CONNECTICUT — Connecticut will be battling two pandemics through this year; one is the coronavirus and the other is racism, said Gov. Ned Lamont. The governor said he plans to eventually call a legislative session for a broad criminal justice reform bill.
“One is COVID that attacks the body and the other is racism that attacks the soul,” Lamont said about the two battles.
In some ways those battles have been intertwined as there is some concern that large-scale protests could cause new coronavirus infections.
“We are going to wait and see what impact that has on our positivity rate going forward,” Lamont said.
Lamont noted that White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has encouraged people who attend protests not to see their grandparents for two weeks and to stay away from vulnerable populations. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also encouraged those who attend protests to get tested for the virus.
Connecticut continues to maintain a low positive rate on coronavirus tests performed; There were 124 positive coronavirus results out of 5,715 samples reported Monday. Another 13 deaths were reported which puts the state total at 4,084. Hospitalizations dropped by nine patients to a total of 324.
Lamont also noted that the northeast is seeing the positive rate of virus tests trend down while some areas of the country including Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina are trending upward.
Connecticut has laboratory testing capacity for well over 100,000 tests a week, but the state is re-evaluating how best to deploy tests based on new guidance from the CDC, said state COO Josh Geballe. There is also vague and sometimes conflicting guidance from the federal government about how states will be reimbursed for testing expenses. Testing in some areas may be dialed back a bit, Geballe said, but things like robust testing in nursing homes and prisons will likely stay the same.
Phase two reopening is almost entire CT economy
Around 95 percent of Connecticut’s economy will be opened in phase two come June 17, Lamont said. New York is starting its phase one reopening soon that will allow things like outdoor construction and retail store pickup service, but in Connecticut many of those things were never closed.
A question that remains to be answered is what will happen to wedding receptions scheduled for later in the summer. Lamont noted a wedding reception doesn’t lend itself well to social distancing, but his administration expects a decision in the next two weeks.
“Our thinking right now is we want to be a little more cautious on weddings,” Lamont said. You are eating wedding cake, you are not wearing a mask, there may be beverages involved, there could be dancing.”
Lamont’s administration has been talking to the wedding industry about best practices and it is possible wedding receptions could be allowed in July or later with a cap on the number of attendees, said David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Lamont also said a third phase would possibly include reopening of bars and large indoor events. No date has been set for a third phase but it has been approximately 30 days between phase 1 and phase 2.
Lamont’s administration is talking to legislative leaders about comprehensive criminal justice reform.
Lamont will call the legislature back into session once more work is done to define what should be in a reform bill, said Lamont Chief of Staff Paul Mounds.
Lamont didn’t agree with the notion of defunding or disbanding police departments, but said that some areas such as mental health and addiction response could better be served by others.
“I don’t think we should be defunding, but what I think many of the protesters mean, and I think rightfully so is that we consider a police response an answer to a broader and broader variety of societal ills,” Lamont said. “...we are asking our police to solve all these when in fact I think we need other folks who can get involved in the community to make a difference,”
Community liaisons be a bigger part of portfolio going forward, he said.
Some other areas that need to be looked at are police body camera usage and police accountability, Lamont said.
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