HARTFORD, Conn (AP) — Connecticut officials are trying to speed up the certification of new nurses and urging retired nurses to come back to work to help handle the state's anticipated spike in patients afflicted with the coronavirus.

“We need you. And we're gonna to you over the next two, three, five, six weeks,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday. “So please reach out to your former hospital where you were. We need you to be able to step back.”

While the state now has close to 70 diagnosed cases, State Epidemiologist Matthew Cartter warned many more are expected in the coming weeks.

“Really, this is just starting to move across (the state). This is the beginning of this," he said, noting that doctors and nurses at hospitals in the western part of the state are already working around the clock in facilities full of patients with many other ailments. Cartter said there are 26 patients currently hospitalized in Connecticut with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Lamont has said about 200 employees of a health care system that includes seven hospitals in Connecticut and New York are staying home because they may have come into contact with the coronavirus.

Steps are being taken to help the state's hospitals meet the predicted increased demand for care. The Democrat said they're looking into “separate housing” for patients on the mend in order to free up space in the hospitals.

Lamont said his office is continuing to work with the federal government to access more protective equipment for medical personnel. On Monday, the CEO of a Hartford-based community health center said entities like hers, which provide care to thousands of low-income Connecticut residents, face staffing and supply shortages.

“If we don't have (those things), we won't be able to operate,” said Nichelle Mullins, president and CEO of Charter Oak Health Center. She said workers at the state's 17 federally qualified health centers can help divert patients from hospital emergency rooms.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

HOSPITAL WORKERS

Lamont said the 200 health care workers are with Nuvance Health, whose system includes Danbury Hospital, where the first Connecticut resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was treated.

Nuvance Health said in a statement Tuesday that “the number of people furloughed is evolving as some early furloughs are now safely returning to work.”

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HOSPITAL VISITOR RESTRICTIONS

Hospitals across the state are restricting visitation, and some, including UConn Health in Farmington, have announced the indefinite postponement of elective surgeries.

UConn Health officials say visitors are being allowed only in special circumstances. Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, and Yale-New Haven Hospital say one visitor at a time will be allowed for patients in intensive care and the pediatric, obstetric and psychiatric units.

The hospitals say exceptions are being made for end-of-life care and for the caregivers of those who have outpatient appointments.

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PRICE GOUGING

State Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday that his office has received more than 70 complaints about price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some local gas stations and retail stores reportedly were selling 7.5-ounce containers of hand sanitizer for more than $25. Some were selling 30-packs of toilet paper for nearly $40 and three-packs of disinfectant wipes for nearly $40, according to complaints.

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CHARITABLE GIVING

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving announced Tuesday that it was providing $1 million to support nonprofit organizations that assist low-income families affected by the coronavirus pandemic with groceries, health care services, rent, utilities and other expenses. The foundation supports community groups in Hartford and 28 surrounding towns.

Lamont said 10,000 people applied for unemployment compensation benefits on Monday. In recessions, the state usually sees 5,000 applications a week.

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GRADUATIONS CANCELED

Commencement exercises at the University of Connecticut the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities have been cancelled to because of the need to limit crowds. Both UConn and CSCU announced Tuesday they're moving to all-online classes for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.

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Associated Press Writers Susan Haigh and Pat Eaton Robb contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.