Complaints come in as state starts reopening

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By Steve Barlow, Republican-American

Citizen watchdogs appear to be out in full force as the state reopens, but police say violators of Gov. Ned Lamont’s public safety rules would have to be extreme cases to risk arrest.

The state received more than 400 complaints of rules violations in the first 10 days after Phase I of the Connecticut’s reopening began May 20. At the governor’s invitation, the calls came in to the United Way’s 211 line, normally an avenue to seek help from or information about social services.

Residents can call 211 or submit an online complaint at ct.gov/coronavirus. They can also contact their municipal police department directly.

Through Friday, the state Department of Economic and Community Development had received 437 complaints of people not following the rules, spokesman Jim Watson said. The state did not have information available about the nature of those complaints, but the governor’s executive order about the new normal includes a plethora of rules. They include limits on the number of people at social gatherings outside, a mandate to wear masks in public, a call for people to maintain social distancing, or at least 6 feet, between each other. Businesses that have been allowed to open were told they could and should refuse service to customers without masks; restaurants allowed to open with outdoor dining must have wait staff in masks and gloves, and use single-serve condiments, as they serve limited numbers of customers.

The next phase of the state’s reopening is expected June 20, and every business and venue will face their own, similar sets of rules.

All complaints are sent to the appropriate police department, Watson said.

“Local law enforcement or the town will follow up,” he said. “In most cases, the first violation would result in a warning and education.”

A second violation can prompt a referral to the local public health department or chief elected official, who could order the closure of a business, Watson said.

The most common complaints involve people not practicing social distancing or not wearing a mask in public, according to police in Waterbury, Torrington and Naugatuck.

Naugatuck police receive a complaint about every other day, said Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister, and most concern a shopper or business employee not wearing a mask.

Many of the complaints have proven unfounded or police simply talk with the perpetrator about the importance of compliance, McAllister said. Some people have medical reasons for not wearing a mask, he added.

“There has been no enforcement action against a business and no enforcement action against an individual,” he said.

THROUGH FRIDAY, there have been approximately 41,760 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease in Connecticut, 13,800 hospitalizations for confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19, and 3,870 confirmed and probable deaths.

Gov. Ned Lamont said a net decline of 71 patients to 577 hospitalizations was the largest daily drop in the hospitalization rate in months.

Locally, the Naugatuck Valley Health District reported there have been 364 laboratory-confirmed cases in Naugatuck and 42 in Beacon Falls as of Thursday. There have been 29 confirmed and two unconfirmed deaths associated with COVID-19 in Naugatuck, according to the health district. The health district hasn’t reported any deaths associated with coronavirus in Beacon Falls.

The Chesprocott Health District reported there have been 61 COVID-19 cases in Prospect as of Friday and no coronavirus-related deaths.

Paul Hughes and Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.