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Emergency Managers Asking for More Supplies for Coronavirus

In a letter to federal and state officials, Michael Spera, president of the Connecticut Emergency Management Association, said the organization is concerned that they will run out of masks, gloves and gowns.

by Christine Dempsey, The Hartford Courant / February 26, 2020

(TNS) — The state’s emergency managers appealed Wednesday to Gov. Ned Lamont for help as they prepare for the the potential impact of the deadly coronavirus on Connecticut, saying the state might run out of protective supplies.

In a letter to federal and state officials, Michael Spera, president of the Connecticut Emergency Management Association and the Old Saybrook police chief, said the organization is concerned that they will run out of masks, gloves and gowns.

“CEMA is most concerned with the extreme shortage of available personal protective equipment and has called on the Governor to take immediate measure to ensure that healthcare and public safety providers have the personal protective equipment needed to respond to a potential outbreak of the virus in Connecticut,” Spera said, in a news release.

The Lamont administration said Wednesday that the state’s public health commissioner, Renee Coleman-Mitchell, was in Washington to discuss the coronavirus and other issues.

“She went to a briefing at the White House last night about coronavirus" with other top health officials nationwide, said Av Harris, a health department spokesman.

The state health department has sent out guidance to public schools and businesses that correlates with guidelines distributed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the virus has spread, the Lamont administration has become involved in more briefings and updates.

“The administration has been in continuous contact with CDC and DPH," said Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz.

As of Tuesday, there were 57 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the U.S., none in Connecticut. Most were linked to a cruise ship overwhelmed by the coronavirus after it docked in Japan. The virus has infected more than 81,000 people globally and caused 2,700 deaths, most in China.

In his letter, Spera requested the state set aside an allotment of protection equipment including gloves, face masks and Tyvek suits and consider activating the state’s emergency operations center.

He said state emergency management professionals should:

  • Conduct an immediate audit of state and municipal resources on hand.
  • Review, revise and exercise pandemic response plans.
  • Ensure previously identified quarantine facilities are still available and operational.
  • Review, revise and exercise mass vaccination plans should a vaccine become readily available.
  • Conduct a briefing for elected and public safety officials on the state’s preparedness activities.

“While we all share the desire that the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) not impact Connecticut, it is most likely inevitable that this potential pandemic will impact the State of Connecticut in some manner,” Spera wrote. “While the Federal Government may not be asking the State of Connecticut to be as proactive as CEMA requests, I hope that through your leadership you will be receptive to our suggestions and be proactive by taking immediate action to ensure we are as best prepared for the potential impact Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) may have on our state.”

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker planned to hold a workshop Wednesday afternoon with city leaders to discuss steps they can take to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Connecticut colleges and universities began recalling students from study abroad programs in Italy Tuesday as the deadly virus strengthed its hold in that country.

Officials at Fairfield University made the call in light of developing reports on the global spread of the new respiratory, which rapidly spread throughout northern Italy over the weekend. National media are calling that country the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, citing Italian officials who reported 322 confirmed infections and a death toll of 11 as of Tuesday.

Tuesday also brought Sacred Heart’s decision to bring 17 students home from their study abroad program at John Cabot University in Rome, according to Deb Noack, Sacred Heart’s executive director of communications. They’re being asked to return by Saturday.

The University of New Haven decided to halt instruction at its Tuscany campus in Prato, Italy, and recommend its 80 students there return to the U.S., spokesperson Douglas Whiting said.

Officials at UConn, Quinnipiac University, Bridgeport University, Trinity College and the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system said they are also monitoring developments daily, but have not made a decision to bring students back from study abroad programs in Italy or elsewhere.

Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation has panned the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, saying an emergency request for $2.5 billion to address the outbreak is “too little, too late.”

“It’s clear this administration is completely unprepared for this public health crisis, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just admitted that even its tests for the virus are unreliable,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “This package is just a sliver of what is needed to mount the urgent public health response required to keep Americans safe.”

Christine Dempsey can be reached at cdempsey@courant.com.

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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