HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – Connecticut is looking at significant loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in just 19 days.

The governor says certain businesses could reopen as early as May 20 with new safety guidelines.

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“So we’re gonna be putting up signage that says ‘this is your six foot distance,'” said Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho.

It will be something new at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Planning for a likely reopening May 20th, the staff is hunting for ways to safely welcome back patrons. Expect tickets for set time slots to limit the crowd, and perhaps visitors required to socially distance and not deviate from the paw print path.

Dancho is looking at a smartphone app for the snack bar.

“You’ll be able to order it, pay for it on the phone, and they’ll have it in a bag, sitting at the window with your name on it to pick it up,” Dancho said.

Come May 20th, Connecticut restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons at tables, but only in outdoor seating areas. Retail stores that had been classified as non-essential – salons and barber shops – can all reopen.

Kareme Philppou worries about the virus, but will reopen his barber shop in Meriden.

“I haven’t had a paycheck in eight weeks, it’s 100% a necessity. I have two children, a wife, bills to pay,” he told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

Connecticut residents have mixed emotions about steps to lift the lockdown.


“I think it’s been closed long enough. I think it’s time for us to reopen,” said one.

“Maybe sometime in June, when we actually see us going down, rather than plateauing,” said Hartford resident Lita Lane.

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“That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to go pouring back into restaurants or stores.  That’s why it’s incumbent on those businesses to give people real confidence they’re doing everything they can, socially distancing, disinfecting, to make sure people know they’re safe going forward doing that,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

“It was a walk-in only barbershop, now it’s going to be by appointment. I’m only going to allow one person at a time to get a haircut,” Philippou said.

Lamont said more than 60% of the state’s economy is open already. That includes things like manufacturing, essential retail, real estate, utilities, construction, child care and hospitals. The next phase would open the remaining retail, university research programs and additional outdoor recreation, like camping and mountain biking.

It would also include outdoor areas of museums, zoos and restaurants – excluding bar areas – as well as offices, though employees are encouraged to continue to work from home where possible.

“Restaurants are a big piece of that service economy, I know what that means in terms of employment, I know what that means in terms of bringing our cities back to life and I also know what it means in terms of virus spread,” said Lamont. “There we’re talking about allowing restaurants to open outdoor only starting May 20.

“That’s conditioned upon making sure we have the testing, making sure we have the contact tracing,” he added. “I’ll be particularly interested in looking at what’s going on in Georgia and Oklahoma and some of those states that have sort of a two week, three week head start on us – or four weeks – in terms of opening up a facility like that to make sure we didn’t see any surges or spikes.”

The state will monitor seven criteria for the initial reopening: a 14-day decline in hospitalizations, increase testing capacity, sufficient contact tracing capacity, protecting high-risk populations, adequate health care capacity, adequate supply of personal protective equipment and appropriate social distancing regulations.

The governor said he plans to provide an update on schools and other social gatherings sometime next week.

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During his daily coronavirus briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked whether New Yorkers can expect to follow a similar timeline.

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“We’re aware of what New Jersey’s doing, what Connecticut’s doing. We’re trying to coordinate with those states. I’ve said from day one you will not have uniform policies across all the states,” he replied. “But knowing what another state is going to do, because a state can have a significant effect on a neighbor state, knowing what they do is helpful. Then at the appropriate time, we’ll make those decisions.”