HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is self-quarantining after his chief spokesperson tested positive for COVID-19, his administration announced late Friday.
The Democratic governor’s chief spokesperson, Max Reiss, identified himself as the senior staff member who had tested positive, in a release posted to Twitter. An initial news release from the governor’s office didn’t identify the staff member, but said that it was the first known case of the coronavirus in the governor’s office.
Reiss wrote he wasn’t sure how or where he contracted the virus, but added that his family had been self-quarantining after his children were exposed at school. He said none of his family was experiencing symptoms, but they will quarantine for the next two weeks.
Contact tracing has begun and all members of the administration who have been within 6 feet (2 meters) of Reiss for 15 minutes or more will self-quarantine for 14 days. In addition to Lamont, chief of staff Paul Mounds and chief operating officer Josh Geballe will self-quarantine, the release from the governor’s office said. Reiss also encouraged journalists who had contact with him under those same parameters in the last 24 hours to “take the necessary steps.”
Lamont and senior staff are tested twice a week, the release from the governor’s office said, and there are no known additional positive cases.
“While this is the first case within our administration, tens of thousands of Connecticut residents have experienced COVID-19, and thousands of others have lost their lives,” the release quoted Mounds as saying. “Even in an administration with consistent testing of all individuals who interact with the governor on a regular basis and wear masks at all times, this is a reminder that no testing regimen is full-proof.”
Three U.S. governors — Republicans Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Mike Parson of Missouri and Democrat Ralph Northam of Virginia — had COVID-19 earlier this year. Another governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak of Nevada, announced Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
In other coronavirus news in the state:
The University of Connecticut placed all dormitories under quarantine at its main campus Friday because of rising coronavirus infections, as the state reported a daily record of positive test results.
Lamont’s office reported 2,746 more people tested positive for COVID-19 compared with Thursday. It was the highest number since testing began in March and the first time that daily positive tests totaled more than 2,000 since April.
UConn officials also announced that all 5,000 residential students in Storrs will be tested before leaving for the Thanksgiving break in two weeks.
UConn placed five more dormitories under full quarantine Friday, adding to the five put under full quarantine on Wednesday, said Eleanor Daugherty, associate vice president and dean of students.
All other residence halls in Storrs are under a “modified” quarantine, meaning students are allowed to leave their dorms only for in-person classes and essential research and clinical activities.
“We don’t have the COVID spread under control,” Daugherty wrote in a notification to students. “This is about family, my friends. We all want to go home and be with our loved ones. It is essential that we return home to our families in our best health.”
UConn on Friday reported an additional seven residential students, 24 students who live off-campus and one employee tested positive for the coronavirus since Thursday. It was the highest daily total of positive student tests this semester. Since Wednesday, 35 residential students, 44 off-campus students and two employees have tested positive.
A total of 288 residential students and 181 students who live off-campus have tested positive for the virus this semester. UConn officials said the positive test rate for residential students is 1.2%, lower than that state’s daily average of just over 4% over the past two weeks.
In-person student activities and use of the recreation center have been suspended through Nov. 20.
Also Friday, the state reported 11 more virus-related deaths, bringing Connecticut’s total to 4,737 since the pandemic began. Officials said 659 people were hospitalized around the state, up 42 from Thursday and the highest total in several months but still far below the peak of more than 1,970 in late April.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Connecticut increased from just over 3% on Oct. 29 to 4.3% as of Thursday. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Connecticut, The Associated Press calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
PRISON VIDEO VISITS
The state Department of Correction will launch a new program Monday allowing prisoners to visit with family and friends via video conference free of cost, as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus.
Prison officials announced the program Friday. It will be rolled out initially at the Manson Youth, Brooklyn and Carl Robinson prisons, and then to other facilities at a later date.
The department said the program will especially benefit family and friends who live far away, have no form of transportation, or have mobility problems.
The agency also is continuing in-person, non-contact visits that were reinstated last month.
The state will not be charging fees for the video visits. Prison agencies on other states charge up to nearly $8 for one 30-minute video visit, Connecticut officials said.
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