Second Phase Of Reopening Brings Connecticut Back To Public Spaces | Connecticut Public Radio
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Second Phase Of Reopening Brings Connecticut Back To Public Spaces

Jun 17, 2020

Some Connecticut businesses and organizations were allowed to open back up under the second phase of Gov. Ned Lamont’s reopening plan Wednesday -- but many did not. Amusement parks, health centers, libraries and movie theaters have announced opening dates for later in June or even this summer. 

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The state’s Phase 2 reopening plan also includes indoor dining at restaurants, which had been limited to takeout or delivery service since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The state expanded regulations under Phase 1 on May 20 to allow table service outside.

And as those businesses reopened, public health data Wednesday showed that the state continues to trend downward on the COVID-19 curve. Officials reported 80 new confirmed cases and an additional 6,430 tests. There were 186 patients hospitalized with the disease -- 15 fewer than Tuesday and down from a high of 1,972 on April 22. Nine more COVID-19-related deaths were reported, bringing the state’s total to 4,219.

Lamont has pointed to Connecticut as a leader in the downward trends of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

"We're one of the exceptions to the trends around the country. Together, let's keep it that way," Lamont tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Gyms And Health Centers Reopen, At Least One Forced To Close

A Cromwell official confirmed that the Work Out World fitness center on Sebethe Drive was forced to close Wednesday morning shortly after opening. 

The gym reopened Wednesday, but town health officials closed it after receiving complaints that it was not following state health regulations, according to the Hartford Courant.

Not all health and wellness centers reopened. Luna Vinyasa Hot Yoga Studio in Middletown plans to offer outdoor yoga in Harbor Park starting July 1, but owner Kathleen Maroney said she doesn’t know when the studio will reopen. 

Maroney said her studio is small and would fit only two or four people under the state-regulated 12 feet of distancing.

”It’s not worth turning on my heat,” she said. 

The closure of the business has been horrible, said Maroney said, who has taken a second job during the pandemic to pay her bills.

The decision to conduct business at a city park while trying to figure out when it might be profitable to reopen has not been easy, Maroney said. 

“It’s such a hard call to make as a business owner,” she said.

Libraries Offer Holds And Drop-offs, But Most Remain Closed 

Out of 169 towns and the state colleges and universities, 38 libraries had self-certified with the state to reopen as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s self-certification database. Many libraries will accept hold requests for books and other materials and begin taking returns, but residents won’t be allowed to browse shelves or sit. 

Windsor and Manchester are among the towns whose libraries have self-certified, and both plan to allow people inside starting June 22. Patrons in Manchester will be permitted to get books off the shelves themselves, but they won’t be able to sit or use the bathrooms.

Hartford Public Library began taking hold requests on Monday and will begin contactless pickup next Monday, said Marie Jarry, the library’s director of public services. Jarry said the library already has 60 hold requests, and it offers an online guide to help patrons find a good read if they don’t have a specific book in mind. 

Hartford Public Library and public health staff are working to determine how best to organize public spaces to keep patrons and employees safe before the library will open to the public, Jarry said. 

“This is not something they teach you at library school, so we’re all trying to navigate and see what the best way forward is,” Jarry said. 

Restaurants Reopen To Indoor Dining 

Wednesday was the first day back in over three months for the lunchtime crowd at Josie’s Corner in Berlin. 

“We are absolutely slammed right now,” co-owner Tanya Lysak-Cyr said just before 1 p.m.

Lysak-Cyr said it was great to be back at the restaurant, which attracts a lot of regulars from town. 

“We definitely missed it. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces,” she said. 

Operating under COVID-19 regulations was different, she said. 

“There were a lot more steps than normal between customers,” Lysak-Cyr said. 

Lamont set Wednesday as the reopening date after first announcing June 20 as the start of his Phase 2 plan. The Connecticut Restaurant Association advocated for the earlier restart.  

Some Movie Theaters Get Creative In Reopening

Moviegoers could begin to return to theaters Wednesday, but the experience in the time of the pandemic will look different. 

The Picture Show at Berlin and Parkade Cinemas in Manchester are among a growing number of Connecticut movie theaters offering a drive-in experience -- if only temporarily. Concessions will be available and bathrooms will be open inside, with screens set up in the theater parking lots. Parkade Cinemas has announced it will show movies inside during the day starting Saturday.

Films will return to the big screen at Cinestudio in Hartford starting this weekend. Up to 100 people at a time are expected at the 485-seat theater for the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo,” said Peter McMorris, the theater’s executive director. 

McMorris said the goal is to have patrons enter and exit the theater without touching the door, with touchless payment for admission available. 

“We can’t wait to have pictures on our screen again,” he said.

Tattoo Shops And Personal Services Return By Appointment

Personal services like nail salons and tattoo shops reopened Wednesday by appointment only. Eminence Ink in Willimantic had most tattoo and piercing appointments booked Wednesday, but it is working with customers to schedule same-day appointments when possible, said Millz Marley, owner and manager of the shop.

She said the shop has worked to comply with all state regulations while maintaining its friendly atmosphere. Many of her clients came in with friends before the pandemic, and Wednesday was quieter than normal, she said.  

“Everything is so different, but we are managing it well,” she said. “We are so excited to be back at it.”

Museums Reopen Slowly 

Though Wednesday was the first day museums could reopen under the governor’s plan, many will choose to open this weekend or later this summer.

The Mark Twain House announced it will open to tours of five guests at a time starting Saturday. Guests must buy tickets in advance at marktwainhouse.org/admission.

The Connecticut Science Center has announced it will open to the public under an online timed ticket entry system on June 26, after opening to members only on Saturday. 

Science Center President and CEO Matt Fleury joined Lamont at his June 9 daily news conference to announce the reopening date. 

“The rigors of a public-facing institution like the Connecticut Science Center, which is inherently about hands-on engagement with multigenerational customers, presents its challenges, and we’ve taken those on with great seriousness,” Fleury said.

Hotels Open Along With New Tourism Campaign

Lamont on Tuesday announced a $1.2 million marketing campaign to promote Connecticut tourism, a day before hotels reopened. The campaign will launch next week and run through Labor Day with the slogan, “So good to see you, Connecticut.”

The campaign will feature attractions as day trips for Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York residents, the governor’s office said Tuesday. 

Amusement parks were allowed to open Wednesday, but both Lake Compounce in Bristol and Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury remained closed. Quassy will open Saturday. Lake Compounce will open to the public July 6, allowing season-pass holders to visit July 1-5. 

Hartford Announces $394,000 Grant To Fight COVID 

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced the city has  received a $394,718 grant from the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the coronavirus in at-risk communities. 

“The funding will be available to help increase neighborhood testing and community outreach, as well as to help educate and prepare our community for a vaccination campaign,” Bronin said Wednesday in a statement.