This past weekend, CT took a big step forward in its COVID-19 response, releasing information about its “Phase 1” of reopening some sectors of the state’s business community on Wednesday, May 20. Gov. Ned Lamont and Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Commissioner David Lehman announced the moves Friday and Saturday, May 8-9, and released documents on the state’s coronavirus webpages with industry-specific rules for restaurants, offices, retail, hair salons and barbershops, and museums and zoos.
In addition, DECD established a new task force that will help small businesses understand and implement these new regulations. The task force, made up of small business and industry associations from around the state, will release a detailed guide by Friday, May 15, to help organizations implement the rules and open safely.
Lamont stressed that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner–they are not required to open if they do not choose; however, if they do they must follow the rules as prescribed. The protocols were developed by Lamont, members of his office, and the DECD, in consultation with legislators and recommendations made by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, which consists of several of the state’s leading medical experts and representatives of several business and industry groups.
In opening for Phase 1, officials say that there are still “the strictest controls” on the way business operates as well as on social interaction.
Residents are still expected to:
- Wear facemasks in public at all times
- Limit social gatherings to a maximum of five (5) people
- Stay home if over age 65 and/or in high-risk groups
Businesses that reopen are required to:
- Limit capacity to 50%
- Follow strict cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Allow employees who can work from home to continue to do so
Officials say they will begin to gradually loosen safeguards “as we see progress on a defined set of public health metrics (detail to follow).” They’ll track health data to determine when and how to allow for the next set of businesses to open and potentially for businesses already open to operate with additional leeway. This is expected to occur over the coming months through September 2020.
Documents containing the rules for the first phase of reopening have been published on the state’s coronavirus website and are available to download directly at these links:
- Hair Salons & Barbershops
- Museums and Zoos (Outdoor Only)
- Restaurants (Outdoor Only)
- Retail & Malls
All businesses subject to these rules will be required to self-certify prior to opening on May 20. The certification system will be online on the DECD website beginning next week. Once they self-certify, businesses can receive a Reopen CT badge, and they can choose to post the badge at the business location, online and on social media to advertise adherence to CT rules and build customer confidence.
Some of the elements covered in the rules include how these businesses must:
- train and protect employees–for example, by providing masks and protective barriers at checkout areas
- maintain social distancing protocols–for example, by spacing tables at restaurants or alternating hair salon chairs
- operate at 50% capacity–for example, eliminate waiting areas, stagger shifts/opening times, and operate by appointment only;
- implement new cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- increase ventilation
- close fitting rooms
- require masks for all employees and customers
- conduct daily health checks of employees
Businesses will need to clearly post information about conduct as well as a hotline for employees and customers to report violations.
How and Why Sectors were Chosen for Phase 1
The five sectors were chosen based on desire to speed up economic recovery and improve the quality of life for CT residents. Officials say they’ve prioritized safety and health of our vulnerable residents, maintaining physical distancing and minimizing contact, but still allowing businesses that choose to reopen to do so.
The published rules state that the sectors that will open on May 20 “pose a lower transmission risk and drive outsized impact on the economy.” Officials say that elements assessed for transmission risk include how close and for how long people interact and how easily the business can sanitize areas where people frequent. They assessed the impact each sector has on the state’s economy, focusing on how many people are employed in each sector, and emphasizing small businesses.
Task force formed to provide support to small businesses on these regulations
In tandem with the release of this guidance, the DECD the launch of an ad hoc task force to provide support to small businesses on how to implement these new regulations.
Commissioner Lehman said, “We are grateful to these organizations who represent the voices of our communities and our small businesses for agreeing to work with DECD and AdvanceCT in a team effort to provide the best possible guidance and support to our small businesses. We share the goal of helping businesses across the state to reopen as quickly as possible, while adopting these new and necessary measures to keep our communities safe.”
The Reopen Connecticut Small Business Implementation Task Force will be chaired by Lyle Wray of the Capitol Region Council of Governments. Other members will include:
- Cindy Bombard, Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce
- Joe Brennan, Connecticut Business and Industry Association
- Nancy Cowser, seCTer
- Joe Ercolano, Small Business Development Center
- Cathy Graves, New Haven Small Business Academy
- David Griggs, MetroHartford Alliance
- Kim Hawkins, HEDCO
- Larry McHugh, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
- Patrick McMahon, CT Main Street
- Julio Mendoza, Spanish American Merchant Association
- Dan Onofrio, Bridgeport Regional Business Council
- Fran Pastore, Women’s Business Development Council
- Garrett Sheehan, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
- Tony Sheridan, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut
- Lynn Ward, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce