State sketches out second stage of reopening

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont expects to allow people to head back to gyms in four weeks.

Gyms, fitness centers and sports clubs are among the next group of businesses that the Lamont administration plans to open to the public again following state protocols on approximately June 20.

Lamont and top advisers sketched out the coming second stage of his four-stage reopening strategy Wednesday as Connecticut eased business restrictions that had been imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease that has claimed more than 3,500 lives.

“People sometimes forget that we didn’t close down a lot of sectors that other people are now opening in their so-called phase one,” Lamont said.

RETAIL STORES THAT REOPENED WEDNESDAY had been allowed to continue to be staffed to take orders via telephone, internet, mail, or drop box, as well as provide curbside pick-up or delivery.

“As of today, our retail is now open, subject to you following strict protocols,” Lamont said.

Restaurants that could were able to offer outdoor dining starting Wednesday in addition to takeout and delivery service. Dining rooms will be allowed to open in the next stage, Lamont said. Bars will have to remain closed, though outdoor bars may be allowed to open in the next stage.

Barbershops and hair salons will be opening on June 1, but other personal service businesses will be permitted to open on June 20, such as nail salons, tattoo and piercing shops, and massage establishments. Hair care businesses had been initially scheduled to open Wednesday.

People will also be able to go to movie theaters and bowling alleys on June 20, and outdoor amusement parks, too. In addition, outdoor arts, entertainment and other events will be allowed with a 50-person limit. All aquariums, museums and zoos can open in four weeks, too.

Lodging accommodations will be allowed to resume on June 20. In early April, the governor barred all hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and short-term residential rentals from renting to customers for leisure or vacation purposes.

Lamont continued to stress that decisions to reopen are discretionary.

“Once we give out the starting date you’re able to go,” he said. “You’re able to open at your own pace, and you don’t have to open unless you’re ready, but businesses have to comply with the rules if they do open.”

Selected youth sports will be permitted to resume on June 20, and summer day camps are due to open two days later. There will be no residential summer camps, and also no adult recreational sports leagues.

The reopening plans shared Wednesday anticipate that bars will be allowed to open in the third stage on or around July 20, as well as indoor event spaces and venues, amusement parks and arcades. The limit on outdoor events is expected to double then to 100 people.

LAMONT ALSO LAID OUT the public health measures for progressing to the next stages, or pausing the gradual reopening of the economy and society.

The governor said the state will only move to the second stage if the net increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 is less than 100 patients

The hospitalization rate continued on its downward trend Wednesday. The Department of Public Health reported a net decline of 27 patients between new admissions and discharges since Tuesday’s report to 887 statewide.

Lamont said another condition is that no more than 20% of available hospital beds can be occupied by COVID-19 patients. This is a metric that he has previously identified.

There are also testing and contract tracing measures.

Lamont said the state must have the capacity to conduct 100,000 diagnostic tests a week to progress to the second reopening stage.

“That is a key metric for us going forward because that means not only testing of asymptomatic and symptomatic, and the most vulnerable communities, and the first responders, but then more broadly to the general population,” he said.

Lamont said there also must be testing of vulnerable populations and key workers who serve them, such as nursing home residents and staff.

Public health officials reported Wednesday that 190,718 tests have been done in Connecticut, including an additional 5,198 since Monday’s report.

Also, there were 314 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday. This brought the running statewide total 38,430.

Locally, the Naugatuck Valley Health District reported there have been 343 laboratory-confirmed cases in Naugatuck and 42 in Beacon Falls as of Wednesday.

The health district reported two additional COVID-19-associated deaths of residents of nursing homes in Naugatuck, bringing the death total in Naugatuck to 25. The health district hasn’t reported any deaths associated with coronavirus in Beacon Falls.

The Chesprocott Health District reported there have been 56 COVID-19 cases in Prospect as of Wednesday and no deaths.

Before moving to the next stage, Lamont said contact tracers must be able to track down the contacts of infected people in 48 hours for 50% of the positive cases that are reported.

He said the administration will also release rules and regulations for businesses and members of the public two weeks before the second reopening phase.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.