COVID-19 Update March 31: CT Senate OKs Extending Lamont’s Emergency Powers & Outdoor Dining

Despite rising cases and hospitalizations, Lamont won't consider changing re-opening approach

The Connecticut State Senate Tuesday afternoon (March 30) approved legislation extending the state of emergency, which was set to expire on April 20, 2021. The vote authorizes Gov. Ned Lamont to renew any previous public health and civil preparedness emergency orders he declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for an additional 30 days through May 20.

“I want to thank the members of the Connecticut General Assembly for voting to ratify and extend the state of emergency. This step is critical to ensuring our vaccine and testing programs remain nimble and accessible to all of our residents, and we can continue to provide needed support for everyone in Connecticut as we work to get back to normal as quickly as possible,” Lamont said in a statement released to the press. “I take these powers seriously, and will continue to consult with legislative leadership and use this authority in a judicious fashion.”

The legislation is House Bill 6672, An Act Concerning Public Health and Civil Preparedness Emergencies Declared and Renewed by the Governor.

The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 24-10. It had been approved last week by the State House of Representatives.

The lawmakers’ approval came just one day after the CT State Supreme Court released a unanimous decision that declared Lamont’s COVID-19-related emergency measures constitutional.

“As long as Gov. Lamont is acting within this admittedly broad statutory and constitutional authority—which we conclude that he is—it is not the job of this court to second-guess those policy decisions,” the opinion read.

The bill will now be sent to the governor for his signature.

Outdoor Dining Also Approved

Another bill approved by the State Senate on Tuesday will extend outdoor dining activity at restaurants for another year through March 31, 2022. The legislation simplifies the process for restaurants to apply for and/or extend local zoning approval to obtain or expand outdoor dining.

The Senate unanimously passed the measure, House Bill 6610, “An Act Concerning The Provision of Outdoor Food and Beverage Service By Restaurants.”

The legislation also allows municipalities to make permanent changes to local zoning regulations.

Case Data for Wilton and State

The following COVID-19 case data was provided by the CT Department of Public Health, as of March 29, 2021.

New one-day Wilton cases:  7
Test positivity rate: 2.83%

New one-day cases (CT):  1,617
Test positivity rate:  5.26%
Total current COVID-19 hospitalizations: 518 (+20)
Total new COVID-19-related fatalities:  7,885 (+2)

The state now ranks fourth in the U.S. in COVID-19 case numbers (per 100,000 people), behind New York, Michigan and New Jersey. In addition, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients–a metric followed closely by Lamont–has risen dramatically in the last 20 days, from 381 patients in the hospital on March 11 to 518 as of March 30.

Despite the 27% increase, Lamont said he intends to stay the course for his re-opening plans.

According to the Hartford Courant, Lamont is more encouraged that the state ranks much lower (bottom third) in the number of COVID-19 deaths (per 100,000 residents), compared to other states including NY and Massachusetts in the top-five.

“If you want to know what really concerns me, it’s fatalities and in that area, I think the state has done a really good job in keeping that way below the average,” he said.

Lamont said he has no intention of changing course on his approach to re-opening and lifting certain limits.

“Right now, we know where we want to be, and that is continuing to wear the mask, especially if you’re in close company [and] the social distancing,” he told the Courant.

The state is scheduled to relax additional restrictions, effective Friday, April 2, 2021:  outdoor amusement parks will be able to open with no capacity limit; outdoor event venues can increase to a 50% capacity, capped at 10,000 people; and indoor stadiums can open at 10% capacity.