Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Gov. Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The number of fatalities and the number of Connecticut residents testing positive for COVID-19 continued to climb Tuesday, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.

There have been 12 fatalities and 618 people have tested positive, with 62% of the cases in Fairfield County.

President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that he wants everyone back to work by Easter, which is April 12.

“We have a health care crisis,” Lamont said during his 4 p.m. media briefing.  “We know it’s coming up the coast pretty quickly right now. We’re going to get through this, but you’re not going to get the economy back on its feet until we solve this public health crisis in a serious way.”

He said the federal government is sending the “wrong message.”

Lamont said he’s standing with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is managing the national’s largest outbreak. The number of New York cases reached 25,665 by Tuesday as the death toll climbed to 210 in that state. The White House said that anyone who recently left New York City amid the outbreak should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Connecticut shares a border with New York and most of Connecticut’s cases are in Fairfield County, but Lamont declined to shut the border to stop the spread.

“I’ve heard the rumors about shutting down roads, shutting down borders,” Lamont said. “Right now that’s not an option.”

Lamont said a lot of this is “self-policing itself.” He said ridership on Metro-North has dropped by 75% and at some point, the last people on the trains are nurses, doctors and emergency responders “who we need to be able to get to work.”

Complaints have poured in from across the state about companies — and even in some cases state offices — that have been allowed to stay open and keep employees working in close quarters in violation of the best social-distancing practices.

Lamont said if there are people packed into a small office in any industry that’s allowed to continue working under his executive order then “[G]o home.” He said people need to use their common sense when it comes to social distancing.

There are places where social distancing doesn’t seem possible, like in Connecticut’s prisons. Lamont said he wasn’t considering releasing anyone from prison early, but estimated that there was enough space to quarantine prisoners should they contract the virus.

The Department of Correction initially withheld information about a correction employee assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown who tested positive for COVID-19.

Lamont vowed to be more transparent about the spread of the virus within state government.

Lamont, along with the rest of the state, is still bracing for the economic fallout of the public health crisis. The state is waiting for the U.S. Senate to pass an economic stimulus package so it can then act to fill in the gaps.

Meanwhile, some residents will struggled to pay their bills.

Lamont was asked whether he would give people a 60-day grace period to pay their insurance premiums at the same time Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew N. Mais called on insurers to do just that.

“The emergency public health measures have contributed to a loss of income for both consumers and businesses,” Mais said. “It is imperative that we all work to maintain the security that insurance provides when consumers need it most.”

The insurance bulletin asks insurers to waive premium payments for life, health, auto, property, casualty and other types of insurance immediately to provide consumers with at least a 60-day grace period without interest or penalty.

“A grace period will allow policyholders who may need help due to circumstances beyond their control additional time to pay and avoid a coverage lapse or cancellation,” Mais said.

It’s unclear if insurance companies will honor the suggestion.

Meanwhile, Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said they are prepared to postpone the rest of the school year if necessary.

“We’re prepared to do that if it’s going to mean increasing safety and flattening the curve,” Cardona said.

At the moment, Connecticut public schools are closed until at least April 20.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to make sure our schools are safe for our students and our staff,” Cardona said.

Lamont said the decision about whether to continue the school year is about more than just making sure the number of cases is beginning to decline. He said they want to make sure children go back to a safe environment.