Lamont urges residents to return to normal life

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

Chase Mercer, 8, of Naugatuck, right, and his friend Dakota Paige, 5, of Stratford, center, toss rocks into the Naugatuck River on May 26 while visiting Linden Park in Naugatuck as Chase’s mother, Belitza Cruze, left, reads and keeps an eye on them. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — After telling people to stay home and stay safe, the diminishing COVID-19 threat now has Gov. Ned Lamont saying get out of the house and get back to normal.

Lamont on May 26 announced a shift in messaging from reopening Connecticut to returning to pre-pandemic ways of working, doing business and living life.

The change of focus came a week after the Democratic governor lifted most of the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions and mandates that businesses and people have had to follow since last March.

“I have spent the last year-plus saying, ‘Stay safe, stay home,’ and today I’m telling you, ‘Get out of the damn house, come enjoy Hartford, get on a plane, visit a restaurant, go to an amazing hotel. This is a time where Connecticut is open, ready for business, and we want you coming back,” Lamont enthusiastically extolled.

The governor spoke to reporters at the Connecticut Convention Center where a vaccination clinic was set up below on the ground floor.

Lamont said the increasing vaccination rate and decreasing infection rate are why work, commerce and everyday life can return to pre-coronavirus times. He reported the daily positive rate May 29 dropped to 0.75%.

“Think of where we were a year ago. Think of where we were six months ago. Our state is less likely to be infected and more likely to be vaccinated than just about any state of the country, and that is why we are not just opening up — we are opened for business,” Lamont said.

David Lehman, the state commissioner of economic and community development, joined Lamont at the Connecticut Convention Center with several business leaders.

“What we want to talk about today is getting back to business, getting back to normal,” Lehman said. “We feel like we’re at a time in Connecticut with our economy fully open that it is time to get people back in our offices, back in our airplanes, back in our hotels, back in our convention centers. It is really critical given how circular and intertwined the economy that we start getting back to normal, and we realize this is not going to happen on a dime.”

There are signs of recovery at Bradley International Airport, said Kevin Dillon, the executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority. He said the state’s main airport added passenger routes and carriers in the pandemic, and lately passenger traffic has picked up, too.

“We went from being down 97% in terms of passenger traffic to right now we are down somewhere at around 40%,” Dillon said. “We anticipate a very, very healthy summer travel period, and I’m hopeful by the end of the travel period in the summer that number is getting us closer to normal.”

Connecticut’s hospitality industry is also starting to see an uptick, said Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association.

Rohan Freeman, founder and president of Hartford-based civil engineering firm Freeman Companies, said his Hartford workforce of about 50 employees will be returning to their offices June 1.

“Psychologically, we need to get back to work,” he said. “Economically we need to get workers back in the city spending their time and dollars helping to revitalize restaurants, shops, services and neighborhoods.”

State health officials on May 26 reported 88 new cases of COVID-19 out of 11,706 test results received. There were 1,341 cases reported since May 19.

The 122 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was the lowest since Oct. 1. There was a net decline of seven patients since Tuesday.

There were an additional six coronavirus-related deaths reported.

Officials reported 10 new cases since May 20 in Naugatuck, two in Prospect and four in Beacon Falls. No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the three municipalities since May 20.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.