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Tasha Stevens
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State News Stories

Nurses ratify contract

Registered nurses at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich have approved a new, four-year collective bargaining contract after going on a two-day strike amid disputes over pay and the availability of protective gear during the coronavirus pandemic.

The union representing more than 400 nurses voted nearly unanimously on Wednesday to approve the settlement with the hospital, which is located in a city that has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The agreement was reached Saturday between the union and Hartford Healthcare, operator of the 213-bed hospital, after an intervention by Lamont, who had voiced concern about nurses striking when positive cases have been increasing in southeastern Connecticut.

“The overwhelming support in favor of this agreement proves what we’ve all seen throughout this pandemic: nurses united can never be divided,” said Backus Federation of Nurses President Sherri Dayton in a written statement.

AFT Connecticut, which represents the nurses, said the labor agreement improves protective gear policies, “empowers the caregivers to address staffing issues” and resolves long-standing recruitment and retention concerns by making “significant economic investments” in the workforce. The nurses have complained about high turnover and low pay in relation to surrounding hospitals.

The new agreement takes effect immediately.


Hallween tradition at Governor's Residence cancelled

Given that Hartford is a “red zone” community, with more than 15 cases per 100,000 people, Governor Ned Lamont said that reluctantly he will not be giving out candy on Halloween to trick-or-treaters from the executive residence, which is in the capital city.

It has been a longstanding tradition for governors to hand out candy, often full-size chocolate bars from Connecticut-based Munson’s Chocolates, to long lines of eager children in costumes.

“This year, for the first year, we’re not going to be able to do Halloween,” said Lamont. “We are in Hartford and it is in a red zone. We do attract a crowd. And I say that with great disappointment.”


Judge orders hearing to decide if Jennifer Dulos is dead

FARMINGTON, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut probate judge said Thursday that she needs more time and may need to hear more evidence before deciding whether to declare a missing Connecticut mother legally dead.

Jennifer Dulos disappeared May 24, 2019, after dropping her five children at school.

Police in January charged her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, with killing her in her New Canaan home and driving off with her body, which still hasn’t been found. He took his own life later that month.

Attorney Christopher Hug, the administrator for the estate of Fotis Dulos, asked Judge Evelyn Daly on Thursday to waive the normal seven-year waiting period to declare a missing person legally dead.

Bank officials wrote that he can’t access certain funds to pay creditors of the estate unless it is determined that Jennifer Dulos died before her estranged husband did.

In his motion, Hug argues that Jennifer Dulos was likely dismembered by Fotis Dulos.

Jennifer Dulos’ mother, Gloria Farber, has custody of the couple’s children. Her attorney, Richard Weinstein, joined in asking for a death declaration.

“The sooner we can get to the closure of Dulos’ estate, the better it will be for everyone,” Richard Weinstein said. “The tragic truth of the matter is that Jennifer Dulos is dead.”

Daly said she will study the issue and assess whether more witnesses need to be called to testify before she decides on the request.


Chuckles, Connecticut's prognosticating groundhog, has died

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — Chuckles X, who served as Connecticut’s official prognosticating groundhog, has died.

The blind female woodchuck that conveyed forecasts of spring to Manchester Mayor Jay Moran for the past two years died last weekend at her home at the Lutz Children’s Museum, Kate Morrissey, the museum’s interim director, said Wednesday.

The Manchester museum is now searching for a Chuckles XI. The title of Chuckles is bestowed on a groundhog that is usually donated to the museum by an animal rehabilitator after being found injured. It is never taken from the wild, Morrissey said.

Chuckles X came to the museum after losing her sight to burns from a chemical likely put out to kill her, Morrissey said. She was about 5 or 6 years old and died after a brief illness, the museum said.

The museum holds a ceremony every February, when children join in singing a song written about Chuckles and listen to her prediction, which she allegedly whispers to the mayor.

The festivities have their origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early. Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil is the nation’s most famous prognosticating groundhog.


Golf tournament raises $1.6 million despite no ticket sales

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — The Travelers Championship announced Wednesday that June’s golf tournament raised more than $1.6 million for Connecticut charities despite being a television-only event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PGA event, which donates all of its net proceeds, will give money to 115 local charities this year, officials said.

