it becomes symptomatic. It put a significant change in the plan, so there were some adjustments made, but the teams reacted quickly.

Josh Geballe: (15:57)
Also, another challenge that nursing homes have faced is, for these new alternate sites, some of them are being reopened from scratch, so they have to be staffed up. Our OPM secretary, Melissa McCaw, and our DSS commissioner, Deidre Gifford, have announced today, with the governor’s direction, to increase the financial supports, as well, to most of the nursing homes that have COVID patients, increasing the rate for COVID-positive patients to $400, also increasing the across-the-board rate increase from 10% to 15% for three months here to help cover some of those additional costs they are facing around staffing and PPE. That’ll help accelerate that momentum as well.

Josh Geballe: (16:38)
As I said yesterday, we do have our first COVID alternate site open. It’s accepted its first couple of patients. It has 70 to 80 referrals already in place from hospitals looking to discharge patients. So it’s showing the demand and the importance of that, and we’re going to be opening up additional alternate sites through the weekend.

Speaker 11: (16:58)
Got it. Just wanted to hone in on some of those obstacles, though. The obstacles came from the CDC or on the CDC level?

Josh Geballe: (17:07)
I wouldn’t call it an obstacle. It’s just, as the governor said many times, this is a very dynamic crisis, and so as we learn new information, we have to adjust and react to that. When the CDC issues new guidance, we have to factor that into the plan and determine if the plan needs to change as a result, and that’s really what happened here.

Max: (17:29)
Move on next to CT en Vivo.

Speaker 12: (17:32)
Good afternoon, Governor Lamont and all to your team. My question is, have you considered any kind of financial relief for undocumented residents in the state? Governor Gavin from California has announced this week that they will provide $500 per person and $1,000 for families. Do you think Connecticut would explore an option like this?

Ned Lamont: (17:54)
I can start. I can tell you that for all of our citizens, including undocumented, there’s no costs for the tests. There’s no cost for treatment. We’re working with the federal government to do that. In the meantime, the state has taken care of that. I want everybody covered. Anybody who feels at risk, anybody who shows those symptoms, to get them treated. I don’t want anybody walking around the community unprotected.

Paul Mounds: (18:17)
In addition to your question, the governor and his team has already had conversations with various members of the legislature, including Senator Julie Kushner, about the undocumented community. We are going to be working and looking at various options as it deals with addressing the needs of this community.

Speaker 12: (18:41)
Well, the state of California is going to allocate about $75 million. That’s what it cost to the state of California. Would Connecticut allocate some money as well, not just for the people sick and medical treatment, but for people to pay rent? They need some kind of relief at this point.

Ned Lamont: (19:01)
Well, as you know, we have a rent relief program that’s available for everybody, and that is a grace period in terms of having to pay that rent, anything for COVID-related costs. I hope people are covered there and feel some sense of confidence.

Speaker 12: (19:19)
Thank you, Governor.

Max: (19:19)
We’ll move along next to the Associated Press.

Speaker 13: (19:23)
Good afternoon, Governor. Today, the president was tweeting multiple times about how the states have to step up their testing, and Governor Cuomo was talking about how this is going to create more competition between the states for testing materials, sort of like what happened with PPE. Governor Cuomo also said that the states can’t do it alone; they need federal help. What is your reaction to that? Are we able to do it alone, or do we need federal help as well?

Ned Lamont: (19:57)
Man, I could help Connecticut navigate through this COVID crisis or respond to every one of the president’s tweets. The federal government should help when it comes to what we need in terms of swabs, the reagents, the kits. They are the best ones able to do that. In the meantime, we’re doing everything we can at the local level, and we’ll pick up where they leave off. Working with our amazing hospital system, we’re sourcing all the testing gear we need. We need FDA approval for some of the antibody testing, but I’m not going to put all the burden on their shoulders. We’re going to do everything we can as a state to roll out the testing in a more aggressive way. I can’t wait for the feds any longer.

Speaker 13: (20:38)
Regarding the antibody testing, you were talking about Stanford, how they were going to start the first testing. Are they going to be the first ones in the state to do antibody testing? And I just want to clarify, the CVS, that’s more like whether or not you have it or not right now?

