By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont is planning to lift many of the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings in May.
The outdoor rules for businesses will be rescinded effective May 1. The business curfew will also be rolled back from 11 p.m. to midnight on that date, and then all remaining business restrictions will end on May 19, though requirements to wear masks indoors are expected to remain in effect.
Also, the current caps on indoor and outdoor private, social and recreational gatherings will be removed on May 19.
In addition, the state Department of Public Health will issue recommendations for the safe operation of indoor and large outdoor events, such as concerts and sporting events.
“I think these are all ways we have earned the right to get back to our new normal,” Lamont said.
He announced the coming changes Monday as the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from viral disease topped 8,000 in a grim reminder of the continuing public health threat confronting Connecticut.
“I think that we had no idea of the scope of the tragedy that we were confronting a year ago,” he said, reflecting on this latest pandemic milestone. “I think Connecticut and our region had much more understanding of it than perhaps some of the comments you heard coming out of Washington, D.C., and I think we as a state, and we as a country have got to learn from the scope and scale of the misery and the fatalities this has created, and make sure that we are much more prepared, and we take the early warning signals much more seriously next time than we did last time. Shame on us if we let this happen again.”
The governor made clear Monday that his reopening plans depend on keeping the infection rate under control and increasing vaccination rates.
If COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations suddenly spike, Lamont said he would consider rolling back the reopening and imposing restrictions again, but he expressed confidence that will not be necessary.
The governor’s coronavirus emergency declarations and related executive orders are due to expire on May 20 under legislation that the legislature passed in March.
BUSINESSES WILL BE FREE to set rules for customers once the state mandates expire on May 19.
Lamont said he expects the state will issue guidance, but it will essentially be left up to the businesses to decide what coronavirus-related safety measures to maintain.
“Look, I think businesses have all the freedom in the world to do everything they can to give their customers confidence, 100% confidence, and if they want to have a mask requirement, if they want to say, ‘I want people to get tested,’ if they want to say, ‘Vaccinations,’ that’s up to the business, that’s up to the venue,” Lamont said. “What we have is a set of minimum requirements which we think are necessary to keep the state of Connecticut safe.”
The Connecticut Restaurant Association applauded the announcement that the state will be lifting all pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants except the need to wear a mask indoors when not dining.
“More than a year after this pandemic began, local restaurant owners and employees can finally see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Scott Dolch, the trade group’s executive director.
THE STATE’S DEATH TOLL REACHED 8,019 after 19 more coronavirus-related deaths were reported to the Department of Public Health between Friday and Sunday.
State health officials have now reported 6,591 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and another 1,423 probable deaths in the pandemic over the 12 months since the state’s first reported death of an 88-year-old Ridgefield man.
There were 2,736 additional COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend out of 101,952 test results that were received for a positive test rate of nearly 2.7%. There now have 331,401 reported cases, and more than 8.3 million molecular and antigen tests have been performed.
There was also a net increase of eight patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 494.
State health officials reported there have been 3,360 cases in Naugatuck, 883 in Prospect and 539 in Beacon Falls since last March.
There have been 89 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect, according to state officials.
As of Monday, more than 2.7 million doses of COVID-19 have been administered in Connecticut, and more than 1.1 million state residents are fully vaccinated, meaning a person has received a shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a second shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Lamont reported that 61% of adults age 18 and older have received a first dose.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.