As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Connecticut grew to 20 Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a third executive order easing restrictions on a number of government functions in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
The executive order signed by Lamont on Saturday covers a laundry list of topics, ranging from allowing pharmacists to make and sell hand sanitizer to easing the certificate of need process so hospitals can open temporary facilities to meet demand related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said the executive order shows that the state is both broadening its attempts to slow the the spread of the virus through social distancing and other means, and responding to issues that have been raised as a result of that effort. The governor banned gatherings larger than 250 people shortly after declaring a public health emergency on March 10.
For example, Lamont’s order authorizes the Commissioner of Social Services to waive requirements that families applying for state assistance attend in-person interviews before receiving benefits. It also allows the state to refund liquor permit application fees due to cancelled events.
The governor’s actions come the same day the state announced nine new cases of the coronavirus, including the first confirmed cases in Hartford and New Haven counties. Unlike past briefings about new cases, however, the governor’s office did not release details Saturday about the nine infected people, such as their ages, gender or where they live.
Some information about the nine new cases is known, however. Three were announced by Yale New Haven Health Saturday, including two patients and the network’s chief nursing executive, Beth Beckman. Yale University also announced a “member of its community” has preliminarily tested positive for the virus.
The governor’s office also announced a reduced train schedule for the Shore Line East and Hartford lines, with both operating on a weekend schedule Monday-Friday, except for a few routes on the Shore Line East line. For a complete list of changes, click here. The new schedule takes effect March 16.
In addition to the actions noted above, the governor’s announcement also:
- Waives requirements that pharmacists don personal protective equipment, such as gowns and masks, while mixing non-hazardous compounds for drugs.
- Makes it easier for some state employees to work remotely and provides an additional 14 days of paid time off for state workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Waives rules for opening short-term daycare centers and youth camps.
- Deploys the National Guard to deliver ventilators to hospitals and help meet other health care needs during the crisis.
- Establishes there will be no shutoffs or late fees associated with overdue cable and phone bills.
- Waives open meeting requirements to prevent large gatherings and allow towns to take quick action on closings.
As officials continued their efforts Saturday to slow the spread of the virus, the state’s two casinos also took preventative measures, announcing that they were canceling some large events and closing gaming rooms.
But neither Foxwoods Resort Casino nor the state’s other tribal casino, Mohegan Sun, has followed the lead of neighboring Massachusetts, where the gaming commission closed that state’s three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino — in response to the public health crisis.
Instead, Foxwoods shut down its bingo hall on Saturday and said it plans to close its poker room, Ultimate Racebook, Keno and live table games in its Great Cedar, Fox Tower and Rainmaker casinos on Monday. All tables remain open in the Grand Pequot Casino.
Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have also cancelled or postponed a variety of live shows and events scheduled in the next month.