By Ali Bauman

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork)Connecticut is rolling back COVID-19 restrictions in the most significant reopening in the Tri-State Area since the pandemic began.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday that in just two weeks, COVID capacity limits will be lifted for most businesses in the state, but the governor says masks, hand-washing and social distancing are still crucial.

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Starting March 19, all capacity limits will be lifted for restaurants, retail, gyms, officers, personal services, museums and houses of worship.

The mask mandate and spacing requirements will remain in place.

“I know what’s happening in Texas and Mississippi. I’ve heard the president. It’s probably the most important thing you can do,” Lamont said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Restaurant manager Paul Murphy was elated to learn his Stamford seafood restaurant could soon be back in full swing.

“It gives us hope,” he told CBS2’s Ali Bauman. “It’s gonna double the numbers that we’ve been doing lately and be able to get everyone back to work, bring some of the servers we didn’t have shifts for.”

An 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants remains in effect, as well as an eight-person limit per table.

“I’m just gonna keep the bars closed, if they’re just a drinking establishment, for a little bit longer,” Lamont said.

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Movie theaters and performing arts venues remain capped at 50% capacity.

By April 2, outdoor amusement parks can open and outdoor venues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity with a 10,000 person maximum.

Indoor stadiums can reopen at 10%.

All sports will be allowed to practice and compete with tournaments allowed, subject to health department guidance.

COVID VACCINE

Connecticut residents reacted to the news Thursday night.

“I think it’s awesome. Great idea. Get the economy going again and businesses going,” Stamford resident Lisa Gach said.

“I think that we survived long enough that there is no point of rushing,” another person said.

“I want everything to open up. I’d love to go back to the way it was, but we still have to be careful,” Stamford resident Katie Philippopoulos said.

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While there’s no official reopening date yet for summer camps or summer festivals, the governor says they can start planning for the upcoming season.

Ali Bauman