State news

Connecticut dedicates $160 million more to school reopening

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The state of Connecticut is providing local school districts with an additional $160 million to help them reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday.

Those funds are in addition to two earlier grants provided to schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, for a total of $266 million. Most of the money comes from federal funding. The Democratic governor said it reflects one of the largest per-student funding plans in the U.S.

“I think this gives you an idea about the priorities that we’ve got, the fact that the teachers in the school, we’ve got your back, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and we’re prioritizing all the ways you can get back to school safely,” Lamont said.

The funds will be spent on things like computers and internet hot zones for low-income students who may need distance learning; personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for schools; bus monitors to help students socially distance; additional bus routes in high-density areas to spread out the number of students on buses; additional staff to provide both remote schooling and in-school teaching; and support staff for students with special needs.

State officials required local districts to come up with three school reopening plans: a full in-school program, a hybrid program that includes both in-school and distance learning, and a full distance learning plan. They were also asked to provide cost estimates, which were used to help determine the grant amounts.

Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said Thursday that so far more than 55% of the state’s school districts are planning to offer full, in-person learning in the fall semester, while 44% are planning some form of hybrid learning, which could include some buildings offering full, in-person learning for younger students.

“Throughout the state of Connecticut I think most agree that we need to get our students in the classroom, learning in a safe environment,” Cardona said.

Connecticut on Thursday reported a third consecutive day without a COVID-19-related death. It was the seventh day in the past month that no new deaths were reported.

As of Thursday, a total of 4,437 people have died in the state of causes related to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the state saw just 20 new COVID-19 cases reported out of 8,984 tests performed.

“That’s a .2% positivity rate. That is by far the best we’ve been since the start of COVID,” Lamont said. “And we’re not trending in the right direction, but holding the line and this is a very good number.”

Officials in Fairfield are monitoring dozens of people for possible COVID-19 infections after seven young adults and parents who attended several gatherings around town last weekend and have tested positive.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick announced about 40 people had come in contact with the seven who became infected and they’re currently being monitored.

“While indoor gatherings of 25 people or 100 people outdoors are allowed by the governor’s executive order,” Kupchick said, “this is a reminder that organizers of such events need to be diligent in continuing to ensure social distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands and advising people to stay home if they do not feel well.”

Fairfield Health Department Director Sands Cleary said no one specific gathering is suspected as a source of the outbreak. He said the infected individuals attended at least four parties and gatherings, including a barbecue.

More crews arrive in Connecticut, state probing utilities

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Hundreds of more crews from out of state were arriving in Connecticut on Thursday to help restore power to nearly 580,000 homes and businesses that remained in the dark after Tropical Storm Isaias, as state officials announced an investigation into electricity utilities amid mounting criticism of their response.

Gov. Ned Lamont also announced Thursday that he deployed the Connecticut National Guard to help with power restoration.

A spokesman for the state’s largest electricity provider, Eversource, meanwhile, said there likely would have been many more outages if the company had not made hundreds of millions of dollars worth of upgrades under an agreement with the state following storms in 2011 and 2012 that cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Eversource and United Illuminating said it could be several more days until power is fully restored. Nearly 580,000 outages remained in the state late Thursday afternoon, down from about 611,000 during the late morning and down from more than 700,000 outages on Wednesday morning, the day after the storm.

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, announced Thursday that it will investigate the utilities’ response to determine if they were adequately prepared, adhered to laws and regulations and whether civil penalties should be imposed. PURA also will look into failures of the utilities’ outage response systems.

Gov. Ned Lamont had requested an investigation Wednesday, calling the restoration efforts “wholly inadequate.” He also expressed confidence Thursday that all polling places will have power for Tuesday’s primary election.

“I think we’re going to be in good position by Tuesday, or else there will be hell to pay,” Lamont said.

During an afternoon briefing, Lamont said officials were monitoring outages at nursing homes in the state, about a third of which were without power but operating on backup generators. He also said the Department of Labor is running on an old generator, and if it fails it could affect the distribution of unemployment benefits to 300,000 people. Many wastewater treatment plants also are operating on generators, and some cell phone towers were running on batteries.

The governor announced a second storm-related death in the state, a person fatally wounded in a chainsaw accident in Newtown. The person’s name hasn’t been released. A 66-year-old Naugatuck man, Raymond Schultz, died when a tree fell on him as he was clearing branches from a road. Five other people were seriously injured, Lamont said.

