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Fairfield County fund raises $1 million, quickly needs more

Fairfield County fund raises $1 million, quickly needs more

Record-Journal

By Susan Haigh

HARTFORD (AP) — A southwestern Connecticut foundation raised $1 million in pledges over the past week to help local nonprofits in the county hit hardest by the coronavirus. But demand for funding has already grown by at least another $560,000.

Juanita James, president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, said she expects that requests from community organizations that help residents with basic needs, such as housing and health services, will only grow in the coming weeks.

“The homeless shelters, they can’t address the need,” said James, noting how a large concentration of the requests for grants come for community agencies that help residents with housing needs, including rental assistance so people don’t get evicted. The cost of living in Fairfield County, which borders New York, is roughly 30% higher than the national average. Despite the county’s reputation of being wealthy, she said there are many residents who have to pay 30-50% of their disposable income on housing needs and now find themselves out of work because of virus-related shutdowns.

The foundation hopes to release grants to nonprofits next week.

Here are some other COVID-19 developments in Connecticut on Friday:

COURT CONCERNS

Civil liberties advocates are urging Connecticut court officials to change pretrial detention rules to allow people to avoid or be freed from detention because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said Friday that it has sent an emergency request to the state Judicial Branch, saying the risk of contracting the new virus is higher in prisons and jails than in the community.

The ACLU is asking court officials to limit the use of cash bail, add the coronavirus to the list of legal reasons for bail modification requests and shorten the time for courts to review defendants’ pretrial detention to seven days. The group says about 3,000 people are detained in Connecticut’s prison system only because they can’t afford to post bail.

Court officials say they already have been working with prison officials, prosecutors and public defenders to recommend ways to appropriately release people in pretrial detention.

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DMV HEADQUARTERS CLOSURE

The state Department of Motor Vehicles has closed its office and headquarters in Wethersfield for disinfecting, after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus disease and employees complained about being forced to work there.

DMV officials said in a statement that the building closed Friday and won’t open again until Tuesday, allowing for a deep cleaning of the offices.

Labor union leaders this week criticized DMV Commissioner Sibongile Magubane for ordering dozens of employees who were deemed essential to continue to work in Wethersfield after workers tested positive for COVID-19. Union officials said seven workers tested positive.

Magubane responded that the agency has implemented a COVID-19 contingency plan that considers the health and safety of workers while maintaining critical DMV operations.

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CASES

Connecticut had 1,012 confirmed positive cases, 125 hospitalizations and 21 fatalities as of Thursday evening, state officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus 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, including pneumonia, or death.

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SEASONAL FLU

Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state’s epidemiologist, said residents must be aware that seasonal influenza is still active in Connecticut. Speaking during an AARP teleconference, Cartter said there were 118 hospitalizations in the state for flu last week. This year, there have been 2,934 flu-related hospitalizations and 72 deaths since October. The vast majority were over age 65.

“We need to remember that there are more viruses out there that we need to be concerned about,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Dave Collins contributed to this report.

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