Some local governments in southeastern Connecticut are asking their seasonal residents who returned early this year to self-quarantine for 14 days if they’re coming from areas that have had high numbers of COVID19 cases — especially New York City.
This follows a Tuesday recommendation from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force that anyone leaving the New York City area — which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States — self-isolate for 14 days.
“We don’t want to overreact and spread fear when we see a New York license plate,” said East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson in a Thursday phone interview, “but we want to say, ‘Hey, welcome, but show some respect, and because you might be coming from a hot spot, please stay isolated.’ Please do what everybody is asking you to do: self-isolate, self-quarantine, and let’s live through this together.”
Connecticut as a state has many second homes and part-year residents. Nickerson said that East Lyme’s population will roughly double in the summers as part-time residents return, which appears to be happening early this year.
“I’ve heard from the beach communities,” he said. “They’re fully stocked. Their residents are in.”
Nickerson added residents appear to be following recommendations to social distance and self-quarantine.
In response to the influx, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is considering taking more direct action to regulate state beaches for large gatherings.
“With respect to DEEP’s state park beaches, we are monitoring their usage, deploying additional Encon Police to discourage large gatherings, and advising visitors to practice social distancing. We will assess whether additional measures are required, such as reducing parking capacity in the event that, with warming weather, social distancing in natural spaces cannot be maintained,” according to the state’s joint information center.
Similar to East Lyme, Old Lyme sent out a message to all residents by email Wednesday night asking people to stay home and monitor their health for 14 days if they’re coming into Old Lyme from an area with a high rate of coronavirus infection.
In a Thursday morning phone interview, Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold said he had discussed the message beforehand with Ledge Light Health District director Stephen Mansfield.
“We both had the same opinion that coming out with an abrupt or draconian standard would be inappropriate,” Griswold said. “It seems to be working locally — the voluntary stuff — so we applaud our residents for doing that.
Griswold noted that Gov. Ned Lamont’s March 20 executive order prohibited local governments in Connecticut from enacting their own shelter-in-place or travel restricting orders without the approval of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Carl Fortuna, first selectman of Old Saybrook, said similarly that town governments cannot order residents to self-quarantine so instead he and his staff are reiterating messages from the state and federal government.
“All we can legally advise people at this time is to follow the stay safe, stay home message from the Governor and all the other CDC guidelines,” Fortuna said.
Old Saybrook’s public spaces also currently have signs advising people to keep a safe distance and follow proper hygiene, Fortuna added.
Nickerson, on the other hand, said he’s asked state officials to consider an executive order calling for that self-quarantine.
“I think the governor should consider that,” Nickerson said. “We are a vacation spot or a summer respite for so many people, and that’s a privilege to have and to be a town that welcomes these people. We’re a better town because we’re a destination spot, but we’re also concerned.”