Second CT hospital employee from NY tests positive for coronavirus

Renee Coleman-Mitchel, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference at Bridgeport Hospital, in Bridgeport, Conn. March 7, 2020.

Renee Coleman-Mitchel, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference at Bridgeport Hospital, in Bridgeport, Conn. March 7, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

BRIDGEPORT — A second employee of a Connecticut hospital is confirmed to have coronavirus while nine more patients in Connecticut are being tested for the virus.

No Connecticut residents have tested positive with 42 specimens from 21 patients coming back negative at the state lab in Rocky Hill.

Tests are pending for nine other patients, four of whom who are associated with two Connecticut hospital employees who live in New York and have coronavirus.

A doctor affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital was announced Saturday as the latest hospital employee to test positive.

Renee D. Coleman-Mitchell, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said at a press conference Saturday that three pending tests are connected to Norwalk and Danbury hospitals, where an employee who is a New York resident tested positive for the virus.

Another Connecticut patient being tested is connected to a community physician who works out of Bridgeport Hospital. Officials said the doctor made rounds at the hospital and was at the facility last week.

The two hospital employees are New York residents and their cases have been traced to the outbreak in New Rochelle, a city in Westchester County, officials confirmed. Officials say the two employees are being self-quarantined in their Westchester County homes.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday that allows for additional resources for local health departments to deal with the outbreak.

“Westchester is definitely a hot spot,” for coronavirus, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal expressed a need for more testing material nationwide, saying the federal government should have dispersed the kits more quickly.

“We need to know who is infected,” Blumenthal said.

Anne Diamond, president of Bridgeport Hospital, said the New York State Department of Health alerted the hospital that a community physician was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Friday.

“This physician saw a limited number of patients at Bridgeport Hospital,” Diamond said. “At that time, the physician displayed no symptoms associated with COVID-19, and as a result — and this is very important — the physician contact here during that time does not constitute an exposure.”

Still, Diamond said, the hospital took immediate steps to inform the staff and employees. She said the hospital also isolated the “very small number of patients” who interacted with the physician — who officials confirmed is a man.

Diamond said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed the hospital that “such an isolation is not necessary at this time. That is because the physician did not have symptoms while he was here at Bridgeport Hospital.”

However, on the CDC website, it indicates that “some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.”

“There have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus,” the CDC website says, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Diamond also indicated that Bridgeport Hospital staff “will not require isolation or furlough” at this time.

Yale New Haven Health, parent company of Bridgeport Hospital, reiterated in a statement Saturday that since the physician was asymptomatic, “the risk to staff and patients remains low.”

As of Saturday night, there were about 90 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York, with 70 of those in Westchester County.

“Westchester is an obvious problem for us,” Cuomo said at a press conference in New York Saturday afternoon. “You talk about the contagion in clusters and then the clusters tend to infect more and more people. You want to pay special attention to those situations.”

Gov. Ned Lamont said, during Saturday’s press conference at Bridgeport Hospital, that the state partnered with United Way of Connecticut to launch an information hotline for questions from the public about the spread of coronavirus. People with questions can call 211 or text “CTCOVID” to 898211.

The hotline is intended to be used by people who are not experiencing symptoms but have general questions. The hotline is available 24/7 and multilingual assistance, as well as TTY/TTD access for the deaf or hard of hearing.

In Bridgeport, officials said they’re doing everything they can to stay ahead of the coronavirus, urging residents to take precautions.

“Prevention is critical with covering your cough and sneezes, washing your hands with soap at least for 20 seconds, sanitizing commonly touched objects and surfaces,” said Scott Appleby, director of Bridgeport’s Office of Emergency Management.

Albertina Baptista, interim director of the Bridgeport Health Department, said in a statement that the city has a preparedness plan and is in contact with the state DPH and the CDC.

‘Residents are concerned’

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said there are no updates on the employee who works at Danbury and Norwalk hospitals, but said he planned to meet with stakeholders to make sure the facility is implementing safety plans.

Boughton said the hospital employee did not have a lot of contact with patients.

“Residents are concerned,” he said. “There’s no question about that. It’s scary. It’s unnerving. But we have to trust health professionals. These people are fantastic. We know we’re going to have more cases because of how contagious this disease is. If we can follow protocols put in place, we’ll be OK.”

Kerry Eaton, chief operating officer of Nuvance Health, the hospitals’ parent company, said Friday that the employee worked in a relatively isolated part of the hospital with limited exposure to patients and staff. Employees who had contact with the woman have been furloughed for two weeks.

Deanna D’Amore, Norwalk Director of Health, said Norwalk Hospital has contacted everyone who has interacted with the employee.

“We are ready and able to support our colleagues if needed,” D’Amore said. “I'd like to remind everyone to continue to protect themselves and their loved ones by washing their hands well and often, to avoid close contact with people who are sick, to stay home if they are not feeling well, and to contact their health care provider if they need medical attention”

A spokeswoman for the Danbury and Norwalk hospitals said Saturday there are no plans to set up outposts for potential coronavirus patients as outlined by the governor on Friday, but will react accordingly as the situation evolves.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling urged residents to beware of misinformation about the virus’ spread.

“Now is not a time for panic but a time to continue taking basic precautions, such as washing your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and staying home when you are not feeling well,” Rilling said. “Rumors and misinformation, unfortunately, can spread faster than facts. I am in contact with the state health department and will share information as soon as we have it. I want to reassure the public our team remains on top of this situation.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said some cities have talked about dismissing schools or virtual classes, something he said he hopes isn’t necessary in Connecticut.

Preparations for coronavirus’ spread are already in full force across the state and nation. The state Department of Veteran Affairs has announced that starting Monday respiratory screenings will be done for all patients, visitors and volunteers at VA Connecticut Healthcare Facilities.

Public school systems and colleges are also taking precautions, especially as spring breaks approach and students prepare to travel. Southern Connecticut State University posted on Twitter Saturday morning, saying students who travel to countries with a level one or three travel advisory from the Center of Disease Control will have to stay off campus for 14 days after returning.

Cuomo said he’s spoken with New Rochelle officials about extending the quarantine of the Modern Orthodox Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School in Riverdale, as well as the Westchester Day School and the Westchester Torah Academy due to suspected and confirmed exposure to the virus.

Cuomo also said nursing homes in the New Rochelle area will not be allowed to have visitors.

According to CNBC, Amtrak is suspending nonstop service between New York and Washington D.C. from March 10 to May 26 due to concerns of the virus spreading.

The American Conservative Union announced Saturday that an attendee at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland — attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — tested positive for coronavirus. The ACU indicated that the person tested positive Saturday and that the “exposure occurred previous to the conference.”

ACU said the individual was tested by a New Jersey hospital and that the patient is under the care of medical professionals and has been quarantined there.

"At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” the White House said in a statement. “The president's physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the first family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”