HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Nearly a dozen of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns were listed Thursday as “high alert” communities for COVID-19 infections. All but two are located in the southeastern part of the state.
Last Thursday, there were only two on the list: Norwich and New London. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said it appears there has been a regional spread of infections. Besides Norwich and New London, nearby Canterbury, East Lyme, Griswold, Montville, Preston, Sprague and Windham now have a rate of infection of more than 15 cases diagnosed daily for every 100,000 people.
Hartford and Danbury are also considered to be “high alert” communities, as of Thursday. Lamont's office is recommending that individuals living in these communities limit trips outside home and avoid gatherings with non-family members. Also, they're recommending communities cancel public events and limit gathering points; organized groups postpone indoor events; and schools consider more distance learning.
Lamont recently signed an executive order that allows local officials to postpone the state's third phase of reopening, which includes larger indoor dining capacity at restaurants.
“These are things that the town can do to mitigate the spread, to try and contain the spread, as we see flare-ups around the state and bigger around the entire region," Lamont said during his COVID-19 briefing. “We're not like Wisconsin with a 22% infection rate, but do we have areas with 5, 6, 7% infections rates and we do want to try and contain that as best we can.”
Statewide on Thursday, the infection rate was 1.3%, with three more COVID-associated deaths, for a total of 4,540. There were three more hospitalizations since Wednesday, for a total of 191.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS
Lamont said Thursday that his economic development commissioner is expected to announce a new $50 million grant program next week to help small businesses. This comes after the state provided more than 2,000 one-year, no-interest loans, to small businesses, averaging $19,705 a piece earlier this year.
Earlier in the day, the state's restaurant association and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association released a letter to Lamont and state lawmakers, asking that federal coronavirus funds be set aside for a small business grant program. They noted Rhode Island's “Restore RI” program includes $60 million for businesses that experienced a revenue loss due to the pandemic of at least 30%
While the details were not available on Thursday, Lamont said Connecticut's program would likely provide 10,000 grants capped at $5,000. He said half of the grants will be distributed to businesses located in economically distressed municipalities.
Connecticut prison officials on Thursday were monitoring a coronavirus outbreak at a Hartford jail where 56 inmates recently tested positive after two staff members contracted the virus.
All 56 inmates, who were not showing symptoms and are now separated from the general population, were detained in the units where the two employees worked, prison officials said.
“The facility is on lockdown status for deep cleaning,” Department of Correction spokesperson Karen Martucci said in a statement. "Social visitation previously scheduled to commence at the Hartford Correctional Center today (Thursday) was pushed back temporarily to err on the side of caution.
The two employees reported testing positive for the virus recently, which prompted routine contact tracing that identified the 56 inmates who tested positive, Martucci said.
The entire population of the Hartford Correctional Center is being tested this week as part of continued mass testing at prisons statewide, she said. Staff in Hartford also will undergo mandatory testing.
Correction Department officials were expecting increased virus cases in state prisons because of an uptick in cases in communities across the state, Martucci said.
Connecticut's statewide positive test rate dipped to 1.3% Thursday, down from 2% Wednesday and 2.4% Tuesday. More than 62,000 people in the state have contracted the virus and more than 4,500 have died since the pandemic began. More than 190 people were hospitalized, the highest number in several months.
In prisons across the state as of Thursday, there were 80 inmates who had the coronavirus including eight who were experiencing symptoms. Twenty-nine staff are currently recovering from the virus. More than 1,600 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began and seven have died.