Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he’s watching the rising number of COVID-19 cases in other parts of the country and is considering whether to possibly delay Connecticut’s third phase of reopening, noting it depends on what’s happening here and elsewhere.
Indoor private gatherings capped at 50 people, outdoor private gatherings up to 250 people and outdoor event venues, such as amphitheaters and race tracks at 50% capacity, are all scheduled to be allowed sometime in mid-July. Meanwhile, bars and nightclubs remain shuttered, as well as large indoor event spaces.
“Obviously, if I saw something in Massachusetts or New York that was very disturbing, it would certainly give me pause,” he said. “And what I see in in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, it shows you that things could change very quickly.”
The governor said Connecticut’s ultimately decision on what to reopen in mid-July will likely be in cooperation with surrounding states.
“Overwhelmingly, our state tends to walk in parallel with some of our neighbors,” Lamont said. “So I think you’ll find them aligned.”
The administration has been considering allowing bars to reopen in mid-July, said Lamont, who acknowledged he’s now “rethinking that” after watching what’s happening in other parts of the country. There have also been discussions about possibly expanding capacity rules for indoor dining at restaurants, but those too could be put on hold.
“We’re down to 50% for indoor. But again, Texas just lowered themselves down to 50% percent for indoor,” he said. “So as I look what’s going on in Texas and Arizona and Florida, we definitely will take that as an indicator of what we want to do in mid-July.”
Meanwhile, Connecticut’s hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped below 100 for the first time in months, to 99 people as of Monday. To date, there have been 4,320 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of four since Sunday. Lamont said Connecticut is now one of the few states that has tested about 10% of its population. He said the state’s positive rate was below 1% on Monday.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
HELP FOR RENTERS
Lamont on Monday unveiled a $33 million plan, which includes both state and federal resources, to provide emergency help for renters, homeowners, and residential landlords affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The package includes $10 million in rental assistance, in the form of payments to landlords on behalf of approved tenants, with a priority on lower-income households who have been denied unemployment insurance. There’s also $5 million to help renters who were in the process of being evicted before the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared. Lamont also signed an executive order that extends the residential eviction moratorium to Aug. 25.
“We know that some renters and homeowners are having a hard time paying the costs of their housing,” said Lamont, who noted it’s “critical” they receive emergency help to remain housed and to support residential landlords who depend on the rental payments.
The plan also includes $10 million in mortgage relief for homeowners whose mortgages are not federally insured; $4 million for costs such as security deposits and initial rent to help people who may be facing homelessness; $2.5 million in rental assistance for those ineligible for emergency assistance through the federal CARES Act, including people without legal status in the U.S.; and $1.8 million in housing assistance for people released from prison.
SCHOOL REOPENING PLAN
The Connecticut Department of Education on Monday released the details of its reopening plan for local school districts, “guiding principles” that address issues such as how to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus, ways to ensure equal access to both in-school and remote learning, and the importance of having plans in place to cancel in-school learning if necessary.
The 50-page framework was developed with input from students, teachers, principals, health care experts and others. Local school districts will ultimately have discretion in implementing their own reopening plans, given their unique situations. However, the state’s guidelines require districts to develop plans that are relatively consistent with other districts in their region.
The presidents of Connecticut’s two teachers’ unions criticized the state’s plan for appearing to “pass the proverbial ‘buck’ for reopening buildings to local school superintendents and board members who already face difficult budgetary choices.” They said at first glance, the plan appears “incomplete at best” by not providing local districts with the necessary resources.
The Department of Correction announced Monday it has completed the first round of mass testing of inmates and staff. Of the 9,504 offenders tested across 14 facilities, there were 832 positive COVID-19 results, for an overall positive test rate of 9%.
DOC health care staff plan to again offer testing to approximately 440 offenders who had previously opted out. The agency has a goal of testing more than 90% of the inmate population. All but two of the offenders who tested positive as part of the mass testing were asymptomatic. Those who tested positive remained asymptomatic throughout the 14-day isolation and monitoring period.
Since the pandemic began about four months ago, 380 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. All but three have recovered and returned to work. Those remaining three are expected to return to their jobs within the next few weeks.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.