Eversource expected several hundred crews from other states and Canada to arrive in Connecticut on Thursday, after several hundred came to the state Wednesday. Eversource said it expected most of its outages to be restored by the end of the upcoming weekend. United Illuminating said it expected to have the majority of outages restored Saturday and restoration substantially completed by Monday.

Eversource underestimated the severity of Isaias, but United Illuminating did not, said Marissa Paslick Gillett, chairwoman of PURA.

“There are disturbing reports emerging about the coordination, or lack thereof, between our electric utilities and the communities which they serve,” Gillett said. “This is simply unacceptable. There will be a full, transparent investigation.”

Criticism mounted against the utility companies on Thursday, in Twitter posts by government officials.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, called their response “unacceptable.”

State Treasurer Shawn Wooden said, “The utility companies reaping huge profits from consumers must be held accountable for being unprepared for a natural disaster and looking out for the best interest of the people they serve.”

And Mayor Mark Boughton in Danbury, where more than 15,000 customers remained without power Thursday, posted a picture of people looking through binoculars with a caption saying, “Waiting on @eversourceenergy.”

Two storms that caused massive power outages in 2011 led to a new state law aimed at increasing the accountability of utility companies. An October snowstorm caused more than 830,000 outages which took nearly two weeks in some places to restore. That followed Tropical Storm Irene in August, which knocked out power to nearly 800,000 customers.

In October 2012, superstorm Sandy caused nearly 690,000 outages.

State Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven, and state Republican Sen. Paul Formica, of East Lyme, called on state lawmakers to be part of the PURA investigation.

“After Irene, the October storm and Sandy, how could Eversource not be prepared for a tropical storm with weeks of notice?” they asked, in a statement.

In January 2013, state regulators approved a $300 million plan for Eversource’s predecessor, Connecticut Light & Power, to strengthen its electricity system to help avoid extended storm-related outages. Under the plan, the company trimmed scores of trees, strengthened utility poles and equipment and installed coated, thicker-gauge wire.

Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot said Thursday that those upgrades likely prevented scores of additional outages this week.

“The damage would have been much worse,” he said. “Despite the number of outages we experienced with this storm on Tuesday, I think there was still a benefit — a resilient and hardened electric system.”

Despite Eversource’s tree-trimming efforts, insects, disease and drought left trees across the state vulnerable to high winds, Poirot said.

A United Illuminating spokesman, Edward Crowder, said the company will fully cooperate with the PURA investigation. He said UI’s preparation and response to the storm were consistent with its emergency plan that is filed with the state.

Ex-death row inmate's rape, murder conviction overturned

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former death-row inmate’s conviction in the rape and killing of a woman in Connecticut was overturned by the state Supreme Court, which ruled his rights were violated when he made admissions to a fellow prisoner.

In a decision released Thursday afternoon, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Lazale Ashby, now 35, for the Dec. 2, 2002 rape, kidnapping and killing of Elizabeth Garcia in Hartford, the Hartford Courant reported. 

Prosecutors plan to retry Ashby.

The court found that Ashby was entitled to representation by a lawyer when speaking with the other inmate, Kenneth Pladsen, because Pladsen had previously communicated with authorities about getting Ashby to incriminate himself.

The finding overruled Judge Carmen Espinosa, who had concluded during the trial that Pladsen acted on his own and not at the direction of now-retired Hartford police Det. Andrew Weaver, with whom he had previously conversed, when he coaxed Ashby into incriminating himself.

Ashby was previously sentenced to death after being convicted of multiple crimes. His sentence was later changed to life without the possibility of release, plus 125 years, after the Supreme Court abolished the state’s death penalty in 2015.

Ashby is also serving a 25-year sentence in another case — for murder in the fatal shooting of Nahshon Cohen, 22, on Sept. 1, 2003.

Prosecutor John Fahey told the Courant on Thursday that the state will try Ashby again for the rape, kidnapping and killing of Garcia.

“The state has every intention of retrying Mr. Ashby in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision,” he said.

Lamont calls for investigation of utilities' storm response

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called for an investigation of the state’s two largest electric utility companies Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of residents remained without power a day after Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the state.

Lamont asked the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to look into Eversource and United Illuminating and find out why they were not prepared for a quicker response, calling their power restoration efforts “wholly inadequate.”

As of Wednesday evening, just over 609,000 Eversource and just under 92,000 UI customers remained without power and Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said customers should “prepare for multiple days without power.”

The tongue lashing from Lamont came hours after he declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to provide services such as helping to clear roads. The state’s Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday was managing both the response to the storm and to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Lamont also submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a presidential emergency declaration, which would allow Connecticut to request direct federal financial help to supplement state and local government costs for responding to the storm. His administration has also begun the first damage assessments to determine if the state meets the threshold necessary for a presidential major disaster declaration, which could lead to a wider range of federal assistance.