Tournament director Nathan Grube said the loss of ticket revenue was partially offset by corporate donors who provided funds even without getting the ticket packages, receptions or hospitality tents in return.

Last year, with about 200,000 spectators, the tournament donated about $2.1 million to charity.

This year the charities included several dealing with pandemic and social justice issues, including 4-CT, a nonprofit organization that funds statewide COVID-19 relief efforts such as food banks and child care for essential workers.

The tournament also gave a grant to the University of New Haven’s Center for Advanced Policing and Tow Youth Justice Institute for a program to help educate and train police officers so they can improve relationships with the communities they serve.


Police say child forced to kneel on tacks, drink hot sauce

NAUGATUCK, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man is facing child abuse charges for forcing a child to sleep in a locked closet and making him kneel on thumb tacks and drink hot sauce until he vomited, police said.

Kevin Grant, 31, of Naugatuck was arrested last week on charges of second-degree assault, intentional cruelty to persons, risk of injury to a child, second-degree reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, police said.

Grant’s wife, Kaitlin Elizabeth Baptiste, 29, was arrested on charges of risk of injury to a child, second-degree reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit both intentional cruelty to persons and disorderly conduct. Police said she was aware of the abuse and allowed it to happen.

The Hartford Courant reported that Grant’s bail was set at $25,000. He posted bail after his arraignment in Superior Court in Waterbury on Monday and is scheduled to return to court Nov. 10. Baptiste also posted her $10,000 bail and is due in court the same day.


Profane messages briefly mar congressional debate

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Candidates in Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District race on Tuesday condemned profane and threatening messages that appeared on screen during a virtual debate.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson, Republican Mary Fay and Green Party candidate Tom McCormick were all at different locations when they took part via video conference in Monday’s debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Hartford and West Hartford Community Interactive.

“This type of hatred has no place in Connecticut,” Larson said in a statement. He said it was despicable that Fay and the moderator were attacked.

In an online video of the debate, one person sent messages with profane, sexual and anti-LGBTQ language that appeared on screen for more than two minutes as Fay, who is openly gay, and Larson spoke. The moderator told watchers the debate had just been “Zoom bombed” and the comments were blocked.

Fay said some of the messages also threatened bodily harm. She said she alerted West Hartford police.

“It was hateful. It was vulgar. It was disgusting. It was threatening,” she said in a phone interview. “It was horrible. It broke my heart. It kept me up last night.”

McCormick also condemned the comments but said the incident shouldn’t be given undue attention.


Connecticut's infection rate climbs to highest since June

Connecticut’s coronavirus infection rate has climbed to its highest level since June, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday, urging residents to be disciplined “a little bit longer.”

The Democrat said the percentage of people infected among those tested was 3%, up from 1.7% on Monday. Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 grew by 22 patients, for a total of 217.

“Connecticut is not an island unto itself,” said Lamont, noting that infection rates are increasing in surrounding states and across the U.S. “That tells you it’s going to take a little bit longer for us to get through this. A little bit longer (until) the therapies and vaccines are able to give us some security on the backside of COVID.”

Meanwhile, Lamont backed off from comments he made Monday about a plan to change the benchmarks for when state residents and out-of-state travelers coming from states and territories with high infection rates must quarantine for 14 days.

Lamont said he and the governors of New York and New Jersey have decided there will be no advisory for travel among the three states.

“Rather than change the metrics overall, it made a lot more sense to say, ‘Within our three states, let’s treat it as one region. We’ll be able to travel between each other,’” Lamont said during a news conference in Windsor about grants for small businesses.

Lamont said he planned to reach out to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well, noting they are also part of a region where people frequently cross state borders.

“That said, (we) urge everybody to stay close at home as best you can. No need to do nonessential travel,” Lamont said. For the rest of the country, he said, the existing metric will be kept in place, which is 10 cases per 100,000 population, or 10% positivity rates.

Lamont had said Monday that the benchmark would be changed to 10 cases per 100,000 and 5% positivity rates, given the fact Connecticut had exceeded the 10 cases per 100,000 criterion.

