Connecticut eases some virus-related restrictions

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut will eliminate coronavirus-related capacity limits on restaurants, houses of worship and other spaces in two weeks as infections and hospitalizations are declining, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.

The Democrat said face coverings will continue to be required and bars that do not serve food will remain closed until further notice. Indoor theaters will continue to have capacity capped at 50% and large event venues like stadiums will open in April, he said.

“While it is encouraging to see the number of cases in our state gradually going down and people getting vaccinated at rates that are among the highest in the nation, we need to continue taking this virus seriously to mitigate its spread as much as possible,” Lamont said.

Many states are easing their COVID-19 restrictions on people and businesses, despite repeated warnings from health officials that the U.S. is risking another lethal wave. Mississippi and Texas are ending their mask mandates.

In Connecticut, the seven-day rolling average of daily new infections has dropped from about 840 to around 775 over the past two weeks. The seven-day average of daily deaths has dropped nearly in half, from 21 to about 12. Since Dec. 15, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has decreased from about 1,270 to about 450.

More than 550,000 of Connecticut’s 3.6 million residents have received the first of two vaccination shots and another 287,000 are fully vaccinated, according to state data. The state is running an age-based vaccination program. People 55 and older recently became eligible for the inoculations. Nursing home residents, medical workers and people over 75 were among the first to receive the vaccines.

The lifting of capacity limits at certain businesses including restaurants takes effect on March 19. In addition, outdoor amusement parks can open and outdoor venues can hold events with 50% capacity beginning on April 2.

Other states in the region have been lifting some of their COVID-19 restrictions. On Monday, Massachusetts eliminated restaurant capacity limits, but parties must be spaced 6 feet apart. New York is loosening restrictions on private gatherings and clearing the way for some public performances. New Jersey recently allowed fans to attend sports and entertainment events in the state’s largest facilities, in limited numbers.

In Hartford on Thursday morning, city officials and Trinity Health of New England announced a special vaccination clinic for Hartford school employees including teachers. The clinic at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is expected to vaccinate 1,500 of the city’s 2,800 school staff on Thursday and Friday, with more inoculations to follow at a later date.

Hartford Superintendent of Schools Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said staff at elementary schools will be a top priority for vaccinations, because those schools have the most in-person learning.

“As the weeks continue to progress and vaccinations continue to become available, we will have all of our students back in our schools later on this spring,” she said.