Lamont on Wednesday urged both Eversource and United Illuminating to further ramp up their efforts to restore power, noting they had several days of advance notice of the storm, which brought down trees and power lines across the state.

“Find people wherever you can and get them here,” Lamont said. “Why weren’t they pre-positioned five days ago? We’ll have plenty of time to analyze that later. Right now, I’ve got a house on fire, so to speak, and I need the fire department fully staffed.”

This isn’t the first time the state’s utilities, electric and others, have come under criticism for their preparation for storms and their response to restore service.

In 2012, following Tropical Storm Irene and a devastating ice storm, a panel formed by then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy determined that the size of those storms had “revealed serious structural flaws” in the electric utilities’ “actual on-the-ground response to their customers.”

The panel issued 82 recommendations, including improved worst-case planning and staffing by the state’s utilities and better “hardening” of the state’s infrastructure to withstand natural disasters, noting that work should be done as soon as possible.

Eversource said Tuesday’s storm ranks just behind those two.

The company had 450 line crews out Wednesday and was bringing in crews from out of state in an effort to double that number by Thursday. United Illuminating, with a much smaller service area, said it had 465 personnel involved in the recovery effort.

Craig Hallstrom, Eversource’s president of electrical operations, defended his company’s response.

“We committed back on Friday to crews,” he said. “We know what the past has been so we hired hundreds of crews in anticipation of this.”

The storm has been blamed for at least one death in the state. Police said a 66-year-old Connecticut man was killed by a tree during the height of the storm.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, was driving in Naugatuck at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. When he got out of his car to clear branches from the road, a tree fell and hit him, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

At least seven other people were killed as the storm battered the East Coast on Tuesday with rain and fierce winds. They included Mario Siles, 60, who was inside a construction van that was crushed by a large tree in the Queens borough of New York City.

No new COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut for 2nd day

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — For the second day in a row, there have been no new COVID-19-associated deaths in Connecticut, according to new data released on Wednesday. It also marked the sixth day in the past month that no new deaths were reported.

As of Wednesday, a total of 4,437 people have died.

Meanwhile, the state’s infection rate continues to hover just below 1%. Of the 11,839 tests conducted since Tuesday, 115 were positive.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday that Connecticut is currently “in a good place” because the state’s baseline rate of COVID-19 infections continues to remain very low,. He predicted the state will have an upper hand with containing, rather than just mitigating, any flare-ups that might develop this fall.

Also Wednesday, there were 59 hospitalizations, one fewer patient than on Tuesday.

Suspect surrenders in double murder outside Connecticut bar

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. (AP) — A suspect in a double murder outside a Connecticut bar surrendered to authorities Thursday after the U.S. Marshals Service announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Russell Smith, of Windsor, turned himself in to the marshals and the Bloomfield Police Department, the Marshals Service announced.

Authorities say Russell is a suspect in the fatal shootings of two brothers outside Elizabeth’s Bar and Restaurant in Bloomfield on Feb. 22. The Marshals Service announced a $5,000 reward in the case on Monday.

Brothers Aaron Walker, 43, and Franklin Spencer, 42, were shot during a dispute that began inside the bar and spilled out into the parking lot, where shots were fired.

Police said they identified Smith as a suspect through surveillance video and witness statements. An arrest warrant was issued charging him with two counts of murder. It’s not clear if Smith has an attorney who can comment on the charges against him.

Rhode Island added to nearby states' quarantine lists

Travelers from Rhode Island have been added to the list of those who must quarantine while staying in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as some Northeast states begin to see signs of rising infections.

There are 34 states and Puerto Rico on the travel advisory, which requires visitors from those areas to isolate themselves for 14 days in an attempt to prevent another surge of COVID-19 in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Rhode Island is the first neighboring state added to Connecticut’s advisory. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said the restrictions do not apply to routine daily travel between the two states, and do not affect people who have to cross state lines to go to work.

“If somebody’s coming from Rhode Island to Connecticut and plans to spend more than a day, meaning they’re here for tourism or something, they’ve got to quarantine for 14 days,” Lamont said at an afternoon news briefing.

The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state — or territory — with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or an area with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that Delaware and Washington, D.C., were dropped from the travel advisory. He said anyone traveling from states no longer on the advisory should still quarantine for 14 days.

“We cannot go back to the hell we experienced just a few months ago — and surging infection rates across the country threaten to bring us back there — so we must all remain vigilant,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Meanwhile, one of the three states behind the advisory, New Jersey, is showing signs of increased COVID-19 spread — though still not enough to exceed the metrics.