As of Tuesday, there have been 4,559 COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut, an increase of five since Monday.


Labor Dept: Women basketball coaches at UConn were underpaid

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut has agreed to pay a total of just under $250,000 to seven women, including four members of Geno Auriemma’s 2014 women’s basketball coaching staff, after the U.S. Labor Department found they had been underpaid when compared with men in similar positions.

A total of $249,539 will go to the women, who were identified by the Labor Department as two law professors and five women who hold the title of Specialist IA and Specialist IIA in the school’s athletic department.

UConn, responding to an email request from The Associated Press, identified those employees by title as its women’s associate head basketball coach (Chris Dailey), the team’s two assistant coaches in 2014 (Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley), the director of women’s basketball operations (Sarah Darras) and the director of football operations (Sarah Lawless).

The agreement follows a review by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the school contends each case had “complexities that were unique to those employees, but which UConn maintains was not due to gender.”

She said the school identified the issue on its own and already has paid one employee $92,290 in adjusted compensation. The school did not identify that employee.

But the Labor Department said it found that significant pay disparities remained “even when legitimate factors affecting pay were taken into account.”

The six other employees will receive payments ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, according to the settlement.

Dailey had received just under $313,000 in salary and fringe benefits from the school during the fiscal year that ended in June 2014, according to the state. Ralph received just over $272,000 and Moseley was paid just over $200,600.

The men’s basketball team did not have an associate head coach that year. Head coach Kevin Ollie was paid just under $2.8 million. Men’s basketball assistant coach Glen Miller received just over $312,600 in compensation. Assistant Karl Hobbs received just under $286,600 and assistant Ricky Moore received just under $259,600, according to the state.

Dailey and Ralph declined to comment through a team spokeswoman. Messages seeking comment also were left Tuesday by the AP for Auriemma and Moseley.

The Labor Department said the school has agreed to perform an in-depth analyses of its total employment process and revise any pay practices and implement improved policies to eliminate the possibility of gender discrimination in pay.

“The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is satisfied that the University of Connecticut has addressed the pay issues found in our review,” Craig Leen, the director of the Labor Department’s compliance office said in a statement.


Arts grants announced

Governor Ned Lamont has announced the state will provide $9 million in grants to certain nonprofit arts organizations to help them during the pandemic.

The money from the federal Cares Act and the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund is targeted toward arts organizations such as theaters, art schools, orchestras and dance groups in danger of closing or those needing funds to rehire workers.

Organizations that qualify will receive at least a base grant of $5,000.


'Unenforceable' out-of-state quarantine rule to be adjusted

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut is planning to revamp its benchmarks for when people entering the state from locations with large COVID-19 rates will need to quarantine.

Currently, both state residents and out-of-state travelers coming from states and territories with 10 cases per 100,000 population or 10% positivity rates must fill out a state travel form and isolate for 14 days. Under the new rule, people must take such steps if they come from locations with 10 cases per 100,000 and 5% positivity rates.

“The other threshold was so broad that it was including about 85 percent of our states across the country. It was becoming unenforceable,” said Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont during his coronavirus briefing with reporters. He said the revised advisory, which New York and New Jersey may also adopt, will still impact those people coming from states with substantially higher infection rates than Connecticut’s.

“I think that means we’ve brought the number of states that fall in that category from over 40 down to about 33, which is more manageable,” he said.

As of Monday, Connecticut itself surpassed the threshold of 10 cases per 100,000 with 11.2 new cases per 100,000. The state’s seven-day rolling average for positive cases as of Monday was 1.7%.

Lamont said the state will continue to issue fines for Connecticut residents and out-of-state residents who violate the quarantine and state notification rules. As of last week, the state has issued 45 fines, most to people from Connecticut.

Lamont said his administration is still trying to determine how to handle workers who live in one state and work in another if Connecticut reaches the new benchmark.

“Obviously at that point, my strong recommendation would be, stay close to home as much as you can,” he said. “We’ve always had an exception for 24 hours, if you have to go into the city for some work-related, essential activity. So there would be ways to work around it. But stay close to home if that happens.”

