Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting all gatherings in Connecticut with more than 250 people. The measure is one of several announced that could radically alter day-to-day life and business in Connecticut, as the state responds to growing numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Connecticut and New York.
In addition to the prohibition on certain public gatherings, Lamont’s order also waives the requirement that schools stay in session for at least 180 days.
Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s commissioner of education, said the measure gives districts more flexibility to respond to local health concerns and student safety.
“Closing a school is a last resort. For many students … they get two meals in our schools,” Cardona said. “We want to make sure that that decision is made based on input from the local health department and, if needed, the state health department.”
“State Department of Education does not close schools,” Cardona said.
Several districts, including New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Wilton, have announced they are closing until further notice. That number is expected to increase in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the number of state residents testing positive for COVID-19 continues to grow.
On Thursday, a Stamford woman in her 60s who recently returned from Italy was identified as having COVID-19. And a child in Stratford tested positive for the disease, bringing the total number of Connecticut residents testing positive to five.
A New York resident in her 20s was also seen as an outpatient at Greenwich Hospital and has tested positive for the disease.
“We understand what closing a school means to communities, what it means to business, what it means to families,” Lamont said. “We’re working very hard to make sure this works for you.”
On Thursday, Lamont urged state workers and residents to work from home if at all possible. But he said the state is working to get more day care facilities online to assist working parents who have to be in the office.
“Just to make it easier for those infants and toddlers, as well as young people. Give them alternatives where they can be while school is closed. We’re trying to seek some waivers … for our businesses so they may be able to open some day care and child care at their facilities as well,” Lamont said.
Lamont said he is also extending license renewal deadlines for at least 90 days and suspending all scheduled road tests beginning March 16 to reduce crowds at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“So you don’t feel the need to go in and congregate in areas where there may be a big group,” Lamont said.
Meanwhile, the Judicial Branch in Connecticut implemented various measures in response to the growing spread of coronavirus.
While state courts are open and will remain open, a spokesperson for the agency said Thursday that state courts will hear only certain matters through March 27, including criminal arraignments, several family-related and custody cases, and orders to appear, among others.
“With the exception of jury trials already in progress and criminal jury trials necessitated by the filing and granting of a speedy trial motion, all jury trials, civil and criminal, are suspended for the next 30 days,” Chief Court Administrator Patrick L. Carroll III said in a news release.
The Department of Correction will suspend all social visits to its facilities statewide effective Friday, March 13.
To date, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus within a state prison, according to a news release from the agency.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.