MIDDLETOWN — Democratic lawmakers traversed the state Friday, making their way from Danbury to Windsor to thank health care workers as well as stress the urgent need for PPEs to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Six area legislators stopped at Middlesex Health Care, a nursing and rehabilitation center on Randolph Road, as part of the morning portion of the tour. The long-term unit cares for the elderly, disabled, those with dementia and other health issues.
Among those in attendance were state Rep. Quentin Phipps and Sen. Matt Lesser, both D-Middletown; Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams, D-Meriden; Sen. Julie Kushner and state Rep. Ken Gucker, both D-Danbury; and state Sen. Will Haskell, D-New Canaan.
After conducting similar rallies across the state, the plan was to converge at the Kimberly Hall North nursing home in Windsor by the end of the day.
Phipps told those gathered they are doing heroic acts daily to protect the state’s most vulnerable populations: “not just during the pandemic, but you have done the work long before this. It has gone unappreciated. Hopefully, moving forward, we will never forget you.”
Abrams is chairwoman of the Public Health Committee and a member of the Aging Committee.
“We wanted to come and look you in the eye and say ‘thank you’ for all you’re doing. We have been advocating for you every day. We know you have challenges, including keeping you safe along with your families,” she said. “The work you’re doing is so important.”
Members of the delegation will send a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont expressing their concerns. Abrams, Lesser and others are worried about anticipated openings across the state May 20.
The governor also announced this week that he’s eyeing June 20for possibly further lessening restrictions.
“I think we should be really, really careful. We’ve never done anything like this before,” Lesser said, noting conditions in other portions of the state, such as Fairfield County, are improving, but not in Middletown. The number of COVID-19 patients at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, which serves the region, are “pretty flat.”
“It’s not coming down. My hope is we don’t move too quickly. I hope the governor really pays attention. We’ve got to have the ability to test contact tracing, in place first.” Lesser said.
The city’s coronavirus cases continue to climb, although, like other municipalities, hospitalizations are on the decline. “It’s not coming down,” he said.
He would be more reassured if PPEs were widely available and widespread COVID-19 testing was underway — “everything you need to be safe. These are difficult times. I’m thinking about you every day,” Lesser said.
Nurse Filecia Milewski asked about the ability for faster testing. Lesser said in places such as New Haven, people are able to take a 15-minute test for the coronavirus. On Thursday, Lamont allowed pharmacists to dispense tests, replacing the need for patients to obtain a doctor’s notes.
Lesser told those gathered to visit CVS’s website to sign up.
She also wondered about antibody testing. Lesser said he’s not satisfied with the reliability of those tests and isn’t certain antibodies in the blood of those who’ve recovered from the coronavirus will protect them. “We don’t know, but we think so.”
Tasha Young, a nurse on the long-term care COVID unit, said she’s worried Connecticut isn’t fully prepared to open later this month.
“If they open too fast or without taking enough precautions, they’re continuously putting us at risk,” she said. “The more people that get sick, the more people who have to come here.”
Abrams praised the “noble” efforts of health care workers.“You are there with them, taking care of them through illness and ever death.”
Lamont has the sole authority to open some businesses, camps and other facilities. “The way we’re going to get the economy back is by taking on the virus and making sure people are safe. That has got to be the priority,” Lesser said.
Kushner was among those who recently met with union leaders and members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199. She and the others listened to stories about “the horrible situation” that involves workers risking their lives.
Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, made a particularly passionate plea, Kusher said.
“She said that, as a black woman, she felt she could not sit by any longer. Seeing the way this is disproportionately affecting the black and brown communities and seeing low-wage workers themselves and seeing fatalities in nursing homes is unacceptable,” Kusher told those gathered.
With the Capitol building still closed, legislators are unable to pass laws, she added. “But what we can do is bring our voices to you and to those who cannot speak up.
“We know we have to do better. We have to solve the problem and make sure everybody is having the best care. Not just the people you’re taking care of, we have to take care of you,” Kushner said .
“We know that so often the headlines are bad news and tragic stories,” Haskell said, noting that the state began reporting discharges Friday. “We know there are some happy endings.”
For information on coronavirus in Connecticut, visit portal.ct.gov/coronavirus.