CONNECTICUT — Announcing that “the vaccinations are working,” Gov. Ned Lamont relaxed many of the restrictions on businesses, travelers and public gatherings he established to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The move Thursday came just four days shy of the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case confirmed in Connecticut.
Most significant among the changes is that, beginning March 19, all capacity limits will be eliminated for the following businesses, while face coverings, social distancing, and other cleaning and disinfecting protocols will continue to be required:
- Restaurants (8-person table capacity and 11 p.m. required closing time for dining rooms continues)
- Personal services
- Indoor recreation (excludes theaters, which will continue to have a 50 percent capacity)
- Gyms/fitness centers
- Museums, aquariums, and zoos
- Houses of worship
Gathering sizes for social and recreational gatherings at private residence will be revised to 25 indoors and 100 outdoors. At social and recreational gatherings at commercial venues, the cap is now set at 100 guests indoors and 200 outdoors.
Reopening Businesses March 19:
Connecticut’s travel advisory will be modified from a requirement, to recommended guidance. Previously, travelers from all states with the exception of New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey must quarantine for 10 days after they arrive in Connecticut unless they receive a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arrival.
Beginning Mar. 29, capacity limits on early childhood classes will increase from 16 to 20.
- Face coverings and masks continue to be required
- Bars that only serve beverages continue to remain closed
- 11 p.m. closing time remains in place for events at venues, restaurants, and entertainment
- Indoor theaters continue to have a 50 percent capacity
Large event venues (e.g. stadiums) will open in April, Lamont said.
The changes fall swiftly after the start of a successful roll-out of the coronavirus in Connecticut. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place the state 5th in the nation in administering at least one dose of the vaccination per capita. Hospitalizations dropped to the lowest rate in four months, and the virus positivity rate across the state is at 1.86 percent.
Scott Dolch, president of the Connecticut Restaurant, said Thursday’s restriction relaxation was a good start: “There is still much work to be done before Connecticut and its restaurants are at full strength. Before the pandemic, restaurants accounted for more than 160,000 jobs in our state. To get back to that point, the state will need to fully lift the curfew, limits on table sizes and more.”
The new direction in Connecticut is part of a wave of belt-loosening nationwide, sometimes controversial. Earlier this week, the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced this week they were opening their states “100 percent,” allowing businesses to operate at full capacity and cancelling all state-imposed mask mandates. President Joe Biden was critical of the move, calling the sudden drop of all coronavirus restrictions in those states the product of “Neanderthal thinking,” according to the BBC.
On Monday, Pennsylvania joined Iowa, South Dakota and Montana, lifting its travel restrictions and allowing fans at professional sporting and entertainment events. Crowd sizes remain limited to a 20 percent capacity for outdoor events and 15 percent for indoor events in Pennsylvania.
“While it is encouraging to see the number of cases in our state gradually going down and people getting vaccinated at rates that are among the highest in the nation, we need to continue taking this virus seriously to mitigate its spread as much as possible,” Lamont said.