New Jersey has seen an average of around five new confirmed COVID-19 virus per 100,000 residents over the last week. That’s up from a low of 2.5 on July 22, and down from a peak of 41.4 new cases per 100,000 on April 7.

New York reported a daily rate Monday of 1.05, with a seven-day average of 3.44 per 100,00. Connecticut’s was 1.0, with a seven-day average of 2 per 100,000.

Cuomo has said New Jersey wouldn’t be subject to the advisory because the two states are so closely intertwined.

Rhode Island’s infection rate was reported to be at about 10 per 100,000 for a seven-day average. The state health department put its daily average for Monday at 2.7%

“Our numbers are close to that 10 new cases per 100,000,” said Rhode Island Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken. “But we aren’t tracking who is coming into our state (for vacation) and then going back to Connecticut. So that will be up to Connecticut to enforce that quarantine requirement.”

1 dead, 8 injured in Hartford shootings

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two separate shootings in Hartford’s North End late Monday and early Tuesday killed a man and wounded eight other people, city police said.

Three people were wounded by gunfire in the first shooting shortly after 10:30 p.m., Lt. Paul Cicero said. Two victims were in surgery early Tuesday morning and another had a non-life-threatening injury, he said.

A few hours later, six people were shot during a large gathering at a warehouse. One of the victims, an adult male, was pronounced dead at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, Cicero said. Dozens of people were at the scene, he said.

Police are investigating whether the shootings were related. Officials did not disclose the victims’ names or possible motives.

The gun violence followed three double shootings in Connecticut last weekend.

A woman and man died after a shooting during a large gathering in a commuter parking lot in Manchester early Sunday morning. Two people were injured by gunfire at another large gathering in New London early Sunday, and two more were wounded in a shooting in Bridgeport late Saturday night.

2nd person dies after shooting at commuter lot gathering

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — A second person has died following a shooting at a Connecticut commuter parking lot where up to 200 people had gathered last weekend, state police said Tuesday.

Gregory Scott, 24, of Massachusetts, died from wounds from the shooting in Manchester early Sunday morning, state police said. The other victim who died was identified as Jennifer Hicks, 20, of Springfield, Massachusetts. Scott’s hometown wasn’t immediately available.

Troopers responded to the shooting at the lot near the Buckland Hills mall at about 2 a.m. on Sunday. State police said 100 to 200 people were there at the time, and investigators are asking any witnesses to come forward.

Police also announced that they were looking for a dark gray pickup truck with dark rims, possibility a 2013 to 2016 model.

No arrests have been made. State police did not release details on the gathering.

The shooting was one of three double shootings in Connecticut last weekend. Two people were wounded in a shooting at a large gathering in New London, and two others were injured in a shooting in Bridgeport.

Fauci: Connecticut is in 'a good place,' advises vigilance

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday that Connecticut is currently “in a good place” because the state’s baseline rate of COVID-19 infections is very low, predicting the state will have an upper hand with containing, rather than just mitigating, any flare-ups that might develop this fall.

The state’s infection rate has remained around 1% in recent weeks, among the lowest in the country.

“It is not inevitable that your numbers will go up” if the state continues to follow the fundamental principles of preventing the spread of infection, said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was referring to things like social distancing measures, mask wearing, contact tracing and making testing readily available.

“It is possible that you can use the favorable position that you are in now to keep the numbers down,” he said. “I urge you to utilize the advantageous position that you’re in, in Connecticut, with a very low baseline to try and keep it there.”

Monday marked the first time Fauci has participated in one of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s coronavirus briefing with reporters. Lamont has invited other medical experts, including former Food and Drug Administration Director Scott Gottlieb, to make presentations and answer questions from reporters.

Fauci’s appearance comes as the state’s teachers unions continue to voice concerns about the safety of returning to the classroom, especially given reports of children becoming infected in other parts of the country and the world. The Connecticut Education Association has said it opposes any plan to reopen schools in the state at 100% capacity, especially without the necessary funding to ensure protocols from the Centers for Disease Control are met.

Lamont highlighted three benchmarks for determining whether the number of cases warrant in-school learning, a combination of in-school and on-line learning, or all online learning. Currently, Connecticut has had fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents, which Lamont said is appropriate for in-school learning.

