Towns urge out-of-state visitors, seasonal residents to self-quarantine

With several beach communities beginning to repopulate weeks earlier than usual amid the COVID-19 outbreak, officials in several towns issued requests this week that seasonal residents and visitors from places like New York City self-quarantine for 14 days in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

As of Thursday, Stonington, North Stonington, the City and Town of Groton, Waterford, Ledyard, East Lyme and Old Lyme had made announcements strongly urging visitors and seasonal residents coming from areas such as New York, New Jersey and Fairfield County, or other areas that had implemented “shelter in place” orders, to follow a two-week self-quarantine upon arrival.

As part of their announcements, those towns, except for Old Lyme, unanimously signed a letter addressed to Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday urging him to help further communicate their message.

“With the situation in New Jersey, New York and Fairfield County intensifying, we are seeing an increase in phone calls for rental homes, returning summer residents, and a growing number of visitors to our area,” they wrote. “... Having this message (clearly) coming directly from the Governor’s office would help amplify its importance.”

Their requests fall in line with similar orders and urgings made throughout the region and country this week as states, cities and towns have continuously made efforts to further curb the spread of COVID-19.

While the White House already directed anyone who has been in New York, where the virus has become widespread, to self-quarantine for 14 days to stop the transmission, governors from Florida, Hawaii and Alaska also have implemented their own orders restricting visitors, especially those from New York.

Block Island officials have raised concerns about the fragility of their island's population, and signed an emergency ordinance discouraging visits by nonresidents and ordering nonessential visitors to leave.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said she was to sign an executive order Thursday requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from New York state. The order also applies to anyone who has been in New York during the last 14 days.

Raimondo said Thursday that National Guard troops will be stationed at bus and train stations to collect contact information from anyone arriving from New York and to direct them to self-quarantine. She said the state police also will be stopping cars with New York license plates that enter the state, The Providence Journal reported.

While Connecticut does not yet have such an order, Lamont did put in place orders last week directing all nonessential businesses and nonprofit entities in the state to prohibit all in-person functions and urged residents to “Stay Safe” and “Stay Home.”

The governor’s office did not immediately return phone calls and emails Thursday about whether Lamont intends to sign an order similar to Rhode Island’s.

Welcoming but cautious

East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson said Thursday that after trying to enact his own executive order Wednesday demanding that seasonal residents and visitors coming from hot spot areas follow a 14-day self-quarantine, he and the town are still welcoming its visitors and seasonal residents.

“These are valued members of our community and these are taxpayers, and we welcome them back,” Nickerson said by phone Thursday. “But we just want to be sure that they also use extreme caution when returning.”

Nickerson said that the executive order he tried to put in place has since been reclassified as a “strong suggestion” after he learned he did not have the authority to enact such a measure. He added that there is no way to enforce the quarantine in East Lyme or other nearby towns, but encouraging such actions now still can make a difference.

After receiving calls from concerned residents about an influx of out-of-state license plates on town roads and at local grocery stores, Nickerson said that he, too, has seen more cars driving in town with out-of-state license plates. He added that he has received calls from concerned residents living in one of the town’s several beach associations that summer homes are being re-opened for the season weeks earlier than normal, he said.

Niantic Plumbing President Robert Cutillo said that while his company has only been asked to turn on plumbing and water for about a half-dozen seasonal residents in those beach neighborhoods over the last week — many of whom have told him "‘We want out of the city,’" he said — he expects hundreds of seasonal residents to soon return. Niantic Plumbing serves about 300 seasonal customers, many of whom come from New York City and New Jersey. He added other companies in town additionally serve hundreds of other seasonal residents.

Cheryl Colangelo, chair of the board of governors for the Black Point Beach Club Association, said while she has not seen many of her seasonal residents back in their homes yet, she, too, expects hundreds to return in coming weeks. Of the 600 homes in her association, she estimated about 60% to 70% are occupied by seasonal residents, many of whom come from New York City.

“It’s cause for celebration because our neighborhood people will reunite,” Colangelo said. “But it’s also a cause for additional planning to ensure the safety of the community."

She said she already has started posting notices on her association's website urging seasonal residents to self-quarantine when they arrive but is not worried they won't follow precautions.

"People here are already accepting the social precautions being recommended," she said. "Most of the people living here now are in the 65-year-old or older range and people are being very responsive. I see people walking on opposite sides of the street from each other. People are really respecting the guidelines.”

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick, who also has asked seasonal residents and visitors staying in town to go on a 14-day quarantine, urged his permanent residents to not fear those with out-of-state license plates and to keep in mind that Groton is a military town.

“Those with a New York license plate doesn’t mean they are here to infect,” Hedrick said in a video he posted to the City of Groton Facebook page. “... But still practice social distancing.”

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