As Reopening Stalls in Connecticut, GOP Leaders Call for a Greater Legislative Role

Connecticut has remained since June 17 in “phase two” of reopening — a significant delay in the scheduled rollback announced, by Gov. Ned Lamont in early May, of statewide mandates to control the spread of COVID-19.

Lamont’s announced plan for reopening called for each phase of the reopening to last about one month, meaning that “phase three” should have begun in mid to late July, and a full reopening — “phase four” — started in mid to late August.

“As of now, the Governor remains steadfast in maintaining the current level of the reopening process,” said Max Reiss, communications director for the Governor, on Friday afternoon following a 6 to 4 party-line vote by the legislative leadership to maintain the current executive orders and extend Lamont’s emergency powers until February 9.

“Public health experts have expressed concerns about larger social gatherings and how the reopening of bars areas in restaurants could lead to potential upticks and surges in infection,” Reiss said, describing some of the changes phase three would likely include. “We continue to communicate with partners in the business community through the administration directly and through the Department of Economic and Community Development.”

What metrics or changes would allow the Governor to move to phase three are unclear.

“I don’t have a direct metric on that yet,” Lamont said in a press conference on Thursday. “That is something we are going to confront later this month.”

In May, the metric for a full reopening was a 3 percent positivity rate, when the reopening task force — led by Dr. Albert Ko, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health, and Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo — was meeting regularly with Lamont and the legislative leadership

“You all may recall Dr. Ko said if we got to 3 percent or below we are good and we can reopen the state of Connecticut,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. “We are at 0.8 percent and we haven’t moved from phase two. There hasn’t been discussion with the leaders at all on the metric. There has been no discussion with the leaders at all for the next phase of reopening.”

Although he also said that he would be nervous about the idea of reopening bars, Fasano said that the Governor still needs to have this conversation with the legislature and the public.

“People elected us to work on their behalf and I don’t think people think that’s happening,” agreed House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “We should be keeping to science, to the metrics,” but they haven’t been provided.

On Thursday, the Office of the Governor released a statement saying that he would work to involve the legislative leadership in future executive orders and emergency planning.

“I’m going to do everything I can to keep the legislature involved,” said Lamont. “But I’m not sure we should have everyone debating each executive order.”

Fasano and other state Republican leaders said that this is exactly what they are looking for.

“While I commend much of the Governor’s response to the pandemic, and the necessary steps that have been taken to bring down new infections and hospitalizations, I believe our next phase of response and reopening must feature greater collaboration with legislators and local leaders,” said State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton.

According to Lamont, Connecticut has been able to achieve and maintain a low transmission rate of the virus because the state has remained in phase two, which requires mask-wearing, limited gatherings, and some businesses remaining closed.

“The reason we have 95 percent of our state open … is because we have been careful,” Lamont said. “Getting schools back and colleges open is my priority now.”

In short, according to Lamont, phase three is a discussion for later. 

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