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CT Businesses Could Begin Reopening In 7-10 Days, Governor Lamont says

CT Businesses Could Begin Reopening In 7-10 Days, Governor Lamont says

CT Post, April 28, 2020

By Ken Dixon

Some Connecticut businesses could begin reopening in as few as 7-10 days if the decline in Covid-19 hospitalizations continued, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

Lamont said the state is about halfway to a 14-day benchmark on hospitalization declines established by the White House’s coronavirus task force.

Still, with 88 new deaths, the pandemic’s fatality total reached 2,012 on Monday. The net decrease of eight COVID-19 patients brought the hospitalized total to 1,758, down from 1,947 on April 23.

“It’s not a straight line but we’re about seven days into this down slope and that means in another seven to 10 days, we can start making some announcements about places that we can go and places that can be opened,” Lamont said during his daily news conference in the State Capitol.

He has currently committed to keeping schools, many retail stores and other non-essential businesses closed until May 20. But his task force of medical and business officials, who will be made available to reporters on Thursday, have been meeting daily in attempt to prioritize reentry into the state’s new normal. There will be a website for the group unveiled later in the week where the panel will take public suggestions.  

“My estimation is we’re going to open up those things which you can do safely,” Lamont said. “Those things where you can social distance. Maybe we’ll find, over time, those pick-up places, you can go in as long as you have a mask and are appropriately social distancing. As you move on into the summer, obviously, with warmer weather maybe you’ll find that restaurants, outdoor eating is something that we can find we can do relatively safely. But perhaps an indoor crowded bar or something, we can’t figure out how to safely in the near term.”  

Lamont expects the state’s testing program to ramp up as hospitalizations decline. The governor decided that the theme of Monday’s news conference would be food, because the most number of calls to the state’s 211 phone line are from people with food insecurities.

“I know that we don’t make most of what we eat here in this state, but let’s do a better job of aggregating what we can and keep that food supply going so we don’t have any farmers or dairies pouring milk away while people are lined up,” Lamont said, recalling huge lines of people at the UConn football stadium in East Hartford recently waiting for food donations.

CCM joins national coalition back to top

Bryan Hurlburt, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, and Deidre Gifford, commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, announced a four-prong attempt to provide better access to food and better support for Connecticut food services including farmers and restaurants.

Also, an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will give families and individuals more funding through at least May, with an incentive for farmer and farmers’ markets to participate. Before the pandemic the SNAP program provided funding for 350,000 people, which has been increased by about $45 million for the month of May.

There will be a new $72 million food benefit for 270,000 children in towns and cities that have reduced-price or free school lunches.

Gifford and Hurlburt also want SNAP participants - the former food stamp program - to be able to order food online to make it safer, with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And Gifford wants the Federal Emergency Management Administration to approve funding to bring elderly people food to allow them to stay sheltered in the coronavirus pandemic.

Gifford said there are preliminary discussions on a possible new program to contract with state restaurants to prepare and deliver meals for the elderly who are quarantined or self-isolating.

Also on Monday, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities announced that it has joined a national coalition of state, county and local governmental associations in an attempt to access additional federal funding to help towns and cities cope with the unexpected local costs of the pandemic.

“There has been progress made in gaining support for additional direct funding for states, as well as critical support for direct funding for municipalities with populations in excess of 50,000,” said Joe DeLong, CCM’s executive diretor. “We are continuing to push for direct funding for all local governments. Along with our efforts advocating for additional federal assistance, CCM is continuing to urge Gov. Lamont to share a portion of the $1.38 billion in revenues received from the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the CARES Act with local governments.”

The coalition includes the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International City/County Management Association, the Council of State Governments and the National Association of Counties. These are the seven leading organizations representing state and local governments at the federal level.

The U.S. Treasury Department has determined that states can transfer payments to local governments, including municipal employee payroll support; and public-safety expenses for responses to the coronavirus.