As rest of Connecticut opens, the Capitol will stay closed
COVID-19 restrictions end at midnight Wednesday in most corners of Connecticut. A notable exception is the continued closure of the state Capitol to the public as the General Assembly works towards its adjournment deadline of June 9.
The call to keep the Capitol closed was made by the two top leaders of the legislature: House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven. Their party has majorities of 97-54 in the House and 24-12 in the Senate.
“The two leaders need to come up with a plan for opening the building. Everybody else in the country has done that,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.
Ritter and Looney are unmoved, saying their goal is to avoid an outbreak as the legislature enters its busiest season.
“We just can’t risk having an outbreak with a group of persons that we need to vote. We have a constitutional deadline,” Ritter said, noting there was no practical way of ascertaining vaccination status of visitors. “So the concerns are real.”
Looney said the protocols set at the beginning of the session, which include the closure of the building and the option for lawmakers to vote from their offices, are sensible and will remain.
“We have a finite number of days to complete our work to June 9, and we have to take every precaution possible to avoid a positive test or any outbreak that would potentially shut us down for any period of days,” Looney said.
The public has a window into the Capitol: On cable television systems and on the web at ct-n.com, CT-N broadcasts and streams gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate sessions.
Masks remain a fashion must in the Senate and House, but an agreement to keep down the number of lawmakers in the House chamber is starting to fray. In the House, the seats on the GOP aisle are increasingly occupied during debates; not so on the Democratic side.
Candelora said there was no formal decision to bring Republican lawmakers back into the House chamber, nor was it intended as a protest.
“It was totally organic,” he said. “I think, generally speaking, the Republican legislators are vaccinated, are following the CDC guideline, are looking at the data, and are recognizing it’s now safe to go back to normal.”
Candelora said lawmakers are meeting constituents in public settings outside the Capitol, and many will be marching in Memorial Day parades.
“There’s a level of interaction that legislators have already begun having again,” Candelora said. “And I think that’s sort of why we find it kind of strange, we come here, and it’s if it’s still March 2020.”
After a 15-month hiatus, the courts are resuming jury trials next month, Chief Court Administrator Patrick L. Carroll III said Tuesday. Summons for jury duty will start to go out on June 1.
“As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we are undertaking this jury resumption initiative in continuing consultation with Connecticut public health officials and in compliance with directives from the Governor,” he said in a statement.
Masks and other personal protective equipment will be available for jurors, witnesses and litigants who desire them.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who technically is a tenant in a Capitol managed by the legislature, signed an executive order Tuesday clarifying that masks generally remain required indoors for people who cannot stay 6 feet away from others and who are not fully vaccinated against the virus.
There is no credential for the vaccinated. Residents are on the honor system.
Vaccinated or not, masks will be required at least until July 20 at airports and transit terminals, as well as all forms of public transport, including Uber and Lyft rides. The same is true of homeless shelters and correction facilities.
Pretty much everywhere else, the wearing of masks will be up to the property owner. Some major retail chains, Walmart and Starbucks among them, have announced masks no longer will be required of patrons.
“Any business, nonprofit organization, property owner, healthcare facility or office, or state, regional, or municipal government or agency may require … the universal use of masks or face coverings or require staff to wear masks in settings under their ownership or control,” Lamont wrote.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, there is an exception for people who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons.
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