Looking For Hope In A Pandemic

Tulips at the Chase Building in downtown Waterbury.

Column by John Murray

   Late April in New England is a time of renewal. After six months of slumber our lawns and meadows turn green, daffodils and tulips poke their heads up and flower, and our forests (70% of Connecticut) are electric with anticipation as our oak and maple and cherry trees produce more leaves than there are stars in the night sky.

Homeless In A Pandemic

Matt O'Toole on Easter morning with all his possessions.

Story and Photographs by John Murray

   Matt O’Toole sat outside the largest homeless shelter in Connecticut wondering how he was going to spend the next 10 hours. It was Easter Sunday and it was cold and raw outside. The St. Vincent DePaul Shelter in the South End of Waterbury boots all single men out of the facility every morning at 7 am, and O’Toole couldn’t get back in until 5 pm.

   O’Toole has been homeless off and on for much of the past year. “I made bad decisions,” O’Toole said. “Most of us in here have made a lot of bad decisions. I had an addiction problem.”

Avoiding The Virus

Carmine Capobianco is a columnist at The Waterbury Observer and the author of the book, "Tall and Short Tales of My Hometown", based on growing up in Waterbury.  Carmine wrote this piece about being quarantined at home during the pandemic:

I was the first person sent home to do my work. I’m on chemotherapy so my white cells dropped. I also have diabetes. So, if I get the Coronavirus, I’m a goner. That’s it. Done.

So I went home and my bosses have been great. Probably because they don’t want it to kill me.

Doctor On Frontline Of Pandemic

Dr. David Hill at Waterbury Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut. 

   Dr. David Hill is a pulmonary and critical care physician treating COVID-19 patients at Waterbury Hospital. Dr. Hill is the Director of Clinical Research at Waterbury Pulmonary Associates and has been quoted in Time Magazine and the New York Times during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Hill wrote this brilliant Facebook post Saturday night (April 18th) at 10:00 PM, and it was shared more than 2000 times. We picked up his post and published it on The Waterbury Observer Facebook page and it was shared an additional 11,000 times and reached 750,000 people around the world, including France and Spain and all across America. The power of social media in action. His observations are illuminating, and his message is as sharp as an ice pick. Buckle up, Dr. Hill is going to take you on a ride to the front lines ...

New CT System To Speed Up COVID-19 Unemployment Claims

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that a new software improvement at the Connecticut Department of Labor was launched last night that will significantly increase the speed at which unemployment claim applications can be processed. Paired with the continued manual processing, the originally anticipated six-week wait period will be shortened to one week or less.

Looking for positive news? Check this out ....

It has been three weeks since Connecticut Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Waterbury launched the COVID-19 Response Fund and it has already provided more than $180,000 for area soup kitchens, emergency food pantries, extra food and supplies at emergency shelters, food deliveries for seniors and families sheltering in place, and child-care services for frontline healthcare workers.

The fund is fueled by the Connecticut Community Foundation, the United Way of Greater Waterbury, and by donations and gifts from the community.

#waterburystrong

Story by John Murray 

Thirteen COVID-19 related deaths in Waterbury should be a wake-up call to the city, particularly (and hopefully) to those who have not been following social distancing guidelines.

Gov. Lamont Seeks Volunteers to Participate in COVID-19 Efforts

Governor Lamont Urges Volunteers From the General Public to Participate in Connecticut’s COVID-19 Response Efforts

Volunteers of All Backgrounds Can Register at ct.gov/coronavirus

Governor Ned Lamont and a large number of state officials and nonprofit providers are urging Connecticut residents to consider taking on a volunteer role in their communities to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis. While the state already began a campaign seeking out volunteers who have health care experience, today the state is launching a campaign seeking volunteers from the general public who are needed for other services at many different types of providers, such as food banks, deliveries to the elderly, shelters, and more.

YMCA Offers Childcare for Health Workers

Jim O’Rourke is the executive director of the Greater Waterbury YMCA and on March 13th he was still adjusting his staff and programs to the landscape being bulldozed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

He had stopped senior fitness classes, a cancer survivor program, large gatherings in the YMCA, and closed down the gymnasium and the daycare center. Staff was being laid off (200 out of 300 employees), and he was just a few days away from closing the fitness center and pool.

