Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday publicly announced financial incentives for Connecticut nursing homes that agree to house only COVID-19 positive residents, a move aimed at preventing the system from being overwhelmed by the outbreak.
The details of the additional funds — $600 per-day for each person served, which is more than double the average daily Medicaid payment rate — come after the initial plan and a list of proposed facilities released earlier this week drew sharp criticism from a nursing home executive and family members who said it took some by surprise, creating an “uproar.”
“The discussions with the operators are going on around the clock right now, and we’re looking forward to seeing forward progress on that in the very near future,” said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, who urged the industry to “step up” and agree to participate.
Besides the extra funds for the planned COVID-19 homes, the Democratic governor announced that all 213 nursing homes in Connecticut would be receiving a 10% increase in Medicaid funding, from April 1 through June 30, to cover expenses related to the outbreak. The three-month increase is expected to cost $35.5 million.
The administration also wants to reopen some closed facilities to increase the amount of available beds as well. The state is offering to help with start-up costs and to make the same $600-per-day payments for each COVID-19-positive nursing home resident served.
In a letter sent Thursday to residents’ families and staff at Manchester Manor and Vernon Manor and Arbors of Hop Brook in Manchester, CEO Paul Liistro criticized Lamont for releasing details of the proposal being worked out with the industry before the facilities could properly notify residents, family members and staff.
“The community uproar is deafening. Before the logic and the plans for transition could occur, the confidentiality was breached and, now, execution is impossible,” Liistro wrote in the letter Thursday.
Patricia Hastings, whose 91-year-old mother lives at Vernon Manor, said Liistro’s letter raised several red flags for her. No one has tested positive at Vernon Manor, and it was not on the list first released by Lamont.
“Why would you even want to disturb these people who are basically safe as this moment that we know of and create potential for a cross contamination?” she asked. “Now you’re going to move people who are elderly — some have Alzheimer’s, some have dementia — and you’re going to uproot them from the home they have? I don’t think they should be doing that to senior citizens. It’s disorienting.”
Projected Hospital Beds Needed
Lamont said Friday that Connecticut is expected to need about 12,000 COVID-19 hospital beds and 4,000 ventilators during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor said the peak will vary in different parts of the state, but is still about three weeks away in Fairfield County, which is expected to experience the surge first. He said the state currently has 7,000 hospital beds, and about 4,000 are COVID-19 ready. He said the state currently has about 1,000 ventilators.
The governor’s office reported Friday night 132 people in Connecticut have died from COVID-19, with 909 currently hospitalized. The governor said a new 15-minute test for the coronavirus is being implemented at Stamford Hospital, which he said will free up beds as people test negative.
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.
ACLU Files Lawsuit
A lawsuit filed Friday seeks an emergency order that would force the state to release prisoners deemed to be at the most risk of contracting the coronavirus. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut acted on behalf of four inmates and the the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
The plaintiffs include one inmate with an autoimmune condition, one who is over age 60, one who is scheduled for release next month, and one who is being held in lieu of a $5,000 bond and has only one lung.
The Department of Correction has confirmed infections in 11 prisoners and 19 staff members in the state’s prisons. Officials there did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Possible Voting Rule Changes
Lamont’s office is working with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, legislative leaders, town clerks and registrars of voters to come up with a compromise that might allow people who don’t feel safe going to the polls to vote by absentee ballot. Lamont said the concept make sense but he’s “navigating the politics” around the issue, referencing the debate over vote-by-mail proposals. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Merrill stressed to Lamont the importance of relaxing Connecticut’s current restrictions on absentee ballots usage to ease the crowds at polling places.