As of Monday, there have been 4,554 COVID-related deaths, 12 more since Friday.


New York won't enforce New Jersey, Connecticut quarantines

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The rate of COVID-19 infections has risen enough in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to require those states’ residents to quarantine if they travel to New York, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York won’t enforce the rules against those residents.

New Jersey, New York and Connecticut had announced the joint travel advisory this summer at a time when the Northeast was seeing relatively low rates of infection while other parts of the country saw spikes. Now, two of those states meet the criteria to be placed on their own quarantine lists.

But the governor said Tuesday he doesn’t expect residents from Connecticut, New Jersey or Pennsylvania to follow New York’s rule requiring self-quarantine for 14 days for states on the list.

“There is no practical way to quarantine New York from New Jersey and Connecticut,” he told reporters in a conference call. “There are just too many interchanges, there are too many interconnections, there are too many people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy.”

States are added to the quarantine list if they hit a threshold of averaging 10 or more new cases per day per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.

States can also land on the quarantine list if 10% of tests came up positive on average over the past week.

Connecticut has averaged 11.2 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, while New Jersey has averaged 10.3, Pennsylvania has averaged 11.1 and Massachusetts has reached 9.9.

“The norm in the country is going up,” Cuomo said. “We are not going up the way the norm in the country is going up. And hence, they’re ‘quarantined’ from New York.”

While Cuomo’s Special Counsel Beth Garvey said during the call that both Connecticut and New Jersey would be “added” to the list this week, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi later clarified they would not be.

“We hadn’t changed anything in our metrics,” he told the Associated Press. “We’re going to acknowledge they meet the criteria. We’re not enforcing a quarantine order.”

Two different states are officially being added to New York’s list of 40 states and territories: Arizona, which has had a seven-day average of 10.9 new cases per 100,000 residents, and Maryland, which has had an average of 10.2.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that was he talking with New Jersey and New York about making it easier for states to avoid getting on the quarantine list.

But Cuomo’s office said Monday that Lamont was only speaking for Connecticut.

Cuomo said he’ll be talking with Connecticut and New Jersey officials Tuesday and expects to “have more to say” on travel rules by Wednesday.

He said they’ll be talking “about making it clear to the extent travel among the states or between the states is non-essential, it should be avoided.”


Seized, then stolen back: Hartford battles with dirt bikers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Police in Hartford are having to take extra measures to keep illegal dirt bikes off the city's streets. The Hartford Courant reports police are moving a number of the vehicles from an impound lot because owners of the bikes and ATVs found where they were being stored and stole them back. Police Chief Jason Thody told the newspaper that multiple people had broken into the lot. The bikes and ATVs are prohibited in the city, and police have seized more than 100 in recent years. Police say in addition to moving the bikes to another location, they will increase security at the impound lot.
 


Invasive insect reappears, posing risk for Connecticut crops

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - An invasive insect has reappeared in parts of Connecticut, and experts are worried it could spell danger for some of the state's crops and trees. The spotted lanternfly has been seen in Greenwich this fall. It has been seen previously in other parts the state and hasn't caused major damage so far. The brightly colored insects first arrived from Asia in 2014 and can be particularly harmful to apples and grapes. The mid-Atlantic region, and specifically Pennsylvania, is considered a hot spot, and nurseries and homeowners are being asked to carefully inspect shipments from that area.


Tentative deal for more than 400 nurses in Norwich hospital

NORWICH, Conn. (AP) - More than 400 nurses who went on a two-day strike amid disputes over pay and the availability of protective gear at a Norwich hospital have a tentative contract. The nurses and officials at the William W. Backus Hospital found common ground Saturday morning following an intervention by Gov. Ned Lamont. Nurses went on strike Tuesday and Wednesday to pressure the hospital to negotiate better contract terms and then returned to work as negotiations continued. Union officials say negotiated pay raises will help stop an exodus of nurses headed to jobs with higher salaries. They also said the hospital's parent company agreed to single-use face masks.


New $50 million grant program to be announced next week to help small businesses

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that his economic development commissioner is expected to announce a new $50 million grant program next week to help small businesses. This comes after the state provided more than 2,000 one-year, no-interest loans, to small businesses, averaging $19,705 a piece earlier this year.

