Health Official: Time Is Right To Begin Cautious Reopening

AP
May 18, 2020 - 12:55 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC and AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont is getting some support from the chief clinical officer at Hartford HealthCare on his decision to begin reopening the state's economy Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, who overseas the clinical operations in a system that includes seven acute care hospitals and more than 30,000 health care workers, said Monday that while there is no playbook, the models he's studied support the governor's decision.

The state plans to begin the gradual, multi-stage process of lifting restrictions on businesses and activities, including allowing limited outdoor dining at restaurants. Retail establishments, hair salons, outdoor exhibits at zoos and museums, outdoor recreation and university research programs will also be allowed to open with detailed, social distancing restrictions.

“I think this is the right place to be at this time,” Kumar said. “We need to be cautious. We need to be optimistic. But at the same time we need to continue to follow the safety principals.”

Kumar said he believes the state will see a slower increase in the number of reported positive cases and a continued decline in hospitalizations. But he also cautioned the death toll likely will continue to rise by about 50 to 60 a day, being driven by cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“As our society opens up, I think if we continue to follow social distancing, some discipline around the travel, we're going to hopefully reach a place where we're going to be able to live with the COVID-19 in our community,” he said.

“I don't think its going to be a 100% opening for the near future and I don't think we're going to see a complete elimination of COVID-19 from our society for a long time — until a vaccine comes up or good therapies come a long way," he added.

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-related developments around Connecticut:

HOSPITAL VISITS

Disability rights advocates are urging the president and CEO of Hartford Hospital individually to change the hospital’s strict “no-visitor” policies because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and allow people with disabilities to bring a support person with them.

In an open letter to Jeffrey A. Flaks, released Sunday, one family told the story of a 73-year-old wife and mother who arrived at Hartford Hospital on April 19 alone, unable to communicate, with severe short-term memory loss. With no family at the hospital, they said there have been “numerous misunderstandings and missteps in her care,” leading her to be confused, frightened and unnecessarily restrained.

Earlier this month, several disability rights organizations submitted a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights, arguing that Connecticut’s guidance on hospital visitation policies during the pandemic violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In an addendum to that complaint, released Sunday, the groups said Hartford Hospital continues to violate the unnamed 73-year-old woman’s civil rights by refusing to modify its no-visitor policy and denying her access to effective communication.

Dr. Kumar said Hartford HealthCare continues to evaluate its policy and has made accommodations for patients who need support. He said the hospital also is using electronic tablets and other measures to make sure patients remain in contact with family members.