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Connecticut bars to stay closed indefinitely

Despite indicators that continue to trend in the right direction, Gov. Ned Lamont confirmed Monday that he will postpone the launch of the third phase of the state’s reopening effort, meaning bars will have to stay closed and restaurants will have to keep operating at no more than 50% of indoor capacity “for the foreseeable future.”

The further easing of restrictions on such "nonessential" businesses originally had been scheduled to take effect July 20.

New coronavirus data Monday, the first released since Friday, showed that 259 more COVID-19 cases had been detected in the state, raising the cumulative total to 46,976. Three more deaths had been associated with the disease, bringing the death toll to 4,338.

Arizona has had more than 10 times as many new cases in a single day and Florida 30 or 40 times as many, Lamont noted.

Lamont said COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state had dropped by 26 since Friday, leaving 69 COVID-19 patients in Connecticut. More than 8,000 test results a day had been reported over the weekend, with less than 1% of the tests coming back positive, a lower rate of infection than any state but Vermont, according to the governor.

He said all public health departments in the state are now tracking people who have had contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracers are responding to 96% of all cases within 48 hours, though less than half of all contacts have been reached.

Given what’s happened in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, “We’ll continue to err on the side of caution,” Lamont said.

“We never opened up our bars and now they’re going back and closing down their bars,” he said, referring to Texas. “As Gov. Greg Abbott said, ‘I regret having opened the bars at all. They are so conducive to the infection.’”

Lamont said other states where the coronavirus is raging are now limiting restaurants to 50% of indoor capacity, a step Connecticut took in the second phase of its reopening, which started June 17.

“Let’s take a pause,” he said, adding that the number of people allowed at private indoor gatherings will remain at 25 while the number allowed at private outdoor gatherings will remain 100. As many as 150 are allowed at graduations.

Lamont contrasted a crowded Florida beach scene where no social distancing was evident to one this past weekend at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, where people occupied blankets that appeared to be more than 15 feet apart, as state protocols require.

“We’ve learned that being outside is so much safer,” Lamont said. “We had talked about raising capacities for entertainment venues and gyms but we’re going to keep that at 50%, too, for the foreseeable future.”

As planned, state campgrounds can reopen Wednesday, he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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