HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Health care workers rallied Saturday in New London to protest what they called a shortage of personal protective equipment and pay tribute to a nurse's aide who died earlier this month after contracting the coronavirus.
Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., joined workers for Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeastern Connecticut for the rally.
Union leaders said nurses, aides and other health care workers are risking their lives caring for COVID-19 patients while lacking sufficient protective gear such as masks and gowns to keep them safe.
“Our #HealthcareHeroes are fighting 24 hours a day to save lives, all while putting their own lives at risk,” Courtney said in a Twitter posting. “Losing even just one of these workers due to improper protections cannot be tolerated. Congress must act to ensure OSHA implements a new & enforceable safety standard.”
People at the rally also remembered Elva Graveline, a 52-year-old nurse's aide at Lawrence + Memorial who contracted the coronavirus and died May 19. Graveline's daughter thanked hospital workers for caring for her mother, according the AFT Connecticut labor union.
Hospital officials said in a statement Saturday that workers have not been without protective gear during the pandemic and credited staff for doing a “phenomenal job.”
As of Saturday, more than 42,000 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 3,900 have died, including about 2,400 nursing home residents. Hospitalizations declined by 44 patients since Friday, down to a total of 533.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
The two tribal casinos in Connecticut reopened Saturday by invitation only as they prepared for a partial reopening to the general public on Monday.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who operate Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, respectively, invited an undisclosed number of guests to their resort casinos this weekend.
“This weekend we are hosting a private opening for some Tribal members and higher tier Mohegan loyalty (Momentum) guests to experience the property," Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, said in a statement. "We kept the invite list small in order to give our team members a chance to become more familiar with the robust safety measures in place prior to our partial reopening to the public on Monday.”
Messages seeking comment were left with a spokeswoman for the Mashantucket Pequots.
Lamont expressed disappointment Friday that the tribes were opening the casinos sooner than he would like, but credited them with taking precautions against the coronavirus including taking customers' temperatures, requiring them to wear masks and increasing cleaning.
Both casinos also said they would not allow out-of-state guests at their hotels during the first phase of their reopenings.
HAIRCUTS AND GATHERINGS
Barbershops and hair salons in the state will be able to reopen beginning Monday with required coronavirus precautions in place, under an executive order signed by Lamont on Friday.
Under the state requirements, shops and salons can only serve customers by appointment only, waiting areas must be closed, customers and workers must wear face masks, chairs must be at least 6 feet apart and scissors and other tools must be disinfected between customers.
Lamont first said barbershops and hair salons could reopen May 20, but pushed the date back after some shop owners and employees said they wanted more time to prepare. Other owners and workers were frustrated by the postponement.
The governor also increased the limits on social and recreational gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. The previous limit was five people per gathering.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Connecticut’s high school coaches can do more work with their teams starting Monday.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has lifted many off-season coaching restrictions. On Monday, coaches in all sports will be allowed to share game films, playbooks and virtual, not-in-person skill instruction.
Glenn Lungarini, the CIAC’s executive director, says he believes there will be a fall sports season in Connecticut, but he’s still not sure when it will start, which sports will be played or whether fans will be allowed at any sporting events.
Associated Press writers Susan Haigh and Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.