Lamont Strongly Urges People to Wear Masks in Public; Conn. Faces Nearly 200 New COVID-19 Deaths

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What to Know

  • The governor is urging residents to wear cloth masks in public places and that an executive order requiring the wearing of masks is likely in 48 hours
  • The state revealed its largest single-day coronavirus-related death total with 200 new deaths reported since yesterday
  • The Department of Labor implemented a software improvement to get the backlog in processing of unemployment claims down to one week or less

Governor Ned Lamont announced the state's largest single day jump in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday.

The latest numbers from the state revealed 14,755 cases of coronavirus in Connecticut, 1908 hospitalizations and 868 deaths, Lamont announced Wednesday.

The number of cases rose 766 since yesterday with nearly 200 new deaths and 129 new hospitalizations.

Hospitalizations in Fairfield and New Haven counties are "ramping up" a little after flattening out in previous days, Lamont said.

"Hospital admissions in Fairfield County are going up as fast as they ever have," he said. Lamont said that is a sign that "we still have some work to do."

The governor said some of those deaths had previously occurred but were not previously counted in the state's total as the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner cleared a backlog.

Governor Urges Wearing of Masks; Executive Order Possible

Governor Lamont said it's time to be "strict" with wearing masks.

Lamont said he wants employers and employees to wear masks in any place where public interactions are taking place. The governor singled out grocery stores as a business where he wants to see masks worn.

Lamont said right now it's a strong recommendation but that "it will probably be reflected" in an executive order within the next two days.

The governor's recommendation is for cloth-face masks, not surgical masks or N95 respirators, said Josh Geballe, the state's chief operating officer.

Conn. Unemployment Claims Processing Could Get Down to One Week or Less

Many of the state's business have been closed since March to slow the spread of the disease across the state.

Around 10 percent of the state's population -- around 350,000 people -- have filed for unemployment since March 13, according to the governor's office.

The state said that number is nearly the same amount it typically receives over a two-year period.

Governor Lamont previously said the department has been working with a 40-year-old computer system to process the claims, which led to a five- to six-week backlog.

On Wednesday, the governor announced the launch of a new software improvement at the Department of Labor that the state expects will cut that backlog to one week or less.

“This required hundreds of hours of programming due to the complexity of the 40-year-old COBOL system, but the effort has certainly paid off as thousands of residents who applied for benefits will receive an email from the Labor Department, notifying them that their claim has been processed and next steps to follow,” Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said.

Filers are strongly recommended to use the automated process and direct deposits to get your claims processed as quickly as possibly, Westby said.

The Department of Labor said it has manually processed 174,000 of those applications.

Dept. of Labor Responds to Unemployment Frustrations

Many filers have voiced frustrations to NBC Connecticut about having difficulty reaching someone at the Department of Labor and getting the assistance they need.

Westby said the system was overwhelmed by a "tsunami of claims" that it was not originally built for but it is working overtime to clear up the claims.

"I can only say be patient," said Westby. "A lot of these claims are duplicate claims, so we have to, we are in the process of fixing those duplicate claims.  Yes, there is a lag and I know any person that is out of work is in a crisis so we are working all day, all night, overtime,  weekends, holidays to rectify the situation. Just try to be patient. I really believe the automation fixes we’ve been  putting in recently are going to help that situation a lot."

Within the last three weeks, the Dept. of Labor has provided $107 million in benefit payments. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the agency was typically providing $15 to $16 million in unemployment benefits, according to commissioners.

The Department of Labor also announced the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which adds $600 in federal stimulus finds to weekly state benefit payments will begin April 24, Those additional payments will be included in the state's benefit payments the following week.

Benefits for those additional programs will be retroactive to the date a person need to apply, according to the labor department.

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