HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — When determining eligibility for unemployment benefits, Connecticut's Department of Labor is now allowed to consider whether returning to work during the cononavirus pandemic would pose an “unreasonable risk” to a person's health or the health of their household.
When determining eligibility for unemployment benefits, Connecticut’s Department of Labor is now allowed to consider whether returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic would pose an “unreasonable risk” to a person’s health or the health of their household.
The latest executive order, signed by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday evening, pertains to claims covering May 17 through July 25.
According to the order, when there's “an unreasonable risk to the individual’s health or, due to COVID 19, the health of a member of that individual’s household is established” the commissioner will determine that returning to work is "unsuitable for the individual.”
Lamont said Tuesday that his administration is trying to get people back to work safely, but he understands some may need more time. It's unclear how many workers might be affected.
“Some people don't feel like they can do it right now, so we're giving them a little bit of breathing room so they can plan accordingly,” Lamont said. “And that's what that executive order was meant to do.”
For most people, the virus causes 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 or lead to death.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
DEATH RATE DECLINES
As of Tuesday, officials have reported 3,972 COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut, eight more than on Monday. Lamont said that marks the lowest daily death toll since March, which he called “extraordinary good news.”
New data also show the state's rate of positive tests for COVID-19 is less than 3%. Last week, he said, it was less than 5%.
“These are all trends in the right direction,” Lamont said.
CONTACT TRACING AND ANTIBODY TESTING
Fifteen local health departments are now using a contact-tracing platform, Josh Geballe, a senior Lamont aide, said on Tuesday. He said more are expected to come online in the coming days as state health officials field requests for additional training and make tweaks to the platform.
This new system is supposed to help identify virus hot spots and determine where to send additional resources in order to stem the spread of the disease. Geballe said this statewide effort is a departure for the local health departments, which previously used their own individual platforms.
Lamont also announced Tuesday the state is partnering with Yale University in a project to quantify the spread of the disease by identifying how people in the state may have antibodies, a sign of prior infection. The study will involve taking blood samples from 1,400 random residents.
Yale will work with Gallup, Quest Diagnostics and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on the project, which aims to provide state officials with data that could ultimately help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is truly designed as a team effort so we can learn together where we stand and inform what we should do next,” said Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale who will serve as project leader.
CLEANER AIR DURING PANDEMIC
Many air pollutants in Connecticut dropped significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Bureau of Air Management announced on Tuesday.
A preliminary analysis of air quality data found nitrogen dioxide levels were between 13% and 37% lower than the average monitored values for the previous three-year period and carbon monoxide levels were between 7% and 21% lower. There were also lower levels of sulfur dioxide and black carbon. Ozone and fine particulate matter levels, however, were unchanged.
The agency said the results stem from stay-at-home orders in Connecticut and regionally that resulted in a dramatic reduction in air-polluting emissions with fewer cars on the roads, fewer planes in the air, and less demand for gasoline and electricity. Normal seasonal factors also played a role.