‘Phase 3’ of Connecticut’s reopening process will begin next month; indoor restaurant dining capacity to increase to 75%

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced the third phase of Connecticut’s COVID-19 reopening process, which will allow for 75% indoor capacity at restaurants beginning October 8. “Phase 3 is coming about because Connecticut has earned it,” Lamont said. Other planned changes as part of Phase Three include: Hair salons, barber […]

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced the third phase of Connecticut’s COVID-19 reopening process, which will allow for 75% indoor capacity at restaurants beginning October 8.

“Phase 3 is coming about because Connecticut has earned it,” Lamont said.

Other planned changes as part of Phase Three include:

Hair salons, barber shops and libraries will also be allowed 75% capacity, up from 50% currently.

Places of worship will be allowed up to 200 people at a time, up from 150.

Maximum capacity at outdoor event venues such as racetracks and amphitheaters will increase from 25% to 50%.

Private outdoor gatherings will now be capped at 150 attendees, up from 100.

Lamont said these changes will be contingent on Connecticut’s coronavirus numbers remaining low over the coming weeks, though he declined to say which metrics specifically would govern reopening.

“Incredibly strict metrics can be a little complicated,” Lamont said. “We’re definitely going to be erring on the side of caution, giving people some notice, but I’m not going to have a straight 5% [threshold].”

The new phase of reopening does not include bars and nightclubs, which have remained closed throughout the pandemic. Lamont has repeatedly stressed his nervousness about bars, which have been blamed for outbreaks across the country, and said Thursday there is no timetable for their reopening.

“I’ve talked to Texas, Florida, Arizona, they regret they opened their bars when they did open them,” Lamont said in August.

Lamont’s announcement comes as local restaurants, already struggling amid diminished business during the pandemic, face colder weather that will make outdoor dining less feasible. Currently, restaurants are allowed to serve customers at up to 50% capacity indoors and no more than their regular operating capacity outdoors.

As the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, research has increasingly pointed to restaurants as sites of potential spread. One recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were about twice as likely as others to have dined at a restaurant within the previous two weeks.

This effect, the CDC wrote, was likely due to poor air circulation in restaurants, as well as the difficulties of mask-wearing there.

“Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking,” the CDC noted, “whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.”

The third phase of Connecticut’s reopening process was originally scheduled for July and would have not only expanded indoor capacity at restaurants but also reopened bars and loosened restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Lamont delayed those measures, however, as COVID-19 cases began to increase in states that had reopened more aggressively.

Now, Connecticut seeks to reopen further at a time when its own coronavirus metrics have ticked upward, with the state’s positivity rate rising from 0.8% to about 1.2%.

Lamont has largely downplayed the recent uptick and said this week he would not likely roll back any reopening measures unless the state saw a positivity rate of 5% or higher.

Alex Putterman can be reached at [email protected]

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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