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Connecticut set to further relax COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in May

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that he would relax COVID-19 safety restrictions on restaurants and other businesses beginning in May.

Lamont outlined the specific changes during a news conference Monday afternoon. As of May 1, the 11 p.m. curfew will be pushed back an hour to midnight, which the governor said “gives restaurants an opportunity for a second sitting.” Serving alcohol without food will be allowed. And there will be no table size limit at restaurants — most recently the number of people allowed at a table was no more than eight. 

And on May 19, Lamont said, the state would essentially end all remaining business restrictions.

Social distancing requirements will be relaxed, leaving that decision up to businesses. Gathering size limits will no longer be in effect. The state Department of Public Health will issue recommendations for safe operation of indoor and large outdoor events. Lamont mentioned that movie theaters, which are currently capped at 50% capacity, will be allowed 100% capacity. While outdoor masking will no longer be mandated, indoor masking will continue, “whether it’s a mandate or it’s guidance,” Lamont said, adding that he needs to discuss the topic further with legislative leaders.

“We’re going to mandate that you continue to wear the mask in school through the end of the school year,” Lamont said. “We’re going to require indoor masking a little bit longer, unless you’re vaccinated, in crowded public places, but that’s it.”

The governor said businesses will decide levels of social distancing and masking as well as whether to ask for coronavirus test results or vaccinations from May 19 on.

Lamont's decision to loosen COVID-19 restrictions was made with the advice of state Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford and state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman. Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds said Gifford and Lehman also consulted their counterparts in other states.

Lamont also answered several questions about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Monday. The governor’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe echoed White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci in saying there may be a decision on resuming the administration of the vaccine on Friday.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate in March was 8.3%, tied with New York and New Mexico for the third-highest rate in the country. The governor said the state opening up more in May will restore many jobs lost during the pandemic. 

“Different states have different counts, but our unemployment rate is high. That’s yet another reason I think the hospitality sector is really important,” Lamont said. “It was in the service/hospitality sectors where a lot of people lost their job during the peak of the pandemic. You could say I’ve been a little cautious as we reopen the service economy, but I think you can see over the next few weeks, we’re going to be back at virtually 100%.” 

Updated COVID-19 statistics

The latest state COVID vaccination numbers show that 61% of all adults aged 18-plus have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Of those aged 65-plus, 88% have received their first dose; about 75% of people between the ages of 55 and 64 have received their first dose; almost 60% of people between the ages of 45 and 54; almost 50% of people between the ages of 35 and 44; about 40% of those aged 25-34; around 30% of 18-24-year-olds; and about 25% of 16- and 17-year-olds. 

A total of 2.7 million doses have been administered, with 1,113,184 people fully vaccinated and 1,703,045 first doses administered. 

Since Friday, 2,736 additional cases of COVID-19 have been reported throughout the state, bringing the total to 331,401. Nearly 102,000 tests have been reported since Friday with a positivity rate of 2.68%.

Hospitalizations increased by eight since Friday, bringing the total number of people now hospitalized in the state to 494. There have been 19 more deaths in the three days, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to 8,014. Lamont commented on crossing the threshold of 8,000 deaths.

“We had no idea of the scope of the tragedy we were confronting a year ago,” he said. “We as a state, we as a country, have got to learn from the scope and scale of the misery and fatalities this has created, and make sure we’re much better prepared, and take early warning signals much more seriously next time than we did last time. Shame on us if we let this happen again.”

New London County has 19 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The county has 21,516 total cases and 428 deaths, an increase of three deaths from a week ago. On Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital reported eight hospitalizations while Westerly Hospital reported four. 

s.spinella@theday.com

 

 

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