Then O’Rourke’s phone rang. 

NVCC President Announces Retirement

Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. informed students, faculty and staff that she will be retiring as President of Naugatuck Valley Community College effective August 1, 2020. President De Filippis noted “This has been a difficult decision, but it is time for us to move back to New York to be closer to family, and for me to accept with gratitude an invitation to return to my CUNY family.”

Mortgage Relief for CT Residents and Businesses

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with over 50 credit unions and banks in Connecticut to offer mortgage relief to the state’s residents and businesses who continue to face hardship caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Under the agreement, the following relief policies are being offered by participating financial institutions:

Governor Declares Health Emergency

Latest Data as of 3PM on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

KEY POINTS:

  • Governor Lamont has declared civil preparedness and public health emergencies.
  • The Connecticut Insurance Department is notifying travel insurance companies about the emergency declarations and will be monitoring their compliance with the terms of their policies.
  • The declarations also trigger price gouging laws, and make clear that municipal leaders have emergency powers to mitigate disasters and emergencies.

Waterbury Hospital Announces Interim Director

Lester Schindel, a longtime New England healthcare executive, has been named interim CEO of Waterbury Hospital.  Schindel previously served as interim CEO at Waterbury Hospital in 2017 soon after Prospect acquired the hospital. In collaboration with its Waterbury Hospital executives, Prospect will conduct a national search for a permanent CEO at Waterbury.

Neil O'Leary Launches 4th Term

Photographs By John Murray

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary was sworn in to his 4th term in office on Sunday, December 1st, in a ceremony at Waterbury City Hall. Afterwards O'Leary paraded through the streets and across the Green with his wife Kathy to attend a mass at the Immaculate Conception Church as a major snowstorm unloaded on the region. O'Leary grimaced as the first snowflakes whacked into his face, but as he proceeded through the streets he laughed and smiled and unleashed a child's joy of a snow day in New England.

UConn Men Stun Florida 62-59

UConn center Josh Carlton is 6'11" 260 lbs and played tough defense.

Photographs By Clay Johnson

   The UConn men's basketball team won a hard fought victory Sunday afternoon in Storrs against a University of Florida squad that entered the skirmish ranked #15 in the country. It was UConn's first win at Gampel Pavilion over a ranked team in six years. UConn head coach Dan Hurley said, "Our guys showed an incredible will to win."

   UConn is now 2-1 on the young season, and hope and optimism has returned to UConn men's basketball.

Command Performance In Waterbury

Neil O’Leary On Cusp Of History

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary

Column By John Murray

   This will be the 13th mayoral race I’ve covered as a journalist in Waterbury, and the most uneventful.

   While there is the possibility that one of the four challengers might pull a David versus Goliath shocker on election day, the stone-cold truth is that Neil O’Leary (Goliath) will stomp his opponents – Ray Work, Vernon Matthews, Keisha Gilliams and Ty McElrath - and march into a fourth and potentially historic term inside City Hall. If he wins on November 5th, and finishes his four-year term, Neil O’Leary will become the longest continually serving mayor in Waterbury history.

15 Arrested On Drug Charges

A joint investigation headed by the DEA New Haven Task Force and the Waterbury Police Department have charged 15 individuals with distributing heroin and fentanyl in and around Waterbury.

“In recent years, the flow of opioids in Waterbury has had a devastating impact on our community as a whole,” said Waterbury Police Chief Fred Spagnolo. said. “We are grateful for the support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and for our partnership with the DEA. We will continue to work side by side with these agencies to combat the opioid trade in Waterbury.”

Waterbury Police Chief Fred Spagnolo

Senator Hartley Shares EEE Safety Tips

As news of the virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis continues to spread, with three deaths in Connecticut blamed on infections, State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) today shared safety tips. While the virus is rare in humans, the increase in activity seen this year reiterates the importance of taking precautions and staying safe.

Destroying The Chains Creates 2nd Chances

Salena Dunbar, Shawn Gaston, and Calvin Dunbar of Destroying The Chains share their work to help people rebuild their lives after leaving prison. Photo courtesy of Silas Bronson Library

A grant from Connecticut Community Foundation is helping “Destroying The Chains” -- to lift the burdens of criminal records, and make employment reachable.