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September 9, 2020

Lamont issues two-month extension of executive orders, including immunity for nursing homes and hospitals

Photo | CT-N Gov. Ned Lamont during a recent briefing on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Gov. Ned Lamont has extended through Nov. 9 all of the executive orders he issued amid the pandemic, including a controversial mandate that gives legal immunity to hospitals and nursing homes.

The two-month extension will give the governor time to speak with lawmakers and industry officials about whether to prolong the immunity – and dozens of other executive orders – beyond November. The orders can also be terminated any time before Nov. 9.

“We’re going to utilize that as a window to analyze and have full discussions about which orders should continue and which should sunset,” said Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont.

The governor is expected to talk with members of the legislature’s Public Health Committee later this week.

Lamont issued an order shielding hospitals and nursing homes from lawsuits less than a month after the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Connecticut. The measure prevents families of nursing home residents and other potential plaintiffs from seeking financial recourse in the courts for injury or death, except in cases of “crime, fraud, malice, gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

The mandate was set to expire on Wednesday, along with Lamont’s other executive orders.

Connecticut is one of at least 20 states to impose an immunity order. Nationally, advocates and attorneys have questioned why the protection extends not only to health care workers, but also to nursing homes and their operators.

In Connecticut, where 2,874 nursing home residents have died during the pandemic – about 64% of the state’s overall COVID-19 fatalities – legislators have said they want to have a conversation about how long the immunity should be prolonged – if it all.

“With blanket immunity, management can essentially shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Oh, well,’” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a co-chair of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, told The CT Mirror. “I don’t think that this is an ‘oh, well’ conversation. … If there are no consequences, there is no responsibility.”

Lawmakers’ concerns arose after three facilities were cited recently for violations. State inspectors cited the Three Rivers nursing home in Norwich – which has reported 26 cases and three deaths from coronavirus recently – for multiple lapses, including failure to ensure proper cohorting of residents, failure to use personal protective gear in accordance with standards outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and failure to enforce a 14-day quarantine period for a resident exposed to COVID-19.

A nurse at the facility also reported for work after she had been on a trip with two relatives who later tested positive for coronavirus, according to an inspection report. Colleagues complained that she didn’t wear a mask.

The state also fined nursing homes in Hartford and Hamden for failing to test all of their employees, as it requires.

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