One week after Connecticut was originally slated to move into the third phase of reopening — and two weeks after Gov. Ned Lamont announced he was pausing the plan — the state is still sitting in limbo and still does not have a third-phase date in sight.
“As far as phase three goes, we’re still in a monitoring of the numbers and metrics phase,” said Lamont spokesperson Max Reiss. “We’re still taking a wait-and-see approach.”
Reiss said that, among other things, the state is keeping a close eye on a recent spike in coronavirus cases among teens and young adults. Reiss and Lamont both indicated that the reopening is unlikely to move forward while that trend continues.
“We’ve got to be really strict about this,” Lamont said at a Monday afternoon press conference. “I look down in Florida, I look down in Arizona and the governors there say it often started with young people.”
Lamont floated the idea of cracking down on unsafe gatherings with possible “sanctions.” He declined to provide specifics.
Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said the state is working to target this age group with public service announcements and social media campaigns.
The state moved into phase two on June 17, and was initially scheduled to move to phrase three on July 20. But on July 6, Lamont announced that the third phase would be indefinitely postponed, apparently due to concerns about coronavirus spikes across the country.
That means Connecticut has now been suspended in phase two for nearly six weeks. And businesses that were supposed to open in phase three — most notably, bars — have instead remained closed.
Although Lamont initially paused the state’s reopening due to concerns about cases in other states, the rising cases among Connecticut’s young people has became the latest in a string of concerns. The Courant previously reported that, of all the people in Connecticut diagnosed with coronavirus from July 5 to 18, nearly 40% were under the age of 30.
The state Department of Public Health said that many recent cases in teens and young adults appear to stem from large, unsafe gatherings — further evidence that the state’s progress can backslide when public health measures are flouted or relaxed too quickly.
Reiss said it’s critical for young adults to continue — or begin — to take public health measures seriously.
“We need 20- to 29-year-olds to wear masks and [practice] social distancing,” he said. “This is a group that is critical to the state’s long-term and short-term success when it comes to mitigating the spread.”
When it comes to reopening, Reiss said the state is aiming to do things right the first time, so it doesn’t have to reinstate restrictions as some states did. That also means Connecticut is unlikely to move forward with a reopening plan while the virus is spreading unpredictably among young adults.
“If we have groups of individuals that are insisting on not wearing masks and not social distancing and not doing things as simple as washing their hands, that puts more people at risk,” Reiss said. “This is why we need everybody playing by the rules.”
Reiss said that Lamont health and economics experts are closely monitoring the state’s metrics, such as hospitalizations and positivity rate, and weighing next steps. He echoed one of Lamont’s talking points, that the state’s economy can’t recover unless its people are healthy.
For now, it’s unclear how or when the state will decide to move forward with the reopening process.
“We are thinking as holistically as possible about what future phases may look like, with a full understanding that the public health is the most important,” Reiss said. “We’re not going to make any decisions about phase three unless the numbers are in a good place.”
Emily Brindley can be reached at [email protected].
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