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Lamont: Connecticut can start to reopen on May 20

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday laid out a four-phase plan for reopening Connecticut, starting May 20 with a partial resumption of services and return to workplaces with social distancing measures and hygiene practices, including face masks, in place.

Lamont said restaurants may reopen May 20 for outdoor service, though bars will remain closed. Retail stores may remain open, and employees may return to their offices in smaller groups, while some, including people over 70 and others at high risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19, may continue to work from home. Hair and nail salons, outdoor museums and zoos, and recreational areas that were closed may reopen, along with university research programs.

Lamont said he would be making an announcement about schools next week.

The plan to reopen Connecticut, devised by a committee of 50 scientists and business people, depends on the state's success in ramping up to 42,000 COVID-19 tests a week and implementing a contact tracing program, both of which Lamont said are on track. The state is set to meet its first benchmark for reopening, which is 14 days of declining hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients. Thursday was the eighth declining day of hospitalizations statewide.

The advisory board plans to reopen the state in phases over the next several months while monitoring the level of transmission of the coronavirus. Lamont didn't provide dates for fully reopening the state but said additional phases of the plan may be implemented after evaluating the first phase for four to six weeks.

Not yet for casinos

Southeastern Connecticut's two tribal casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, are discussing their plans for safely reopening with the state. But Indra Nooyi, co-chair of the advisory committee, said it's too early to reopen such high-contact venues, which she said draw customers from out of state and could be a prime spot for an outbreak. The committee has talked to mall operators throughout the country, who have created a grid to determine how many customers they can allow into their businesses.

Statewide, 933 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, bringing the total to 27,700. Eighty new deaths, many of them in nursing homes, Lamont said, were reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,257. There were 1,650 people hospitalized due to the virus, a decline of 41 patients from the previous day.

New London County cases of COVID-19 remain the third lowest in the state, behind Tolland and Windham counties, with a total of 564 cases and 36 deaths reported since the virus reached the state in March.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital reported Thursday it was treating 27 patients with COVID-19, while Westerly Hospital was treating two. William W. Backus Hospital had 10 patients who had tested positive for the disease.

On Wednesday, Patrick Green, president and chief executive officer of L+M and Westerly hospitals, told The Day that the models project  L+M would not experience peak hospitalizations until around the second week of June. Asked about the possibility that cases here could still be on the rise, Lamont said the state and region are highly connected and the state would react accordingly.

Connecticut will be watching the earlier reopenings in other states, including  Georgia and Oklahoma, Lamont said, and the reopening plan could be delayed or revised if there's a rise in cases in Boston and New York.

Dr. Albert Ko, an epidemiologist from the Yale School of Medicine, said the state would need to carefully monitor the transmission rate of the virus within the community. He said the use of face masks is important, given the majority of people infected with the coronavirus show no symptoms, and businesses and the public must be educated on disinfection practices, hand hygiene and maintaining social distancing.

"This is a work in progress," Ko said. "We have the best experts in occupational safety and health and business leaders to come in and put best practice in place tailored to industry in Connecticut."

Court activity increases

Also Thursday, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services announced that a patient who had been at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown had died Wednesday from complications related to the coronavirus. The individual, who was not identified, had been transferred to a hospital. Forty-one patients at CVH and 26 staff have tested positive for the virus, according to DMHAS.

"Sadly, we are not immune to the devastation of coronavirus," DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said. "The family and health care providers of this patient are in our thoughts and prayers as they deal with the devastating loss of their loved one. We will provide support to the family in any way possible."

The Judicial Branch, which has consolidated services into fewer courthouses, reduced hours and limited cases to priority matters during the pandemic, gradually is returning cases that can be handled remotely by judges and clerks back to its dockets. On Thursday, the branch announced that parties who have an agreement may have their family court cases resolved without having to come to court.

"This is a significant development, considering that about 90% of our cases are resolved by agreement," said Michael A. Albis, chief administrative judge of family matters. "We are looking forward to this expansion of cases that we can dispose of remotely, and most important, we are glad that a greater number of litigants will have the opportunity to resolve their cases without having to come to court."

k.florin@theday.com





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