SOUTHINGTON — The owner of a dog grooming salon wants the town to push back on state pandemic restrictions, but town leaders said it’s not the time to ease up yet.
Susan Zabohonski, owner of Village Pet Grooming, and local resident Alexandra Anderson both questioned the necessity of measures intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a video conference Town Council meeting this past week.
Zabohonski, a UConn pathobiology major and Anderson had concerns about the impact of those measures as well as the broad powers local health departments and the governor had taken during the pandemic. Pathobiology ties together the fundamental concepts of biology, medicine, and public health, particularly as applied to global health issues.
“We have to work within the lines but we can bend some of them,” Anderson said. “I think the government of our town should be prepared to challenge these orders.”
Victoria Triano, a Republican and council chairwoman, said now is the most crucial time in battling COVID-19.
“We feel good, the sun is shining. We want to get back to life as it was. Unfortunately, we have to be extremely careful at this time,” she said. “It’s too important to let down our guard. And I think we’re making progress.”
Plainville-Southington Regional Health District director Shane Lockwood did not return calls for comment.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to drop, Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday morning, but Connecticut reported 94 deaths linked to COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest number in a single day since May 2. Confirmed cases surpassed 35,000.
A total of 3,285 people are reported dead from coronavirus-related complications in Connecticut.
Giving people choice
Zabohonski doesn’t wear a mask at her dog grooming salon. Customers sometimes drop off their dogs wearing a mask, but “90 percent” don’t have one when they return after seeing it’s not required, she said.
“What I’ve found is, if we instill confidence in the residents of Southington, they’re going to see that and not live in fear,” Zabohonski said.
She’s made special arrangements for customers who want less contact while dropping off dogs and doesn’t have a problem doing so. But Zabohonski said people should be able to make their own health decisions.
“We’re keeping social distance. We disinfect our shop every day,” she said.
Lamont’s order required masks in public if people couldn’t maintain social distancing.
Reopening the town
The town formed a long-term recovery committee to help businesses navigate the partial reopening that will start Wednesday. Triano said she supported reopening businesses and public life in line with the recommendations of health officials.
“Right now I don’t see any reasons not to go deliberately and carefully forward to open up Southington,” she said. “I’m all for it but it’s got to be done in a very controlled situation.”
Zabohonski said the orders have hurt businesses, although not hers.
She said she was concerned that too many decisions were being implemented by executive order of the governor.
“There’s one man making all the laws of the state for six months without input from the legislature or the citizens? That’s crazy,” Zabohonski said.
Daily updates for town leaders
Val DePaolo, a Democratic councilor, said town leaders get daily updates from Lockwood. While hospitalizations have been declining, DePaolo said she’s not in favor of abandoning restrictions yet.
“If we open up too quickly and those numbers start to spike, that would be a concern,” DePaolo said. “As a councilperson, I’m trying to look at it from the perspective of the safety of our town.”
Medical experts have also warned that the virus may likely see a resurgence in the fall.
DePaolo acknowledged that there are a lot of different perspectives on handling the pandemic. DePaolo wanted to follow the direction laid out by the town’s public health director.
“People are tired of being home and cooped up. Is it necessary?” she said. “I really think everyone’s trying to do this the best way with the information we have.”