Lamont lifts more restrictions as state moves ahead with next reopening phase

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont was unable to say Wednesday when society and business might be expected to fully resume as Connecticut prepared to move into its next reopening phase.

More restrictions that were put into place on businesses and gatherings are being relaxed in this third round that had been delayed since July because of concerns about COVID-19 spread.

Capacity at restaurants, hair salons, libraries, and certain indoor and outdoor event and performing arts venues will increase effective immediately. Attendance limits for social, recreational and religious gatherings are also going to go up.

Nightclubs and bars will be remaining closed for the foreseeable future.

With this next phase, Lamont estimated 99% of the state economy will be reopened, though business and customers must still follow coronavirus-related mandates and restrictions, including mask wearing, social distancing and capacity limits.

He continued to have no timetable for a full reopening.

“I guess phase 4 would be everything at 100%, and bars. Let’s wait on that,” Lamont said during a news conference Wednesday at the headquarters of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Restaurants had been limited to 50% of seating capacity since the governor allowed indoor dining to resume on June 17. The new limit is 75%.

Barbershops, hair salons and other personal care businesses will also be able to operate at 75% capacity, and so will libraries and museums.

Outdoor event venues such as amphitheaters and race tracks are doubling from 25% capacity to 50% capacity, and indoor performing arts venues are also going to be able to operate at 50% capacity.

The limit for indoor religious, spiritual and worship gatherings is being increased from a maximum of 100 people to 200 people. There are no caps for outdoor observances. The same indoor and outdoor rules will also apply to graduations.

Private social gatherings in restaurants, catering halls and other places of business will be capped at 100 people. The limit for private residences is remaining at 25 people, but the maximum for such private outdoor gatherings is going from 100 people to 150.

Lamont said his administration is going to be cautious about this latest reopening round, and state officials will be closely watching COVID-19 trends. He also threatened penalties for flouting state requirements.

Despite ticking up recently, Lamont said infection rate at this time supports proceeding to the long-delayed third phase.

He said the percentage rate of positive test results was misreported Tuesday due to a data entry error. There were slightly more than 9,500 more results received since Monday than the 8,200 that were reported.

As a result of the correction, Lamont said the positivity rate based on the daily numbers reported Tuesday declined from 1.5% to 0.7%.

“That said, I know it has been trending up a little bit, and we are going to watch it very carefully, and make sure we regulate and penalize those that are not following the protocols carefully,” he said.

The daily positivity rate climbed back up to 1.6% based on the 123 positive diagnoses out of the 7,617 test results that were reported Wednesday.

With the additional positive tests reported Tuesday, there have now been 59,364 COVID-19 cases recorded since early March. More than 1.7 diagnostic tests have been performed.

There was a net increase of nine patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 between new admissions and discharges to 138 statewide.

Public health officials reported an additional coronavirus-related fatality that brought the death toll to 4,522.

Day-to-day changes reflect newly reported cases, deaths and tests that occurred over the last several days to week. All daily statistics are preliminary.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District reported as of Tuesday there had been 460 confirmed cases in Naugatuck and 60 in Beacon Falls. There had been 41 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck and none in Beacon Falls, according to health officials.

The Chesprocott Health District reported Oct. 2 there had been 91 coronavirus cases in Prospect. There had not been any coronavirus-associated deaths reported in Prospect.