HARTFORD, Connecticut — Connecticut’s governor declared both a public health and civil preparedness emergency Tuesday in response to the coronavirus, similar to actions taken during hurricanes.
Gov. Ned Lamont said the move will allow him to take faster action to protect public health and safety, including suspending certain laws and regulations. Most notably, he said it helps the state ramp up its testing capacity faster.
The move comes after a second person tested positive for the virus in Connecticut.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
Here is a look at some of the steps taken in Connecticut on Tuesday.
The emergencies declared by Lamont will ease regulations to allow additional entities to conduct testing. The action also allowed Lamont to authorize the state’s public health commissioner to let lower level officials declare and manage isolation and quarantine orders, if need be. Additionally, a state law prohibiting profiteering during emergencies is triggered.
Administration officials said so far 56 people have been tested, with two testing positive for the virus. There are currently 19 cases awaiting test results.
A regional school district that includes Bethlehem and Woodbury is shutting down from Wednesday through March 15 for disinfecting because a student came in contact with the state’s second virus patient. A local daycare is also closing.
The district’s superintendent said the student and their family are showing no signs of the illness and self-monitoring at their home for 14 days.
A school in Stratford is closed for cleaning after a person connected to the school may have been in contact with the virus while classes are canceled in Norwalk on Thursday so teachers can prepare lesson plans in case students need to learn at home.
Online college classes
The University of New Haven closed its residence halls Tuesday and suspended in-person classes leading up to spring break, as well as in-person classes on March 23 and 24. At Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, in-person classes will switch to online instruction beginning Wednesday. Residence and dining halls will remain open.
Yale University notified students on Tuesday that classes will be moved online following the end of spring break. Students were also encouraged to move back home as soon as Sunday and not to travel abroad in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
High school sports
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports in Connecticut, cancelled the state’s remaining high school winter sports championship tournaments. CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said some schools said they would not participate and some venues indicated they could not host the events.
Lungarinia said CIAC understands students, especially “seniors that were looking forward to that last game” will be disappointed.
State laboratory workers
Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell said the state health lab has two workers doing all the tests. They’re limited to performing 19 or 20 tests per day.
On Tuesday, she said seven additional staff are being trained to conduct the tests. She said that training should increase testing capacity to 50 to 60 tests per day. Plans are underway for alternative testing and specimen collection sites around Connecticut.
While several legislative hearings were held Tuesday, a modified schedule is planned for the rest of the week and possibly beyond at Connecticut’s state Capitol complex.
Activities will be limited on Wednesday to two, shortened public hearings and a planned vote on a borrowing bill. The state Capitol, Legislative Office Building and the Old State House will then be closed to for an extensive cleaning for four days.
Lawmakers have also closed the complex to any non-legislative events, meetings and gatherings.
Organizers announced that the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hartford, scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled. That announcement came a day after New Haven scrapped plans for its parade. The city plans to reschedule or find another some way to honor residents’ Irish heritage.
Associated Press writers Susan Haigh and Dave Collins contributed to this report