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As State Prepares Second Phase Of Reopening, COVID-19 Numbers Show Encouraging Trend

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
The Garde Arts Center signs were lit on a quiet evening in downtown New London, but their doors were shut due to coronavirus mandates by the state in March.

One day before the state embarks on the second phase of its business reopenings, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that state COVID-19 public health numbers continue their positive trend. 

During his daily media briefing, Lamont announced new guidelines expanding state recommendations for social gatherings. Lamont said up to 25 people can congregate for indoor private gatherings and up to 100 for gatherings outside.

The governor said residents should know there is still a “fair amount of risk” for attending large gatherings and that virus tracking is easier when it’s related to a private event where the host knows who attended and can help health officials if a person is later confirmed to have COVID-19.

Lamont urged guests to still socially distance when possible and always wear a mask.

There have been 359,486 COVID-19 tests reported in the state, with more than 5,000 new tests reported Tuesday. Lamont said the test total represents about 10 percent of Connecticut’s population of 3.5 million residents, though many people have been tested more than once.

Hospitzations are at about 10 percent from the state’s high during the pandemic. There are currently 201 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut, according to public health data announced Tuesday, down from a high of 1,972 on April 22.

Lamont pointed out hospitalizations have continued a downward trend since the first phase of business reopenings on May 20, which gives him confidence for the second phase Wednesday.

There were 114 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Connecticut Tuesday, bringing the overall total to 45,349 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state reports a total of 4,210 deaths associated with COVID-19 and six more were reported Tuesday. 

State Legislators Call For Review Of Nursing Homes

State Reps. Rosa Rebimbas (R-Naugatuck) and Dorinda Borer (D-West Haven) voiced support Tuesday for Lamont’s plan to conduct an independent review of how nursing homes responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state reports about 64 percent of its COVID-19 associated deaths were nursing home residents. There have been 2,648 nursing home residents in the state with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 who have died, according to state public health data as of June 10. The state reported 4,120 deaths associated with the virus overall on that date.

Lamont said that the state is still seeking proposals for the independent investigation and a firm has not been selected to begin the work. He also said a review of the state Department of Public Health and its response to nursing home deaths is in order. 

Preliminary results from the investigation are expected by August ahead of a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall, Borer said.

State Businesses Prepare To Reopen

Nail salons, amusement parks, indoor museums and libraries are among the businesses allowed to reopen tomorrow under Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan. Restaurants will also be allowed to serve diners indoors.

As businesses and the state economy continue to slowly open up, things will look different under COVID-19 restrictions.

  • Restaurants can allow diners inside at 50 percent capacity while still offering outside seating and take out service. Servers will wear face masks and gloves and no-touch or disposable menus are encouraged.  Customers are required to wear a mask when not seated at their table or eating.
  • Gyms, fitness centers and pools will also operate at 50 percent capacity. It is up to the facility to set a mask policy. Gyms that enforce a mask policy can have equipment six-feet apart, while equipment must be 12-feet apart where masks are not required. Both indoor and outdoor classes are limited to 50 percent capacity of the space with participants six-feet apart. Gyms must provide cleaning supplies for shared equipment.
  • Sports centers and fields Outdoor athletic complexes must limit events to two teams, officials and control the number of parents and family members with each athlete. Indoor complexes can break capacity limits put in place by COVID-19 restrictions to allow one parent or guardian per athlete. Sports considered lower or moderate risk (like running, volleyball, soccer, baseball, etc.) can begin training and games Wednesday. Higher risk sports that require more contact and less distancing (like football, basketball and hockey) can begin practice, but can't hold games until July 6. 
  • Amusement Parks can open their gates Wednesday with social distancing in place on rides with every other car in use and lines that separate patrons by six feet and do not require them to pass other patrons face-to-face. Every other parking space should be used and parks should have clear signs directing one way travel. Lake Compounce, in Bristol, will not reopen to the public until July 6, allowing season passholders to visit between July 1 - 5. Visitors will have to RSVP online for the day they plan to visit with no tickets sold at the gate.
  • Libraries will open again but programs are still encouraged to be held online. Staff are required to allow only 50 percent of the building's capacity in at a time and may be at the door to limit visitors. Libraries are encouraged to waive fines or extend due dates on books to discourage patrons from coming to the library in person. Some libraries may still require appointments made in advance to visit.
  • Nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal services will require one-on-one appointments and waiting areas will be closed.
  • Indoor recreation facilities like bowling alleys and movie theaters will be required to space groups six-feet apart. Equipment should be used by only one person at a time and cleaned by staff between use.
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums are allowed to open indoor exhibits and attractions under Phase Two of their reopening. Tours are limited to no more than 10 people with everyone wearing a mask. Only interactive exhibits that can be thoroughly and frequently cleaned can remain open, and employees and customers must wear a face mask. Gift shops can reopen under retail guidelines.
  • Outdoor Performances defined by the state as having a set start and end time on a certain date -- such as outdoor concerts at restaurants or animal demonstrations at zoos -- may resume under the maximum permitted gathering size for the venue. Performers not wearing a mask must stay 12-feet from the closest person, including other performers.
  • Hotels and lodging will reopen with as much contactless bookings and payments as possible and front desk staff behind a barrier, like plexiglass. Non-essential services, like valet, coffee inside rooms, minibars and any buffet-style food are prohibited. Hotel staff are prohibited from entering a guest’s room if the guest is inside. Room service may be left outside a guest's door.

Businesses must remain closed if they can not meet state regulations and must self-certify with the state before they can reopen. David Lehman, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said about 15,000 businesses in the state have self-certified. Businesses that were deemed essential and have not closed do not have to self-certify. 
Consumers with any concerns about a businesses’ safety precautions are encouraged to call 211.

Bradley Airport Announces Additional COVID-19 Safety Measures 

Bradley International Airport also announced new safety regulations Tuesday hoping to instill renewed confidence in travelers as the economy reopens in Connecticut and across the country. The program -- called BDL Cares -- will require passengers, visitors and employees to wear a face covering while in the airport. Staff have increased the cleaning and sanitation in high-traffic and high touch-point areas. Hand sanitizing stations have been placed in the terminals for passengers. 

Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees Bradley, said he anticipates a gradual return of passengers and travelers can be confident the airport is doing everything it can to ensure safety. “Our number one priority is always the well-being of our passengers and the entire Bradley International Airport community," Dillion said in a statement. 

Passengers are encouraged to research individual airlines and their COVID-19 safety policies and new TSA procedures including allowing a liquid hand sanitizer container of up to 12 ounces in size in carry-on bags. Passengers are encouraged to keep face coverings on through TSA checkpoints but may be asked to remove them to verify their identity.

Windsor Town Council Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

The Windsor town council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night declaring racism a public health crisis. 

The resolution states that minorities are more likely to experience poor health outcomes because of disparities in economic stability, education, food security, health care and their physical environment.

The objectives of the resolution include:

  • Assert racism is a public health crisis affecting Windsor and all of Connecticut
  • Work to promote equality and justice by identifying activities to ensure antiracism principles
  • Promote equality and enhance educational efforts
  • Improve the data collected by the town
  • Advocate as a town for policies that improve health in communities of color and work with state and federal efforts to dismantle racism
  • Work and solidify alliances and partnerships with other organizations that confront racism.
  • Engage with communities of color wherever they live
  • Periodic reports to the town council to assess progress and seek opportunities to advance racial equity.

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