Lamont eyes extension of emergency powers

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday confirmed he is preparing to extend his emergency powers to manage the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lamont said he believes the dual states of public health and civil preparedness emergencies need to be continued beyond the Feb. 9 expiration date of his latest joint declarations because of the ongoing coronavirus threat.

“The legislature granted me this authority because of the nature of real-time decision-making we’ve got to make,” he said.

There now has been approximately 235,800 cases of COVID-19 since last March and nearly 6,800 coronavirus-linked deaths, including roughly 45,680 new cases and 675 deaths reported since Jan. 1.

Lamont did not say for how long will he will look to continue to extend the board emergency powers that have allowed him to tell businesses how and when they can operate, impose a mask mandate, suspend evictions, and cancel high school sports.

Lamont on Thursday ruled out lifting a 10 p.m. curfew imposed on Connecticut restaurants after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced restaurants and other businesses in his state will be able to remain open beyond 9:30 p.m. again.

State law sets a maximum time limit of six months on declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies that allow a governor to set rules and suspend and modify state laws, regulations and requirements through executive order. Lamont threw out the possibility of a two- to four-month time frame.

A TOTAL OF 89 EXECUTIVE ORDERS have been issued since Lamont signed his first emergency declarations last March 10.

“What you don’t want to have happen is have all of the executive orders just stop on Feb 9. That is not very good,” Lamont said.

He said Paul Mounds Jr., his chief of staff, can work out the length of his latest emergency declarations with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. The legislature convened its 2021 session on Jan. 6, and the adjournment date is June 9.

“Whether we extend the orders for two months or four months, Paul and the leadership can figure that out, and in the meantime the legislature is back in session, and if there are any particular orders they don’t like, tell me, or even if you want, just cast a vote in the legislature to open the bars, or whatever your priority might be because you have that chance to exercise that privilege if you want to,” Lamont said.

The governor pointed out any new emergency declarations will be subject to the approval of a select committee of top Democratic and Republican leaders.

State law authorizes a select committee of the four top majority leaders and the two minority leaders to nullify a civil emergency declaration within 72 hours. It grants the same authority to a second panel of the same six top caucus leaders, plus the four House and Senate leaders of the Public Health Committee concerning a public health emergency.

THE REPUBLICAN MINORITY in the legislature has objected to having Lamont continue exercising his broad emergency powers, and Democratic majority leaders have said an extension is going to be needed.

If either select committee of legislative leaders rejects an emergency declaration, Lamont said the rejection would leave only bad alternatives.

“We’re going to work this out. We have got good leadership on both sides on the aisle. We’re going to find a good compromise going forward,” he said.

Mounds said he expects to consult Democratic and Republican leaders next week concerning a continuation of Lamont’s executive powers.

He also pointed out that Lamont has not issued an executive order since the legislative session commenced three weeks ago. The last order on Dec. 23 extended a moratorium on residential evictions through Feb. 9.

Mounds said the administration has prudently managed the COVID-19 crisis and explained each of its emergency actions to the public.

NEARLY 260,000 DOSES of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since the mid-December of the state vaccination program.

The governor’s office release updated numbers Thursday showing 226,930 eligible state residents have received the first dose of the two-dose regimen for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that are currently available. Some 31,337 people received their second dose.

Lamont and top aides continued to stress Thursday that the pace of vaccinations will depend on the supply of vaccines from the federal government and the demand. At this time, the state is receiving 46,900 doses a week.

State health officials on Thursday reported 1,662 new cases of COVID-19 out of 38,957 tests results that were received Wednesday. The daily positive test rate was 4.3%.

There was a net decrease of 55 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 1,069 statewide, including 330 in New Haven County, 314 in Hartford County and 263 in Fairfield County.

An additional 48 coronavirus-associated deaths were reported Thursday. There now have been 6,774 deaths due to the virus or complications from COVID-19.

The state reported Thursday there have been 2,346 cases in Naugatuck, 579 cases in Prospect and 371 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 77 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, four in Beacon Falls and one in Prospect since last March, according to state data.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.