Hearst file photo
Connecticut Valley Hospital (Hearst file photo)

A staff member at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and two Department of Children and Families workers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to state officials.

The health care employee at Connecticut Valley Hospital last reported to work on March 10 and called out sick on March 11 with flu-like symptoms. The person tested positive on March 14 and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services wasn’t notified until March 23.

Seven staff members who were in close contact with the individual have been self-quarantined. CVH patients who came into contact with the employee have been quarantined within the facility.

“We are closely monitoring staffing to make sure we have appropriate levels for patient care,” said Mary Kate Mason, spokeswoman for the agency.

The employee who tested positive for COVID-19 is recovering at home.

“I wish our employee a quick and full recovery,” DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said.

She said the patients at the hospital are still receiving services and staff on the affected unit are being monitored for symptoms, taking appropriate precautions and practicing infection
control to prevent further spread of the virus.

“This is sad and was unfortunately all too predictable,” Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said. “DMHAS clients are among the most vulnerable in the state. I’m hopeful DMHAS will take the opportunity to be transparent with the public, with legislators, with their clients and with their own workforce about the challenges and planning for coronavirus response.”

DMHAS cannot shut down its hospital, which is an inpatient mental health and substance use disorder facility with 209 psychiatric beds and 110 substance use treatment beds, but it said it has taken steps to protect clients and staff, including adjusting outpatient services and restricting visitors from the facilities.

Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order days ago prohibiting visitors to the facilities.

DMHAS also said it is conducting health screenings of all individuals, including staff who enter its facilities.

Members of SEIU Heathcare 1199 NE, the union that represents the health care employees at CVH, have been asking the agency to be forthcoming with information on the number of patients or employees who may have come in contact with the virus or tested positive, said union spokesman Pedro Zayas.

“One of their highest concerns is learning from the administration if patients or workers have tested positive so they can protect themselves,” Zayas said.

The union also has asked the agency to purchase infrared thermometers so that staff can be tested without physical contact each day before they enter the building, Zayas said. The thermometers were ordered and will likely be used beginning Monday if they come in, he said.

Staff are currently using a screening tool which must be filled out by workers before every shift, Mason said.

Meanwhile, as essential state employees, DCF case workers are expected to continue reporting to work, but their jobs have changed over the past few days as social distancing strategies are employed.

The agency has been working for a year to transition to a more remote workforce and has already doled out more than 1,840 tablets to employees in the field.

DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes said the current situation is pressure-testing the new technology. It’s also making the agency think differently about the health and safety of their workers and their clients.

There are workers who have to leave their homes to do their jobs, Dorantes said.

The two DCF employees who tested positive for COVID-19 are an office director in Torrington and a foster-care worker in Waterbury.

Dorantes said they have closed the Torrington office and conducted some contact tracing for the office director, who was only in the office for one day before testing positive.

The Waterbury situation was more difficult because that worker visited at least two families with children. Dorantes said the children in those families tested negative.

Dorantes has participated in calls with child welfare agencies from other states and what she’s learned from Washington, which has been ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to the number of cases, is that if an adult tests positive in the foster home it might not be a good idea to move the child if the adult doesn’t have to be hospitalized.

She said moving the child might expose other parts of the system to the virus, so it’s better to figure out if the adult can continue to care for the child.

There are about 4,048 youth in foster care and DCF provides support to another 13,300 children on any given day. The steps the state has taken to isolate people to prevent transmission of the disease could also cause further trauma for children in the system.

Calls regarding allegations of abuse and neglect to the Careline have dropped over the past 10 days since schools have closed. Typically the line gets 314 calls per day and of those 126 are new reports of child abuse or neglect. Now, they are getting an average of 150 calls per day and of those only 39 are new reports of abuse or neglect.

Dorantes said they are not abandoning their mission-critical work. She said she knows firsthand the fears being faced by frontline workers as they go out in the field. They are also looking for feedback from families and stakeholders and have set up a dedicated address for questions related to changes forced by the pandemic.

As for visitation for children in locked DCF facilities, Dorantes said they are starting virtual visits so children can maintain their connections to their loved ones.

However, social workers are still being deployed in emergency situations and they are looking at their inventory of personal protective equipment for workers who are on the front lines. Dorantes said they have gloves and recently received some hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.

She said they have to balance their mission of child protection and the health and safety of their employees and clients.

Elsewhere in state government there are employees who have tested positive.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has had eight employees in their Wethersfield office test positive for COVID-19.

A spokesman for the DMV said precautions have been taken to keep employees and citizens safe, including electrostatic disinfecting at the Wethersfield office.

Three state troopers and a recruit in the 129th state trooper academy have all tested positive for COVID-19, state police said Wednesday.

One trooper was working at Troop G in Bridgeport,  a second one was working at Troop L in Litchfield, and a third was working at the Training Academy in Meriden, state police said. The recruit from the 129th Training Troop was training remotely, officials said.

All have been in self-quarantine since they began exhibiting symptoms and are doing well, state police said.

And a second Correction Department employee tested positive Wednesday, according to Correction officials. The employee works at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville. The first correction employee was assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown.