The state’s death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic rose to 12 on Tuesday, with 200 new infections for a total of 618, indicating the virus is accelerating, especially in New Haven County, which had been spared in the first weeks of the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced two new fatalities, including a former Norwalk city clerk who became the 11th victim Wednesday. The 12th person lived in Tolland County.

During his daily news conference in the State Armory in Hartford, the governor stressed the need for people to keep physically distant from others. He would prefer people do it themselves rather than order further restrictions beyond the closure Monday night of non-essential businesses.

“We thought it might get worse before it gets better and I’m afraid that we’re right,” Lamont said. Vacant dormitories in Southern and Central Connecticut State universities are being prepared, along with a new Army field hospital site at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, for an expected surge in patients or places for medical personnel to rest after long shifts.

Seventy-one people are hospitalized, up from 54 on Monday.

Most of those infected are from Fairfield County, the center of the outbreak in the state. But New Haven now has 89 people with COVID-19, an increase from 41 on Monday. “We know it’s coming up the coast pretty quickly right now,” Lamont said, stressing “it’s a mistake” that the federal government claims the crisis will be over quickly.

Renee Coleman-Michell, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health said donations of ventilators are coming into her department. “The numbers continue to grow,” she said, stressing they first have to be inspected. “We have hundreds and hundreds,” she said, adding there are orders for about 1,500 pieces of the breathing equipment.

Lamont expects the virus to linger “a lot longer” than the April 20 date set tentatively to reopen public schools. “I’m afraid this is going to continue for at least another week, two weeks, in terms of escalating the number of infections. I think we’re doing a reasonable job of flattening the curve. “I have told everybody I want you to stay at home. I don’t know how much stronger I can say that.”

“We continue to message that social distancing, right now, is the best thing we can do in slowing down this virus,” Coleman-Mitchell said..”

Lamont is concerned about infection clusters, such as the fallout in Westport following a party attended by as many as 100 people that is being pointed to as the initial infection in that town. “Don’t be dumb,” Lamont said. “Stay away from groups like that. You’ve got to limit those interactions. This virus is incredibly contagious. You cannot be too safe, not with this infection peaking the way it is across our state.”

In particular, nursing homes are being monitored for spreading the virus.“We know that nursing homes can be a petri dish,” Lamont said.

Lamont said he was encouraged by the 900 formerly retired medical professionals who have volunteered to help, including 300 who are already back at work. The state Department of Administrative Services is looking around the country for personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. He praised the Mohegan Sun Resort Casino for donating 1 million sanitary gloves.

Later Tuesday night, he issued another executive order, that immediately opens the annual fishing season; lifts restrictions on the re-employment of retired municipal workers; allows participants in the medical marijuana program to be examined by doctors using telemedicine video technology; and allows people to obtain marriage licenses in towns other than where they plan for the event to occur.