With a low infection rate, Fauci said “there’s very little chance of there being infection spread” in schools, so long as everyone is taking the steps needed to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s always up to the final decision of the responsible parent to do what’s best for the child,” he said. “We can only show you that when the infection is low, at the level you’re seeing now, the risk is low. But if you do start to see infections, you may need to pull back ... You need to be very flexible, with the primary motivating force being the safety and the welfare of the children and the teachers.”

Connecticut surpassed 50,000 positive cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, with an additional 252 positive tests since Friday. That’s out of an additional 35,173 tests performed since Friday. Meanwhile, there have been 4,4437 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of five since Friday. There were 56 hospitalizations.

While Connecticut’s economy is beginning to improve, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo warned Monday the state needs more financial help from the federal government to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, including the extension of the $600 a week supplemental unemployment benefit.

He noted how the bond rating agency Moody’s Analytics recently cited Connecticut as one of the few states with enough reserves to handle a modest recession, with a current balance of more than $2.8 billion, but warned that significant federal help was needed to prevent more serious scenarios.

“Without a significant investment from the federal government, those gains may slip away, and Connecticut families and businesses will suffer,” he said in a written statement.

Lembo issued his monthly financial and economic report on Monday, predicting the 2020 fiscal year will end with a $128.1 million budget deficit.

Connecticut has so far recovered more than 100,000 jobs lost at the beginning of the pandemic. However, Lembo said the state’s unemployment levels are still near record-highs and employment remains down 172,700 jobs compared to a year ago.

Connecticut prison officials say they are prepared for a second wave of COVID-19.

Interim Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros told lawmakers Monday that the department, which did not have enough masks or other personal protective equipment for inmates and staff in March, is now well stocked with a 90-day supply on hand.

But Quiros also cautioned lawmakers that the department will need more funding from the state to maintain current levels of cleaning, testing and medical care at the prisons.

“Once the federal reimbursement is no longer in effect, we’re going to still have to test the offenders upon release, upon entry, so I think there is going to be a cost there for the testing and a cost there for the medical assistance to carry out the testing at all 14 correctional facilities,” he said.

Quiros said despite historically low inmate numbers, he is recommending the state not close any prisons, because he believes space could be needed to properly socially distance inmates should another wave of COVID-19 hit the prisons.

Quiros also said he plans to move the department’s COVID-19 medical isolation unit out of the state’s super-max Northern Correctional Institution, because he believes inmates may have hidden their coronavirus symptoms to avoid being transferred to that prison.

The department has had more than 1,400 inmates and 386 staff members test positive for the virus since the pandemic began. Seven inmate deaths have been linked to the coronavirus.

Ceremony marks 10th anniversary of beer distributor shooting

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — Workers and families gathered Monday for a brief, low-key ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of a mass shooting that killed eight people at a Connecticut beer distribution company.

The small crowd observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the killings on Aug. 3, 2010, at Hartford Distributors in Manchester before prayers were said at a memorial on the company’s grounds.

“You know it hurts coming here,” Steven Cirigliano told WFSB-TV. “But as the day goes on, you know that you’re not alone.”

His cousin, Bryan Cirigliano, 51, was among the victims. Also killed were Victor James, 59, Craig Pepin, 60, Edwin Kennison Jr., 60, Doug Scruton, 56, William Ackerman, 50, Louis Felder Jr., 50, and Francis Fazio Jr., 57.

A driver for Hartford Distributors, Omar Thornton, had just been fired for stealing beer when he killed the eight men and wounded two others. Before he killed himself, Thornton, who was Black, told a 911 operator that he was the victim of racism at the company, a claim police said was not supported by evidence.

The memorial, in a wooded area outside the company’s warehouse, includes eight stainless steal pillars with the names and biographies of the victims.

Reward offered to find suspect in killings of 2 brothers

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. (AP) — U.S. marshals are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man accused of killing two people outside a Connecticut bar as authorities search for him in the Northeast and South.

The marshals’ Fugitive Task Force is looking for Russell Smith, of Windsor, Connecticut, who police say is wanted in connection with the fatal shootings of two brothers outside Elizabeth’s Bar and Restaurant in Bloomfield on Feb. 22. The reward was announced Monday.

Officials say Smith’s last known location was in McDonough, Georgia, on July 31, and he has been known to visit people in New England, New York, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. Authorities say he may be staying with a girlfriend, friends or family.

The Marshals Service said Smith is believed to have two handguns and should be considered dangerous.

Brothers Aaron Walker, 43, and Franklin Spencer, 42, were shot during a dispute that began inside the bar and spilled out into the parking lot, where gunfire erupted.

Police said they identified Smith as a suspect through surveillance video and witness statements. An arrest warrant has been issued charging him with two counts of murder.

