(WTNH) — Phase two of the Governor’s reopening plan is just over a week away. Next Wednesday, we will start to see more businesses open their doors— movie theaters, indoor restaurants gyms and bowling alleys will be required to maintain 50 percent capacity. Part of phase two is making sure our most vulnerable is protected.

No segment of the population here in Connecticut has been hit harder by the coronavirus than residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Governor Ned Lamont announced Monday he will solicit proposals from outside experts so the state can best protect the residents moving forward.

As part of his daily coronavirus response briefing Monday, the governor announced he is ordering an independent third-party review of the preparation and response to the pandemic inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“First of all, with the nursing homes, obviously that was the tragic center for our state and the other 49 states in terms of fatalities,” Governor Lamont said Monday afternoon.

More than 60% of the total deaths in the state due to the coronavirus have been among residents of nursing homes.

“So we have a strong outside group that focuses here in terms of infection protocols, PPE. And more long-term what our nursing homes are gonna look like,” the governor said. “So I thought that was an investment worth making, so we can learn going forward.”

It’s a proactive approach according to the governor. He added, “If there’s a chance there could be a second surge later this summer, more likely in the fall. We want to be ready.”

Governor Lamont said he wants a top-to-bottom analysis and he wants it to be completed before the start of autumn in order to best prepare for a potential second wave of the virus.

The third-party expert who is chosen will be directed to work widely across state government and must include input from several others, including the operators of long-term care facilities.

Monday evening, the Statement of Connecticut’s Nursing Home Associations released a statement in support of the governor’s announcement.

Connecticut’s two nursing home associations support Governor Lamont’s call for a comprehensive, independent, and timely analysis of our state’s COVID-19 response.  

The associations reinforce the importance of the Governor directing resources to this effort and appreciate Commissioner Gifford’s comments that we must gain clarity and understanding of what happened over the course of this pandemic. It is essential that we thoroughly evaluate our state’s response in a non-biased and inclusive way so as to learn from the science and help to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus. 

The state’s experience is part of a national pandemic and in such, our preparation and response was influenced not only by our state’s efforts but also by the federal response. As such, the nursing home associations recommend that the analysis includes the role of the changing CDC’s guidance, the inadequate PPE supply, and the delay in testing. 

In addition, since the goal of this study will be to learn and prepare for the potential fall resurgence, it must include consideration of the positive role that the COVID-19 Recover Centers will achieve to reduce the spread of the virus in anticipation of the fall resurgence.   

Finally of note, academic evaluations of the outbreaks in nursing homes have been underway at Brown University, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago and their research is pointing to geographic location as a key factor in determining the intensity of the outbreaks. Specifically, the referenced academic and independent studies have shown that population density and community prevalence of COVID-19 in the areas where congregate settings serving the elderly, such as nursing homes and assisted living communities, are located, are key characteristics that explain the high presence of COVID-19 within these settings.

In this regard, the nursing home associations also recommend that the independent review evaluate the relevance of community prevalence and the role that reducing overall COVID-19 prevalence in Connecticut will make in the ongoing overall state strategy to reduce the spread of the virus in these congregate settings.  

– Statement of the Mag Morelli, President of LeadingAge Connecticut and Matt Barrett, President and CEO the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living (CAHCF/CCAL)

As we look to phase three, we need at least four weeks in between which means the earliest we could see bars, indoor event spaces and arcades open is July 15.