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Daily coronavirus updates: Hospitalizations decline, few new deaths as Connecticut prepares for second phase of reopening; outdoor events of up to 250 likely OK for July

Health care workers provide a COVID-19 test through a drive-through as others wait in line at Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church and Phillips Health Center on Main Street in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12.
Health care workers provide a COVID-19 test through a drive-through as others wait in line at Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church and Phillips Health Center on Main Street in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12. (Andre Harris / Hartford Communities That Care)

As Connecticut prepares for a second phase of business reopenings Wednesday — including indoor dining, hotels, movie theaters, nail salons and gyms — key coronavirus metrics are continuing to head in the right direction, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday.

The state reported 114 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday out of 5,041 test results received, for a positive test rate of 2.3%. Hospitalizations declined by two to 201, down about 90% from the state’s peak of 1,972 on April 22, and six additional deaths were reported, the second consecutive day that figure remained in the single digits.

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“The trends are all continuing in the same right path,” Lamont said at his daily press briefing. “I don’t think we opened too early and the trend lines in terms of hospitalizations have continued down” since the state’s first round of reopenings on May 20.

Also beginning Wednesday, gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and up to 100 outdoors will be permitted, up from current limits of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. Those limits are expected to increase again next month, and Lamont theorized crowds of as many as 500 may be permitted at fireworks shows as long as people are able to spread out and remain in smaller groups with their immediate friends and family.

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“Keep your social group 15 feet from other people," he said. "Put your blanket down, watch the fireworks, stay with the group that you’ve been hanging out with for a while ... keep space, 15 feet [from] those around you. I think that’s a way that we can maintain our social distance and be able to enjoy the fireworks in a real way.”

Private outdoor events, like weddings, of up to 250 people are also expected to get the go-ahead in mid-July, Lamont said.

“Those are things you can plan accordingly, knowing that there is a fair amount of risk,” he said.

He noted, however, that his daughter had postponed her own September wedding.

Lamont cited a map on covidexitstrategy.org that showed Connecticut as one of just six states that is “trending better” as cases surge in other parts of the country. According to that analysis, Connecticut’s rate of new COVID-19 cases is decreasing in addition to its positive test rate.

The governor said New York and New Jersey were also in the green on the map and that he was not concerned about any threat out-of-staters coming to Connecticut businesses that are back open would pose.

“The fact that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are more likely to be wearing the masks than other parts of the country is making a big difference," he said.

But Lamont said that all of these scenarios depend on public health metrics continuing to move in the right direction.

“If hospitalizations scoot up, if we have these flare-ups, we’ll have to change course, that’s just reality,” he said.

Lamont was joined at his briefing by David Lehman, the state’s economic development commissioner and an important figure in drafting the state’s reopening plans.

“As we enter into phase two make no mistake about it we need to keep doing all the mitigation measures that are out there,” Lehman said. “Mask wearing is critically important. We need to keep doing that as we reopen the economy otherwise we’re going to jeopardize our reopen. Hand hygiene, whether its sanitizer or hand-washing, is critically important. And lastly, physically distancing. My concern is people see the data and think that we’re back to normal, but we’re not. It’s important that we reopen the economy, but we can’t let our guard down.”

Businesses that reopen are required to submit to strict guidelines from the state that include cutting their capacity in half in most cases, frequent sanitation, social distancing and a requirement that employees and customers wear masks.

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Lamont has said with Wednesday’s round of reopenings about 95% of Connecticut’s economy will be back open. Lehman said more than 15,000 businesses had already self-certified with the state to reopen and more were expected as the second phase of reopenings begins. He estimated between 30,000 and 40,000 Connecticut businesses shut down due to the pandemic.

Russell Blair can be reached at rblair@courant.com.

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