Police investigating 3 double shootings in Connecticut

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — One of six victims in three separate double shootings in Connecticut late Saturday and early Sunday has died, state police said.

Jennifer Hicks, 20, of Springfield, Massachusetts, died at a hospital following a shooting in a commuter parking lot in Manchester, state police said. Troopers responded to the lot at about 2 a.m. Sunday and found Hicks and another person wounded. Officials did not disclose the other person’s condition.

At about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Bridgeport police say a man and a woman were shot as they were sitting in a car. The woman was shot multiple times and was in critical condition at Bridgeport Hospital, while the man is expected to survive a gunshot wound to his leg and is being treated at the same hospital.

In New London, police responded to a report of shots fired Sunday morning shortly after midnight and encountered a large group of people at a city street corner. A man with a gunshot wound was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where a second man wounded in the same shooting also was brought. Their conditions have not been disclosed.

Police have not released the names of the other five victims or details on motives for the shootings, which remain under investigation.

Flare-up in COVID-19 cases traced to young partygoers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A flare-up of coronavirus cases in Greenwich is being partly blamed on a series of parties involving young people, whose families are not cooperating with efforts to conduct contact tracing, local officials said.

There were 41 new cases of from July 19-25. Barbara Heins, an aide to Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, told the Hartford Courant that half of those were individuals aged 10 to 19, mostly teens who attended many of the same parties.

“Many of the individuals they are contacting, including the young people and their families, they are not cooperating,” Heins said.

A Connecticut Department of Public Health spokesman said the agency was aware of the situation in Greenwich and was working with local contact tracers to track how far the virus has spread.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, whose private home is in Greenwich, has warned about the pitfalls of young people not social distancing. Several days ago, he and Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre S. Gifford issued a public statement expressing concern about coronavirus cases among teens and young adults in Connecticut. Statistics from Connecticut and elsewhere show that 18- to 29-year-olds represent substantial numbers of new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

Nearly half of all Connecticut residents who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 from July 19 to 25 were under age 30, according to state data.

“I know how frustrating this is for young people because you’ve been sort of quarantined for the last four or five months, and that’s not really the best place to be when you’re 17 years of age,” Lamont said Tuesday. “I’ve got to ask you to be very careful a little bit longer.”

Camillo has said his office has been receiving more complaints about residents, especially younger people, having large gatherings, picnics, cookouts and swim parties without adhering to social distancing or wearing face masks. He said in his message, “You may be with friends and family but you don’t know who they all have had contact with.”

Tornado sightings reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts

SALISBURY, Conn. (AP) — Authorities in Connecticut and western Massachusetts received several reports of tornadoes Sunday evening as strong thunderstorms moved through the region. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Connecticut State Police said they received multiple reports of a tornado around the Falls Village section of Salisbury in the northwestern corner of the state. Trees and utility wires were reported down in the area. Video of what appeared to be a tornado moving through a hilly, heavily wooded area was posted on social media.

The National Weather Service also said there were multiple reports of a tornado in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. Trees and utility wires also were reported down.

The Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for sections of western New England and eastern New York state on Sunday and issued tornado warnings for parts of northwestern Connecticut and western Massachusetts early in the evening.

Baltimore talks about hosting Blue Jays; how about Hartford?

TORONTO (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles and the state of Maryland have had talks about the team sharing Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the displaced Toronto Blue Jays amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Blue Jays are looking for a major league park after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto, and the state of Pennsylvania nixed a deal to play in Pittsburgh because of frequent travel throughout the United States.

The governor of Connecticut is pitching, too, to have the Blue Jays play at the Double-A ballpark in Hartford.

Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday. The Blue Jays are scheduled to play their first home game July 29 against the defending champion Washington Nationals.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press there have been talks about the state hosting the Blue Jays.

“We’ve had some discussions with the Orioles. I don’t know the final details of that. Obviously, we’re watching our numbers very carefully everyday. We’re concerned about the spikes in other states. I know major league baseball is also taking a look at it day to day,” Hogan told the AP.

“We’re not ready to put fans in the stands, but if you have, you know, a couple of guys standing in the field with masks on pretty far distanced from each other, and they can figure out a way to do it safely, maybe it can happen.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said discussions are still happening “but we don’t have any announcement to make right now just yet.”

“Maryland Stadium Authority is talking to the Orioles about it, so that’s where the discussions currently are on the state level, and then I think once they’ve kind of come to an agreement on something they’ll bring it to the governor and the health department,” Ricci told the AP.

