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As Connecticut’s positive coronavirus test rate and hospitalization numbers continue to show promising trends, Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday that he will loosen some pandemic-related restrictions for both restaurants and houses of worship.
“Our better numbers are allowing us to slightly relax some of the restrictions,” Lamont said at a Monday afternoon press briefing.
Lamont on Monday said the state will soon remove the gathering cap for houses of worship — which are currently limited to a maximum of 100 people — and will extend the restaurant curfew from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Masking and social distancing will still be required at houses of worship and at restaurants, and both locales will still be capped at a maximum of 50% capacity.
Lamont noted that the limit on gatherings at houses of worship has spawned lawsuits in other states. Neighboring New York state recently lost a lawsuit and was told it could not enforce a restriction on religious gatherings. And for the restaurant curfew, Lamont noted that neighboring states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island recently lifted their restaurant curfews, although those states also have lower maximum capacities.
“We’re all more or less on the same place, and I think what a difference that’s going to make,” Lamont said. “And it gets us back — as long as you’re cautious — to a new normal.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said that the restaurant restrictions will change Tuesday evening, and the houses of worship restrictions will change on Thursday.
The governor’s announcement came as the state reported continued lowered numbers. The state on Monday reported a weekend positivity rate of 3.86%, with the state identifying 3,931 new cases out of a total of 101,971 tests administered. Including the weekend’s rate, Connecticut’s weekly average positivity has now fallen below 4% for the first time since early November.
However, that lowered rate is a relatively new development. Less than three weeks ago, the state’s weekly average rate hit its second-wave high, at 7.4%.
Also on Monday, the state reported a significant dip in its coronavirus hospitalizations. With 73 fewer people hospitalized, Connecticut now has a total of 912 people hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s the lowest number the state has seen since the end of November.
Another 8 people were diagnosed with the highly infectious strain of COVID-19 over the weekend, Gov. Lamont said. There have been a total of 16 confirmed cases of the variant strain in Connecticut.
The state reported an additional 73 coronavirus-linked deaths since Friday. Since the pandemic began, the state has seen more than 250,000 coronavirus cases and a total of 7,119 deaths.
Nationwide, there have been more than 26 million coronavirus cases and a total of 442,710 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Nor’easter leads to vaccine delays
Lamont said on Monday that Connecticut’s weekly shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses will be delayed slightly by the state’s first nor’easter of the season.
The state expected to receive a weekly shipment from the federal government on Monday, but the storm has pushed that delivery back to Tuesday, Lamont said.
“I had said I thought the next shipment of vaccines was going to come this afternoon, it’s going to come tomorrow morning,” Lamont said Monday.
The storm, which could dump as much as 18 inches of snow on some parts of the state, has already caused most of the state’s vaccination and testing sites to close for Monday and part of Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of an estimated 10,000 vaccination appointments.
State and hospital officials said on Monday that vaccine providers plan to extend their clinics’ hours in the coming days, in order to make up for the appointments that are lost during the storm.
“Everything is still on track and ... we’ll make up for that lost day and everybody will be caught up by Sunday,” Lamont said.
Seven new coronavirus cases at UConn
UConn on Monday reported 14 additional COVID-19 cases among its Storrs students — seven among on-campus students and seven more among off-campus students.
Including those new cases, UConn has now seen a total of 46 confirmed coronavirus cases among its on-campus Storrs students since the spring semester began. The university has also seen 18 confirmed cases among its off-campus Storrs students since the semester began.
Between both the fall and the ongoing spring semesters, UConn Storrs has now seen 887 confirmed coronavirus cases among its students — 484 in the on-campus population and 403 in the off-campus population.
The university also identified one additional coronavirus case among its on-campus students at UConn Stamford. That campus has now seen two cases this semester; the Avery Point, Hartford and Waterbury locations have not seen any confirmed cases this semester.
Emily Brindley can be reached at email@example.com.