Ned Lamont: (20:54)
Exactly. That’s the PCR testing. I believe we have antibody testing, Josh, in a variety of different hospitals.

Josh Geballe: (21:01)
Quite a number of our hospitals are performing antibody testing right now.

Speaker 13: (21:05)
Okay, thank you.

Max: (21:07)
News 8.

Speaker 14: (21:11)
Governor, you opened up in the last 24 hours, maybe this question is for Josh, the COVID-only facility in Sharon for nursing homes. We had workers call our station and talk to us about not having just basic N95 masks for the CNAs. Have you heard anything about that? Where do you stand on PPE? I know you do check in every day with the nursing homes around the state, but what are you hearing back? They’re COVID only.

Josh Geballe: (21:35)
Yeah, I’ve actually heard the exact opposite of that. I talked to Barbara Cass earlier today, who you met at the press conference last week, who heads up our licensing division at the Department of Public Health. She was physically up there yesterday inspecting the site herself, said the site was incredibly well set up, well-stocked with PPE, and the staff was in place and ready to go. So I’m not sure where that comment came from.

Paul Mounds: (21:59)
And within the contracting for our COVID-only facilities, it has to ensure that PPE is provided for those facilities.

Speaker 14: (22:07)
Well, that’s good to know. I’m glad you answered. Absolutely. Where do you stand on the other three? You said over the weekend they’re going to be opening up, because there is a demand, and it sounds like it’s rolling forward pretty quickly here.

Josh Geballe: (22:19)
Yeah. The others that are coming online in the next couple of days, Northbridge in Bridgeport is going to be bringing online 146 beds. They are potentially accepting patients as soon as this evening. Torrington, which is one of the sites that had been decommissioned, we’ve reopened with the support of the Connecticut National Guard and others, is planning to come online on Monday with another 126 beds. They just have to finish up the kitchen facility there, and that’s almost done. There’s another facility in Meriden, Westfield, which will be bringing admissions in early to mid next week, another 120 beds. And there’s several more in the pipeline, so this is moving quickly.

Speaker 14: (23:00)
Thank you very much for answering the question. I appreciate it.

Josh Geballe: (23:03)
You’re welcome.

Ned Lamont: (23:03)
Thank you.

Max: (23:03)
Move along next to the Courant.

Chris: (23:08)
Governor, I just wanted to be clear on the schools reopening. Are you considering in any way that the schools could possibly reopen on a regional basis, meaning that eastern Connecticut schools could reopen before Fairfield County, for example?

Ned Lamont: (23:25)
Yeah, I’m going to wait for the information from the Reopen Connecticut group. We’re going to get more information from them. But look, from my point of view, Chris, bars, restaurants, stores that attract people across the state are probably things that we want to open or close on a statewide basis. Schools, I have more of an open mind on, since they’re more local by definition.

Chris: (23:50)
Okay. And also one question, Governor Cuomo had issued an executive order requiring the nursing homes to tell the family members about COVID-positive cases and deaths within 24 hours. Are you considering a possible similar executive order on that point?

Ned Lamont: (24:16)
I thought they did that. They don’t do that now?

Josh Geballe: (24:16)
I’m not sure.

Ned Lamont: (24:16)
I’ll take a look at that, Chris.

Chris: (24:16)
Sometimes we get feedback that they… They’re supposed to do that, I guess, but a lot of times we get feedback that they don’t do it.

Ned Lamont: (24:23)
I’m going to have to report back to you on that, but they should do it.

Chris: (24:28)
Okay.

Max: (24:29)
Move along next to CT News Junkie.

Speaker 16: (24:34)
This is for the governor. Governor, why would you decide to put your Reopen Connecticut task force inside Advance Connecticut, which is not subject to FOI? How transparent is this process going to be?

Ned Lamont: (24:50)
Well, as you know, Indra Nooyi helps oversee that. She’s co-chairman of it. I thought that was a place where she already had a perch, and it makes a certain amount of sense. That’s a group that has a lot of liaison, obviously, with the business community, so we were thinking about how we work with small as well as large businesses, have them at the table, along with labor and along with the scientific community.