Connecticut residents will have to wait longer to enjoy a drink in a bar or attend larger indoor and outdoor gatherings. They'll also have to wait longer for the capacity limits to be increased in places likes restaurants and gyms.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday he is postponing the state's third phase of reopening “for the foreseeable future," expressing concern about the number of positive COVID-19 cases spiking in other states and those governors deciding to reverse their earlier reopening decisions. On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, shut down bars again and scaled back restaurant capacity to 50% because of large increases in infections.
“Look, I’d like a beer at the bar as much as the next person. I know how frustrating this can be,” Lamont said. “But right now, with this pandemic flaring up in a majority of other states, this is not the time to take a risk.”
The Connecticut Restaurant Association has stressed that bar seating will still be allowed as part of a restaurant's current 50% indoor capacity limit, so long as certain criteria are met, such as physical barriers in place that separate customers from the bar space and restrictions against serving customers who are standing.
Meanwhile, the occupancy limit will remain at 25% for large outdoor facilities that have a fire code associated with them, such as racetracks. Also, indoor private gatherings will remain limited at up to 25 people and outdoor private gatherings will still be capped at 100 people. Both were scheduled to increase in mid-July. Additionally, the capacity limits will remain in place for indoor dining, different entertainment venues and gyms.
Lamont's decision comes as Connecticut still has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, less than 1%. There have been 259 more positive cases since Friday and three more deaths, for a total of 4,338. Meanwhile, the number of hospitalizations dropped over the weekend by 26, to a total of 69.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.
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Lamont said 100% of the state's local health departments are participating in the state's contact tracing program, uploading data and making calls on a regular basis. He said 885 people have signed up to perform contact tracing, 120 of whom are volunteers. Nearly all of the positive cases reported to local health departments for contact tracing are followed up within 48 hours. Ultimately, about 47% of the cases have been successfully contacted.
While state officials would like to see more cases successfully contacted, Josh Geballe, Lamont's chief operating officer, said having all of the local health departments involved in the system gives Connecticut “a huge advantage as a state to be able to pass contacts across jurisdictional lines." It also gives officials insight on a statewide level of where possible outbreaks might occur.
After seeing other states struggle to find poll workers during the pandemic, Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Monday announced a statewide effort to recruit poll workers in Connecticut for the upcoming primary and general election. Voters interested in working at polling places can sign up online.
The population of poll workers in Connecticut tends to be older and Merrill said many may not be able to volunteer this year. But she noted that polling places will feature social distancing and personal protective equipment.