Earlier in the day, the state’s restaurant association and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association released a letter to Lamont and state lawmakers, asking that federal coronavirus funds be set aside for a small business grant program. They noted Rhode Island’s “Restore RI” program includes $60 million for businesses that experienced a revenue loss due to the pandemic of at least 30%

While the details were not available on Thursday, Lamont said Connecticut’s program would likely provide 10,000 grants capped at $5,000. He said half of the grants will be distributed to businesses located in economically distressed municipalities.

Connecticut prison officials on Thursday were monitoring a coronavirus outbreak at a Hartford jail where 56 inmates recently tested positive after two staff members contracted the virus.

All 56 inmates, who were not showing symptoms and are now separated from the general population, were detained in the units where the two employees worked, prison officials said.

“The facility is on lockdown status for deep cleaning,” Department of Correction spokesperson Karen Martucci said in a statement. “Social visitation previously scheduled to commence at the Hartford Correctional Center Thursday was pushed back temporarily to err on the side of caution.

The two employees reported testing positive for the virus recently, which prompted routine contact tracing that identified the 56 inmates who tested positive, Martucci said.

The entire population of the Hartford Correctional Center is being tested this week as part of continued mass testing at prisons statewide, she said. Staff in Hartford also will undergo mandatory testing.

Correction Department officials were expecting increased virus cases in state prisons because of an uptick in cases in communities across the state, Martucci said.

Connecticut’s statewide positive test rate dipped to 1.3% Thursday, down from 2% Wednesday and 2.4% Tuesday. More than 62,000 people in the state have contracted the virus and more than 4,500 have died since the pandemic began. More than 190 people were hospitalized, the highest number in several months.

In prisons across the state as of Thursday, there were 80 inmates who had the coronavirus including eight who were experiencing symptoms. Twenty-nine staff are currently recovering from the virus. More than 1,600 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began and seven have died.


Police shooting of high school psychologist ruled justified

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut prosecutor says two police officers were justified when they shot a high school psychologist to death during a domestic violence call last year. Windham State's Attorney Anne Mahoney released her report Wednesday on the East Hartford officers' shooting of 43-year-old John Carras during a violent struggle with him outside his home. She concluded the officers reasonably believed using deadly force was necessary to defend themselves against Carras, who assaulted both officers before he was shot. Authorities said Carras choked his wife to unconsciousness before police arrived. She was seriously injured but survived. Carras was a psychologist at Berlin High School.


Connecticut officials urge vigilance for voter intimidation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A top Connecticut prosecutor, the attorney general and the secretary of the state have warned that voter intimidation will not be tolerated at the polls on Election Day. The officials stressed Thursday that there are federal and state laws on the books to ensure that voters feel safe and their ballots will be counted appropriately. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she and Attorney General William Tong and Deputy Chief State's Attorney Kevin Lawlor were not responding to any particular problems in Connecticut so far. She said tensions are running high and she wanted to make sure they're preparing for any possibilities on Election Day.


Officials: Virus outbreaks at 2 care centers are related

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Health officials say coronavirus outbreaks at two long-term care centers in the same Connecticut town have been linked to a resident of one of the facilities and staff who work at both locations. The state Department of Public Health is investigating and working with the two care centers in Avon to stem the outbreaks. The director of the Farmington Valley Health District, Jennifer Kertanis, said Wednesday that two dozen residents and 16 staff at Avon Health Center recently tested positive. A spokesman for the Residence at Brookside says 11 residents and three staff there tested positive recently. Two residents at Brookside have died.


Judge denies bid to block parts of police accountability law

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected a bid by the Connecticut State Police Union to block parts of a new police accountability law that allow public disclosure of personnel files and internal affairs investigations. Judge Charles Haight Jr. in New Haven denied the union's request for an injunction Tuesday. The law strips away exemptions to state Freedom of Information laws in the state police contract. The contract says troopers' personnel files and documents in internal affairs investigations that end with no findings of wrongdoing are not subject to disclosure. The union is planning to appeal.


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