Dinosaur State Park is one of 13 parks and offices temporarily closed to the public by the DEEP because of the coronavirus emergency.
Dinosaur State Park is one of 13 parks and offices temporarily closed to the public by the DEEP when parking lots reach capacity.

Connecticut’s coronavirus hospitalizations continue to gradually decline, but COVID-19 confirmed cases and associated deaths continue to rise. On Saturday, state officials reported 97 additional COVID-19 related deaths — bringing the death toll to 2,436 people.

And warm temperatures meant another series of rolling closures of state parks as parking lots reached their capacities. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection put out guidelines recommending that groups of five or less from immediate households visit parks and to keep visits brief.

Local officials find themselves on the front lines, too. In a virtual town hall Saturday afternoon, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin emphasized the need to continue to adhere to strict social distancing and safety protocols – even as the state considers reopening some businesses and services on May 20.

“It’s really, really important to remember that we shouldn’t be thinking that the virus is gone away so we can go back to normal,” Bronin said. “It’s that the reason the virus is transmitting less, and the reason we’ve been able to slow the spread, is because of all the things that have been done, all the restrictions that have been put in place, all of the individual and family decisions to stay at home and stay safe — that’s what helped flatten the curve.”

But there has been some minor dissent. As the teleconference went on, more than 70 people gathered just a few steps away from the mayor’s downtown home with chairs, American flags and signs on the lawn of the State Capitol in what the group #OpenCTNow called a “family picnic sit-in.” Capitol police were on site but did not actively enforce the state’s executive order that limits gatherings to five people or less.

“It’s a beautiful day in the park and the State Capitol that the taxpayers have paid for and we’re here to use it,” said Colin McNamara, the group’s organizer. “We’re not going to be told we have to stay in our houses, and we’re not going to be treated like children.”

Despite the small protest, public officials continued to remind residents to take appropriate precautions. DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes was at Gillette Castle State Park Saturday. According to a tweet, she held a remote briefing and reminded “residents to continue to practice safe social distancing when visiting state parks, especially as more consistent nice weather arrives.”

Saturday’s numbers included 523 more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s number of cases to 29,287. A total of 1,551 people are hospitalized with the virus – down 41 people from Friday’s report. While Fairfield County continues to lead the tally of associated deaths from COVID-19, hospitalizations in Fairfield and New Haven Counties – 525 and 523 – are roughly the same. The state has performed more than 100,000 tests to date.

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