December 10, 2021
In This Issue:
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
More Roles to Fill with Limited Time Left

This past week saw more important roles vacated in the executive branch that leaves open the question of who will jump into important roles in the administration.

Newly elected Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons tapped Doug Dalena to join her office who was previously deputy general counsel for Governor Lamont. Dalena’s primary role in the last two years has been leading the state executive order process under the pandemic and helping with the ever-changing landscape of new policies implemented during that time such as remote notarization, enabling local zoning laws to allow outdoor eating and of course telemedicine/civil immunity protections. This is an enormous void to fill for the administration and one that certainly has an urgent ticking clock.

Current State Comptroller Kevin Lembo suddenly announced his retirement at the end of this month due to personal health and wellness, and the Governor announced today that Natalie Braswell will be filling this role. Braswell comes with experience relevant to the position. For a decade she previously served as assistant comptroller and general counsel under Lembo. Braswell currently serves as the chief of planning, legal, and regulatory affairs for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The new comptroller vowed to only hold the post until the end of the term, and will not seek re-election. Braswell will be the first African American to hold the office!

For those who might be enjoying the season of eggnog, don’t forget that as of today we’re less than two months before the doors of the Capitol swing open with the start of our legislative session and a budget being issued by Governor Lamont. Any roles that are needed before the session begins will certainly have challenges if they are not filled with enough time before the process begins.

The Omicron Variant
This week, Governor Lamont announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant was found in Connecticut. The case in question involves a Minnesota resident who contracted the variant at a convention in New York late last month, and transmitted the disease to family and friends in Connecticut. Since then, cases have been identified in Greenwich and Hamden. Hamden has just reimplemented their mask mandate, which will go into effect on December 11th.

Over the past few weeks, COVID cases have been rising steadily, and the positive test rate has topped 8% in Connecticut, a rate that has not been seen since February of this year. Hospitalizations are rising as well, from 200 hospitalizations a few weeks ago to 585 hospitalizations as of today. Despite this, the Governor does not have any plans to reinstate a statewide mask mandate, or require individuals to show evidence of vaccination. Instead, the Governor Lamont is promoting the coming availability of a voluntary "digital health card" offering proof of vaccination. According to the Governor, "...the towns are the ones that are taking the lead on enforcing (masking). I think the store and restaurant owners are the ones who know the best way to do it." On Monday, he assured the Connecticut Restaurant Association that he has no plans to ban or restrict indoor dining. If any of this changes, we will be sure to let you know in this Municipal Roundup!

To view the Governor's latest update regarding Connecticut's Coronavirus response efforts, click here.
I feel the Need...the Need for Speed

Over the past year, lawmakers have been discussing how to address a startling new trend amongst Connecticut drivers - high rates of speed. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) has been conducting speed studies at various points along Connecticut's major highways. On I-95 in Branford, 32% of all drivers in November were traveling over 70 mph., and 15% of all drivers were travelling over 75 mph. The rate of drivers going over 80 mph has more than doubled since 2018 to 3.5%. Now I know that sounds like a small amount, but when you talk about 3% of hundreds of thousands of drivers, it adds up. These speedy drivers are resulting in more crashes this year than any year before. If current trends hold throughout the rest of the year, CT will reach more than 330 fatalities on highways and local roads, compared to 208 in 2011, and 246 in 2019.

Last session, lawmakers passed a bill that will allow the DOT to install portable speed detection devices that will record speeds and automatically issue tickets to violators. Under a pilot program, the cameras could be ready to operate by mid-to-late 2022, and would most likely be centered around work zones. To read more about this program, click here.
But legislators are also looking deeper into the causes of the issue. The impetus in average driver speeds began in the early stages of the pandemic, and have continued throughout. Chair of the Transportation Committee, and Democratic State Representative Roland Lemar noted that police activity on highways is way down, and that "they're just not pulling over anywhere near as many people as they used to." Lemar argued that automated speed technology might be the most appropriate way to enforce speeding laws, since some of his colleagues in the legislature do not want to see more people getting pulled over. Former State Police Sergeant Andrew Matthews says that between COVID concerns, and new restrictive policing laws, officers are much more hesitant to pull people over these days. He also highlighted the State Police's recent policy that prohibits officers from chasing a vehicle that is traveling at an extraordinary rate of speed saying "Troopers will not chase if a high-performance car zooms by them at 120 mph." It will be interesting to see if the legislature addresses this issue further in the upcoming session.
December 10th: A Stage Show Entertainment Leads to the Discovery of Anesthesia

On December 10, 1844, Hartford residents were treated to a special performance of famous showman and former medical student Gardner Colton’s “Laughing Gas Entertainment.” Colton had first encountered “laughing gas,” or nitrous oxide, while in medical school and soon found he could make quite a bit of money traveling the country demonstrating its hilarity-inducing side effects. On that particular evening, 29-year-old Hartford dentist Horace Wells happened to be in the audience. Wells noticed that during the demonstration, one of Colton’s gassed-up volunteers had stumbled and slammed his leg against a bench and literally “laughed it off,” noting that he felt no pain from the incident even after the effects of the gas wore off.

Wells immediately thought of the incredible benefit that such a phenomenon could provide to dentistry, where painful tooth extractions and oral surgeries were the norm. The very next day, Wells summoned Colton to his Hartford office and had him administer nitrous oxide while a dental assistant extracted one of Wells’ own wisdom teeth. After the gas wore off, Wells declared he felt no more pain than “the prick of a pin” during the procedure — making his experiment the first successful application of medical anesthesia.

Wells began incorporating nitrous oxide in his dental practice with great success. Though he proudly claimed to be the inventor of “pain-free dentistry,” he refused to seek a patent on any of his methods. He believed that freedom from pain should be a universal right that was “as free as the air.” Wells’ important discovery, however, was soon followed by a series of crushing professional setbacks. During the most important demonstration of his career, before a huge audience at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Wells administered nitrous oxide to a patient and proceeded to extract a tooth — only to abort the procedure after the patient cried out, seemingly in pain. Though the patient later admitted he actually had felt no pain despite his cries, Wells was booed and jeered by the audience and accused of being a fraud.

The Boston incident began a tragic downward spiral for Wells, who fell into a deep depression that ultimately forced him to close his dental practice. Within the span of only a few years, he was living in New York City, estranged from his wife and only son, and experimenting on himself with combinations of ether and chloroform. Wells became addicted to the latter, which increased his already erratic behavior. On his 33rd birthday, he was arrested for throwing sulfuric acid on two women in New York City. Wells was thrown into prison. There, the medical pioneer’s life came to an end by his own hand.

While he struggled during his lifetime to find recognition for his discoveries, Horace Wells has since been widely honored and credited with both the discovery and first successful application of medical anesthesia. Unbeknownst to Wells, 12 days before he took his life the Parisian Medical Society had officially recognized him as the first man to discover and perform surgical operations without pain and awarded him an honorary M.D. Later in the 19th century, he was recognized as the discoverer of modern anesthesia by both the American Dental Association and American Medical Association.

There are several tributes to Horace Wells in Hartford, including a statue in Bushnell Park and a striking memorial in Cedar Hill Cemetery commissioned by his son Charles Wells, inscribed with the words “There Shall Be No Pain” and “I Awaken To Glory.” Thanks to the idea that occurred to Horace Wells today in 1844, those words have rung true for millions of people all over the world.

The original article from the CT Humanities Council can be found here.
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