HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Connecticut residents were being urged Thursday to limit any nonessential trips between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, a move that comes as the state starts rolling back portions of the third phase of reopening.
The Department of Public Health issued the statewide advisory, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. It applies to all residents except essential workers who need to leave home to get to their jobs during that time period and people who need to leave home for an emergency to seek medical care, purchase medical supplies, food or groceries.
Also at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, the state begins Phase 2.1, which limits restaurant capacity to 50% instead of 75%, with no more than eight people at a table; recommends indoor gatherings, including Thanksgiving meals, to be limited to 10 people; and limits religious venues to a maximum of 100 people, or 50% capacity, among other measures.
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Gov. Ned Lamont had originally said restaurants and certain attractions such as movie theaters would have to close by 9:30 p.m., with an exception for takeout and delivery of meals. But he said Thursday that restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m.
The Democrat said he understands that people will be frustrated by the changes, including the limits on private gatherings as the holiday season begins.
“Look, it’s it’s a tough pill to swallow. I get it. We’ve talked about that before,” he said. “But do it now. Do it this Thanksgiving. Put up with this a little bit longer. We’re going to be much better off for the long term.”
As of Thursday, 68 cities and towns in Connecticut were in the red zone alert level, the highest of the state’s four alert levels.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
YOUTH SPORTS RESTRICTIONS
Lamont also announced new restrictions on scholastic and youth sports in Connecticut.
The governor said the state will not allow athletic tournaments involving teams from outside Connecticut and is asking Connecticut teams not to travel to other states through the end of 2020.
He said that prohibition will not apply to colleges or professional sports.
He’s also prohibiting the playing of high-risk sports as defined by the National Federation of High School Sports through the end of the year. Those include 11-on-11 football, boys lacrosse, wrestling, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts.
Medium-risk sports, such as basketball and hockey, will be allowed to continue as long as the athletes wear masks during competition.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep you safe, because we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.
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Lamont said the new restrictions mean an end to the independent leagues that have popped up to replace high school football, which was cancelled earlier in the fall.
Ben Zhao, a senior captain who played linebacker for Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, said he was happy to get to play at least four games with that town’s independent team.
“Loved playing with my brothers and the last four years was just unbelievable,” he wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. “Greatest experience of my life and I hope the governor understands what he is taking away, not just a sport but a family.”
RAPID TESTING PROGRAM
Health and education officials have launched a pilot program in Middletown that will use new rapid tests in an attempt to identify and contain any coronavirus outbreaks in schools.
Under the program that was announced Thursday, students, teachers or other staff showing COVID-19 symptoms can get a test that promises to identify an infection within 15 minutes.
Lamont said the idea is to contain any outbreak quickly and prevent schools from having to unnecessarily close classrooms or buildings.
“If you have to just do the PCR test and it takes two days to get the results, that could really mean a big quarantine for a period of time,” he said.
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School officials promised that no student would be tested without the consent of a parent or guardian. They said any parent coming to pick up an ill student would also be given the option of taking a rapid test.
Education officials said the pilot will give them an idea of best practices and any glitches before rolling out a similar program across the state.
Connecticut has already deployed thousands of the new rapid COVID-19 tests to colleges and expects to receive about 1 million of them from the federal government.
Officials said they also are recommending a regular PCR test for anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms but receives a negative result from the rapid test. That would give them confirmation of their test results within two or three days.
Lamont also announced Thursday that he has approved spending $3.4 million in grants from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which uses federal coronavirus relief money, for use in homeless shelters and by people at risk of becoming homeless.
The governor said the money will be used for things such as physical improvements to shelters, acquiring personal protective equipment for shelter workers and for homelessness prevention programs.
“These grants will be used to ensure the supports are in place for those who are on the verge of becoming homeless and we can rapidly respond to the situations they are facing,” Lamont said. “Having a safe and secure place to call home is a critical component of responding to this public health crisis.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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