First Connecticut Reopenings Scheduled for May 20


by Sharon Rondeau

(May 13, 2020) — During Wednesday’s Connecticut update on the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) hosted two state legislators who are also restaurant owners to discuss strategies they have employed to remain open as well as to reopen their establishments to sit-down guests in keeping with Lamont’s guidance.

As of next Wednesday, May 20, following a two-month closure, restaurants, hair salons, malls, offices and retailers may reopen with six-foot spacing and other restrictions.

On that day, restaurants may reopen for outdoor-only sit-down business in addition to the take-out, curbside and delivery options in place since mid-March.

After an unusually mild winter, the Northeast has experienced a particularly cold spring; on Saturday, parts of Connecticut saw snow, the latest day historically on which it has occurred.  Parts of New Hampshire and Vermont received full snow coverings that day.

As Lamont noted during the first ten minutes of the presser, hospitalizations from the coronavirus have been steadily falling over the last three weeks along with the number of deaths, although the latter has seen occasional upward spikes.

As of May 13, Connecticut, a state of approximately 3.5 million, has seen a reported 3,125 deaths, surpassing the number in California reported Wednesday at 2,934.  According to the daily Connecticut state report, “For public health surveillance, COVID-19-associated deaths include persons who tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 disease around the time of death (confirmed) and persons whose death certificate lists COVID-19 disease as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death (probable).”

Fairfield County, bordering New York City, has experienced by far the most COVID-19-associated deaths at 1,068, while rural Windham County, which borders Rhode Island to the east and Massachusetts to the north, has seen the fewest at 9.

According to The Hartford Courant on Thursday, “more than 60%” of the state’s fatalities are attributed to nursing homes.  “The number of deaths in nursing homes has skyrocketed over the past few weeks as the state and providers have struggled to keep the virus from spreading throughout Connecticut’s long-term care facilities,” reported Dave Altimari on May 7.

On Tuesday, Lamont replaced his commissioner of public health with the commissioner of the Department of Social Services (DSS), who will reportedly fill both roles going forward.

Although Lamont said that Connecticut is in better fiscal condition emerging from the public-health crisis than other states which are dependent on energy and tourism, he expressed more than once his desire to see a “supplemental” bill passed by Congress to assist states in their recovery.

He said that consumer confidence is important in order to successfully reopen.  Of restaurants’ expanding service next week, Lamont said that Connecticut is “one of the first states in the region to do that…”

“Phase 2” of Connecticut’s reopening will begin a month later on June 20, Lamont said, and proposes launching dining-in at restaurants.  However, on Wednesday the Connecticut Restaurant Association and “130 local business leaders” wrote to Lamont to request that indoor dining be permitted at 50% capacity beginning on June 3 if strict spacing and other guidelines are followed.  “As malls, hair salons and others are allowed to gradually begin indoor service, as they should be, it makes sense restaurants would also be allowed some limited indoor service,” the business leaders wrote in their letter.

Both lawmakers/restaurateurs hosted by Lamont described ways in which they managed to maintain their businesses through the shutdown. State Senator Paul Formica (R) said he “closed rooms and turned off refrigerators and freezers” amidst “great support from our customers.”

Formica pointed out that his business is dependent on other industries such as tourism and that “new processes” are needed to meet the needs of a changed work environment.

State Rep. Christine Cohen (D) said that “for the most part, things have gone well” during the shutdown.  “We quickly contracted with an online operation to allow for us to take orders remotely and ensure minimal contact,” she said.  “Our employees all wear masks, and certainly the gloves, which are frequently changed,” among other changes made.

Several weeks ago, the White House Coronavirus Task Force released its own guidelines for reopening America but left local decisions and latitude to governors.


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