Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Thursday new guidelines for the third phase of reopening from a state-mandated shutdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. The new rules are scheduled to go into effect on October 8.
Under the guidelines, restaurants, hair salons, personal services, barber shops and libraries will be able to increase capacity from 50 to 75 percent indoors.
Outdoor events venues, such as race tracks and soccer stadiums, will be allowed to increase from 25 to 50 percent capacity, and indoor performing arts venues will be able to open at 50 percent capacity, with masks and social distancing.
“[Performing arts venues] can’t open at less than 50 percent capacity, the economics don’t work,” said Lamont, adding that the state may revisit the regulation if the number of coronavirus cases increases.
Bars and nightclubs will remain closed.
“Phase 3 is coming about because Connecticut has earned it,” said Lamont, “In terms of being able to maintain our low infection rates.”
The governor cited the imminent cold weather as another reason for allowing venues to increase their capacity indoors.
Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said that the increase in restaurant capacity is “definitely a great step forward.”
Dolch said that restaurants’ challenge in the next few weeks would be increasing consumer confidence by showing customers that restaurants are serious about cleaning and safety practices.
“Capacity is one thing, but if you can’t get people to come out, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Private gatherings like weddings and corporate events that take place in a professional setting will now be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity with a cap at 100 people indoors. Outdoor private gatherings will be capped at 150.
“We’re hopeful to see more of those events,” said Commissioner David Lehman of the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“This is going to save a lot of people,” said Shiran Nicholson, founder of the Connecticut Events Industry Coalition. The coalition represents events venues, wedding planners, decorators, caterers and other businesses involved with large event planning.
Nicholson said that while the venues might be able to schedule a few last-minute holiday parties, the real value of these new guidelines was to make people feel secure in scheduling events for three or six months in the future.
Indoor graduations and religious ceremonies can be held at 50 percent capacity, with a cap of 200. Outdoor ceremonies have no cap.
Gatherings in private homes will remain limited to 25 people. “A lot of the small flare-ups we’ve seen … have been smaller events improperly supervised,” said Lamont. “We think 25 is a lot easier to track and trace and maintain.”
Lamont said there is no solid benchmark at which the state might roll back these guidelines.
“I think incredibly strict metrics can be a little complicated,” said Lamont, explaining that he preferred to leave some flexibility when deciding how to proceed with the reopening. He indicated that they would be “erring on the side of caution.”
Lamont encouraged people to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, get a flu shot and stay home if they are feeling sick.
“This is no time for us to lose our discipline,” he said.