A source familiar with the matter told the AP the Orioles are engaged in talks with the Blue Jays about playing “home games” at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The official said the Orioles are trying to help Toronto however they can but says there are lots of logistics to be worked through yet in terms of feasibility. The official said the Blue Jays would build a makeshift clubhouse in the stadium concourse in one scenario.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the Blue Jays are working on other contingencies, too.

The Blue Jays may find it hard to get clearance to play in Baltimore as COVID-19 cases doubled in the city in the past month. Masks will be mandatory in indoor public spaces starting Friday and Mayor Bernard Young announced a halt to indoor dining, about a month after allowing restaurants to half full.

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, noted a significant increase in the number of cases in southwestern Pennsylvania and the risk of adding travelers to the region as the reason to decline the Blue Jays’ request to play in Pittsburgh. The Blue Jays and the Pirates had an agreement to for the team to play at PNC Park pending state approval.

But the number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported daily by Allegheny County — which includes Pittsburgh and 1.2 million residents — has increased tenfold in the last two weeks and the state rejected the plan.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk said Tuesday the players were told Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore is a possibility.

Atkins said earlier this week if the Blue Jays can’t find a major league park, their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York, would be their most likely site for home games. But it lacks major league caliber facilities and based on what the players want and the collaboration they are getting from other teams and MLB, Atkins said the Blue Jays are focused on major league parks, as long as they can be safe. He said health and safety is the priority, so the ability to be socially distant without comprising other teams’ ability to maintain social distance is important.

The team had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

If a major league stadium can’t be found, the Blue Jays could be facing a 60-game road trip, playing opposing teams in their own ballparks instead of a home park.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is making a personal push to have the Blue Jays use Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford, a $56 million, 6,121-seat minor league park that opened in 2017. The facility is home to the Double-A Eastern League Hartford Yard Goats, but their season has been canceled because of the pandemic.

Lamont, a former businessman, first reached out to the team about two weeks ago. The Democrat has had at least two discussions with the team, including a half-hour call on Thursday with CEO Mark Shapiro, when he pitched the fact that Connecticut currently has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, said his spokesman, Max Reiss.

“They have indoor batting cages. They have hitting bays. They have a large clubhouse for players. You know, it’s a top-flight facility. And, you know, we if there’s a way to make this happen, we would absolutely love to. But at the end of the day, it’s the decision of the Toronto Blue Jays,” Reiss said.

“It’s perhaps the best minor league facility in America. The geography of it could not be better. You’re a two-hour bus ride from Boston. You’re a two-hour bus ride from New York. You’re a short charter flight away from, you know, from Philadelphia and Baltimore.”

Lawmakers don masks, vote to allow absentee voting in Nov.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Given the possibility of an uptick in coronavirus infections this fall, Connecticut’s House of Representatives on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to give all voters the option to vote by absentee ballot and avoid the polls, during a surreal special session where members donned face masks and voted by computer, most sequestered in their legislative offices.

Lawmakers still planned to also consider a wide-ranging police accountability bill late into the night, but it was unclear whether there was enough support for the proposal.

It marked the first time since March that the General Assembly has convened, due to the COVID-19 crisis. While the state Capitol building and offices were closed to the public, lawmakers were greeted outside by hundreds of shouting protesters. At least six groups staged protests, including police officers from across the state, members of Black Lives Matter, teachers, unionized health care workers, prison reform advocates and people concerned about ballot fraud. At its height, State Capitol Police estimated the combined number of protesters numbered roughly 1,500 people.

Only the House was meeting in special session on Thursday to vote on police, absentee ballot and health care reforms concerning telehealth and insulin pricing. The Senate is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

The House voted 144-2 in favor of allowing voters to use COVID-19 and their concerns about becoming exposed at the polls as a valid reason for using an absentee ballot in the November election. Connecticut has strict rules about when people can vote by absentee, limiting it to reasons such as being out of town during voting hours or being an active member of the armed services, and some critics of the bill said they worried that expanding that list and allowing special drop boxes for ballots could lead to fraud.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, disagreed, saying it was a matter of life and death for some people, noting infection spikes that happened in other states during their elections. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont already signed an executive order allowing COVID-19 to be an excuse for an absentee ballot in the upcoming Aug. 11 primary, but his authority ends before the general election.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 48,000 positive cases in Connecticut, an increase of 83 since Wednesday. There have been 4,410 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of four since Wednesday. The number of hospitalizations grew by nine, for a total of 72.

Lawmakers also voted unanimously in favor of a bill that expands the types of health care providers that can provide telehealth services, a crucial technology during the pandemic. It also requires that insurance cover the cost. House members later approved another bill that would cap the price of insulin and diabetic supplies and create an emergency insulin program.

