By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont is scaling back Connecticut’s reopening because of how fast COVID-19 is spreading again in the state.
Lamont on Monday made the announcement that effective on Friday, he is returning to a number of stricter coronavirus-restrictions on businesses, institutions and gatherings that had applied from mid-June through early October.
Public schools are unaffected. School districts will continue to have discretion to offer in-person and remote instruction.
State health officials reported 2,651 new cases of COVID-19 between Friday and Sunday, plus 11 more hospitalizations and deaths each. The increases continued a trend of growing community spread in recent weeks that caused increasing alarm.
Lamont and top aides stressed that another shutdown of non-essential businesses is not being contemplated now. Rather, they said the change in policy is intended to avoid a second partial lockdown in this second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Nobody is thinking about a lockdown. We’re doing everything we can to prevent that from happening,” Lamont said.
To that end, Connecticut residents are now being asked to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but a mandatory curfew is not being considered at this juncture.
“Right now, it is a recommendation,” said Dr. Deirde S. Gifford, the acting commissioner of public health.
THE ROLL BACK MEANS the limit for indoor dining for restaurants will revert from 75% to 50% of allowable seating capacity at 12 a.m. on Friday, and there will be an eight-person limit per table
Eating establishments are also going to be required to halt alcohol service at 9:30 p.m., but food takeout and delivery services can continue after that hour. Bars and nightclubs must remain closed.
Lamont said the 9:30 p.m. cutoff is targeted at eating and drinking establishments that have been flouting state rules limiting bar service.
Despite the changes for restaurants, barbershops, hair salons and other personal care businesses will be allowed to continue to operate at 75% capacity. This was one of the changes that took effect on Oct. 8.
The cap on private social gatherings in restaurants, catering halls and other places of business will be decreased from a maximum of 100 people to 25 people. The limit for outdoor gatherings will be reset from 150 attendees to 50.
Entertainment venues such as bowling allies, movie theaters, and arcades must also close at 9:30 p.m. Movie theaters and indoor performing arts venues are going to be capped at 100 people. Other event venues will be limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
The limit for indoor religious, spiritual and worship gatherings is being decreased from a maximum of 200 people to 100 people.
LAMONT LAST WEEK had stated he was deferring to local decision-making, and he gave more cities and towns discretion to roll back looser reopening rules that had taken effect on Oct. 8.
The governor said on Monday that the resurgence of the viral outbreak in recent weeks required that he use his emergency powers again to take statewide actions to try to limit the public health threat.
“We are putting in these restrictions on a statewide basis now to make sure we don’t have to do more severe things later,” he said.
Non-essential businesses had been shut down from March 20 until May 20, when Lamont started to lift the partial economic shutdown. More businesses were allowed to open and additional coronavirus-related restrictions were eased on June 17.
Lamont estimated nearly all of the economy would be back up and running when the latest operating rules took effect on Oct. 8.
INCREASING COMMUNITY SPREAD is what changed the outlook in the intervening weeks since Lamont announced Connecticut was moving to the third stage of its reopening.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases increased more than 25% from 58,297 on Oct. 1 to 73,858 through Sunday, and there was nearly a 40% increase from the 53,108 cases reported on Sept. 1.
There were 2,651 positive cases out of 79,066 diagnostic test results received between Friday and Sunday. This worked out to a daily positivity rate of 3.4%.
The positive test rate on seven-day rolling average was 3.6% based on the latest numbers that were released Monday. This was the highest seven-day average rate recorded since June 6, said Josh Geballe, the chief operating officer of the Lamont administration.
Lamont said hospitalizations remain the key metric for him because that reflects on hospital capacity and the state’s ability to handle a COVID-19 surge.
“I’m looking at capacity. I’m making sure we can manage our way through this,” he said.
The number of patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 nearly tripled from 110 on Oct. 1 to 340 through Sunday, and it was quintuple the 65 patients that were reported on Sept. 1.
The state has approximately 8,000 hospital beds. Hospitalizations peaked at 1,972 patients on April 22. Roughly 80% of hospitalized patients have been discharged.
Deaths are a lagging indicator behind cases and hospitalizations. There were 4,627 coronavirus-related deaths reported through Sunday. The number of reported deaths increased 25% from 4,513 on Oct. 1, and nearly 36% from 4,467 on Sept. 1.
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTICT on Monday reported 83 new cases in the six municipalities it covers — Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Ansonia, Derby, Seymour and Shelton — since Oct. 30. There have been 2,226 cases in the six municipalities since March, according to health officials.
There have been 556 cases in Naugatuck and 71 in Beacon Falls since March, according to the health district. The number of cases in Naugatuck increased by 30 since Oct. 30, while Beacon Falls had four more cases.
The health district reported no new coronavirus-associated deaths since Oct. 30. There have been 246 coronavirus-associated deaths overall in the district’s six towns. There have been 41 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck and none in Beacon Falls, according to health officials.
The Chesprocott Health District reported there had been 137 cases in Prospect as of Oct. 30, an increase of eight from Oct. 28. There have been no coronavirus-associated deaths in Prospect, according to the health district.
Chesprocott also serves Cheshire and Wolcott. Overall, the health district reported Oct. 30 there have been 721 cases, an increase of 40 from Oct. 28, in the three towns. There have been 33 coronavirus-related deaths in the towns, which didn’t change from the previous report.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.