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Connecticut To Begin Reopening This Week

Office of Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont

Governor Ned Lamont says Connecticut’s COVID-19 infection metrics are moving in the right direction for nonessential businesses to begin reopening this week, despite the concern of some lawmakers. He says there’s a need to get people back to work and reduce the high levels of unemployment. 

A group of 11 Democratic state senators sent a letter to Lamont last week. They expressed concern that the state might not meet the metrics required for safely reopening. Senate President Martin Looney is one of the senators. He says testing is not quite there.

“We wanted to be on record about what our concerns might be including: first of all the level of testing is ramping up at a rate that is sufficient to justify the reopening that’s planned, and secondly that we’re closely monitoring not only hospitalizations but the pattern in new cases.”

Governor Lamont says he appreciates the concern but one of his key metrics, hospitalization, is down.

“40% less than our peak a few weeks ago. And that’s a key trend that continues in the right direction.”

Lamont also defends spending $2 million to hire the private management firm Boston Consulting Group to advise the state on business reopening. The move was criticized by Senate Republican Minority Leader Len Fasano. But Lamont says it’s worth paying for the firm’s advice because BCG is also advising other northeastern states.

“I’d like to attract the best people to help advise us on how we are doing this. And learn from the best practices of other states.”

Lamont says his primary concern is to safely reopen Connecticut and reduce the state’s high jobless rate before the supplemental federal unemployment payments end in July.

“But also the unemployment claims disproportionately impact women, disproportionately impact people of color and young people, many of whom it’s their first job. That’s who’s gotten slammed.”

And he says many of them are in the service sector.

“That’s why on May 20th, we are starting a very thoughtful way to start those businesses to get slowly back on their feet and get those people back in the game.”

Businesses allowed to reopen with enforced social distancing include offices, retail stores, hair salons and restaurants for outdoor dining only.

Dan Meiser with the Connecticut Restaurant Association says restaurant workers account for the highest number of unemployment claims, and outside-only dining is not a viable option for many restaurants.

“Quite frankly there’s obvious reasons for that, weather. May and June are some of the wettest months we have in Connecticut. There’s also the fact many restaurants in Connecticut don’t have patios.”

He says inside dining should be allowed for restaurants that can assure social distancing.

“Specifically in restaurants the days of three-deep at the bar and standing room and people waiting around, that’s not at all what we are talking about. What we are talking about is setting up an environment where there is not standing room, where there is not people wandering around.”

David Lehman, the commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, says the governor’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Panel has recommended indoor dining not be allowed before June 20.  

“The governor wants to get people back to work as safely as possible,” Lehman said.

The department issued an online guide for small businesses wishing to reopen. They can take part in a self-certification process and obtain COVID-19-complaint badges and signage for their businesses. There is plenty of personal protective equipment available.

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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Copyright 2020 WSHU

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year. In addition to providing long-form reports and features for WSHU, he regularly contributes spot news to NPR, and has worked at the NPR National News Desk as part of NPR’s diversity initiative.
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