US signs contract with Pfizer for COVID-19 vaccine doses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration will pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for a December delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday.

The U.S. could buy another 500 million doses under the agreement, Azar said.

“Now those would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Azar said during an appearance on Fox News.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that the agreement is with HHS and the Defense Department for a vaccine candidate the companies are developing jointly. It is the latest in a series of similar agreements with other vaccine companies.

The agreement is part of President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, under which multiple COVID-19 vaccines are being developed simultaneously. The program aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Under the initiative, the government will speed development and buy vaccines — before they are deemed safe and effective — so that the medication can be in hand and quickly distributed once the FDA approves or authorizes its emergency use after clinical trials.

Trump, during a Wednesday briefing, described the agreement as “historic.

“We think we have a winner there. We also think we have other companies right behind that are doing very well in the vaccines, long ahead of schedule,” he told reporters.

Pfizer and BioNTech said the U.S. will pay $1.95 billion upon receipt of the first 100 million doses it produces, following FDA authorization or approval.

Americans will receive the vaccine for free, the companies said.

Azar said the contract brings to five the number of potential vaccines that are under development with U.S. funding. Nearly two dozen are in various stages of human testing around the world, with several entering final test to prove if they really work.

As early as next week, a vaccine created by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. is set to begin final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to see if it really is safe and effective. A few other vaccines have begun smaller late-stage studies in other countries, and in the U.S. a series of huge studies are planned to begin each month through fall in hopes of, eventually, having several vaccines to use.

Pfizer is finishing an earlier stage of testing to determine which of four possible candidates to try in a larger, final study.

The FDA has told manufacturers it expects any vaccine to be at least 50% effective to qualify. But at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said he was worried Trump could push the agency into prematurely clearing a vaccine.

“My fear is that FDA will be forced by the Trump administration to approve a vaccine that lacks effectiveness,” Pallone said.

Executives from five leading vaccine companies testified that they will take no shortcuts in their testing of the shots, so that people can be confident in the results. In addition, it won’t be just the FDA rendering an opinion -- each vaccine will likely be judged nearly simultaneously by regulatory authorities in Britain and Europe.

“I don’t think any of the regulatory bodies that we have interacted with are lowering their standards,” said Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president of AstraZeneca, which is manufacturing a potential vaccine developed by Oxford University. “We would not be trying to launch a medicine that is not effective.”

Delaware gov 'mad as hell' that state is on quarantine list

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney said he is “mad as hell” that residents of his state have once again been placed on a quarantine list issued by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Carney made the comment during a news conference Tuesday, saying that it “doesn’t make any sense” why people from Delaware must now quarantine for 14 days when traveling to the three states.

“We are better today than we were when we were first put on the list two weeks ago,” Carney said at the news conference. “And we are better today than we were last week when we were taken off the list. We shouldn’t be on the list.”

The advisory includes states if their seven-day rolling average of positive tests exceeds 10%, or if the number of positive cases exceeds 10 per 100,000 residents.

Delaware has a positivity rate of 4.2% and about 105 coronavirus cases a day on a five-day average, health officials said Tuesday. The governor believes Delaware was added back to the list for two days this month where there were more than 100 daily confirmed cases in the state.

“As I said to Govs. Cuomo and Murphy last week, we’re going to be on and off, unless we stop testing,” Carney said at the news conference, referring to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “And we’re not going to stop testing.”

Delaware was taken off a quarantine list by the three states and Pennsylvania last week after Carney voiced opposition to the move. He also said the state was being “penalized” for its small population and expanding coronavirus testing.

Death of teen found in shallow grave ruled a homicide

ROMNEY, W.Va. (AP) — The death of a 14-year-old Connecticut boy whose body was found in a shallow grave in rural West Virginia has been ruled a homicide, authorities said.

Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Nathan Sions said an autopsy helped determine the manner of death, but he declined on Tuesday to release more details on how Jonathan “Johnny” Adams died, news outlets reported.

“This investigation was difficult and complicated for various reasons that will not be released at this time, due to the ongoing investigation, but we are confident this was an isolated incident,” Sions said.

The teen from West Hartford, Connecticut had been staying with relatives in West Virginia since March and was reported missing on July 12.

Search crews found his body Saturday in a shallow grave deep in the woods where relatives say he was last seen alive.

An aunt, Elizabeth Adams, said the boy had worked remotely to finish eighth grade and was getting ready to begin his freshman year at Hall High School in West Hartford.

He had “a bubbly, lovely spirit,” she told the Hartford Courant.


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