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What needs to happen for Connecticut to start reopening on May 20

Governor Ned Lamont then broke down which businesses officials believe can open on May 20th, which is contingent upon meeting the reopening criteria.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Governor Ned Lamont and the co-chairs of his Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group unveiled criteria for reopening the state's economy during Thursday's press briefing, with May 20th eyed as an important date.

According to state officials, there are several criteria being considered in an initial reopening, which include:

  • 14-day decline of hospitalizations
  • Increased testing available
  • Sufficient contact tracing capacity
  • Protect high-risk populations
  • Adequate health care capacity
  • Adequate supply of PPE
  • Appropriate physical distancing regulations

According to Governor Lamont, Connecticut is already on a hospitalization decline. 

The latest numbers show a drop in hospitalizations with 1,650 patients currently hospitalized. 

RELATED: Gov. Lamont, state officials announce COVID-19 hospitalizations remain down in CT

The number of positive cases rose by 993 for a total of 27,770. The number of deaths associated with COVID-19 also jumped by 89, to 2,257.

The number of total tests done for COVID-19 also rose by 2,315 for a total of 97,133.  Governor Lamont said going forward, the increase in testing will be "absolutely vital."

"Testing is important for the businesses as they reopen.  We're finding that down in Georgia.  Testing gives the consumer confidence that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe," Governor Lamont said.

In terms of protecting high risk populations, Governor Lamont said "it's the right thing to do."

"We know that certain members of our community are hit especially hard by this pandemic… we're going to focus on those communities, the African American communities, the urban communities, those who live in denser populations," said Governor Lamont.  "It's the right thing to do, and it's also the smart thing to do. If you want to make sure that this pandemic stays under control, we want to do everything we can to make sure there are no flare-ups."

Governor Lamont broke down Connecticut's economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, and which industries have the highest unemployment percentages.

"We have a GDP, the value of everything bought and sold in the state of Connecticut, is about $245 billion.  If you want to see how our economy is put together, you'll see about $106 billion… is reflected in things that have always been open.  That's central retail, construction, and manufacturing.  That is a big piece of our economy that never closed… and yet about 11% of our total unemployment is reflected in those particular businesses," Governor Lamont explained.  "That could be that fact that in construction - new home construction is not picking up, it's slowing down."

Governor Lamont said businesses like Pratt & Whitney and Stanley Black & Decker also remained open, but saw a loss of demand resulting in layoffs for some in the industry.

When it comes to service businesses, including restaurants, bars salons, barbershops, Governor Lamont said those make up about 10% of Connecticut's economy, but 48% of the unemployment rate.

"Those are very people intensive.  So while they're not a big piece of our overall economy, they're an enormous piece of our unemployment rate.  That's the group that we're going to talk about in particular today as we slowly phase them back into the workforce starting on May 20th," Governor Lamont said.

Governor Lamont said the state's plan will look at the "how" and the "what," including "how we will operate," and "what we will open."

"Primarily, the recommendation, which I'm very sympathetic to, is open up by industry types that you can do safely," Governor Lamont explained. 

He then revealed a "Health Risk Scoring," graph, which was broken down into two categories.

The first was "contact intensity," which had three sub-groups, including:

  1. Contact proximity - how close you are to each other in your place of employment and how much social distancing you're able to do.
  2. Contact length - how long you're next to someone at your place of employment.
  3. Number of contacts - how many people you're seeing over the course of a day.

Governor Lamont said this is one broad category as they think about which businesses can open and when.

The second category identified is "modification potential," which had two-subgroups:

  1. Disinfection - how the safety within a particular place of employment can be regulated and how often it can be disinfected.
  2. Social distancing rules - how safely can it be done based on the size of the business.

Governor Ned Lamont then broke down which businesses officials believe can open on May 20th, which is contingent upon meeting the reopening criteria. 

Those businesses include:

  1. Restaurants (outdoor only, no bar areas)
  2. Remaining retail
  3. Offices (continue to work from open where possible)
  4. Personal services (hair & nail salons)
  5. Museums, Zoos (outdoor only)
  6. Additional outdoor recreation (e.g. camping, mountain biking)
  7. University research programs

Governor Lamont said when it comes to personal services, he knows how important it is.

"I know how important hair, barbers, salons, nails are - I know it's been a long time, I know it's getting a little awkward.  I also know it's tougher to enforce social distancing in an environment like that," Governor Lamont said.  "But based upon what we see in Georgia and other places, people aren't flooding in. People are doing it by appointment."

Governor Lamont said the co-chairs of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group would be coming up with protocols that can give them the opportunity to get those businesses started on a limited bases starting on May 20th. 

"May 20th is an important start-up date for us," Governor Lamont said.    "I know you're wondering about some other activities, and we're going to report early next week on schools and other social gatherings."

According to Dr. Albert Ko, a co-chair on the Reopen Connecticut Advisory board, there are still some groups who should remain home on May 20th.

"Even as we go to reopening in very baby steps…we're going to be worried about the most vulnerable for the COVID virus, and those are, of course, going to be the elderly.  Certainly, recommendations are going to be continued to shelter in place for the elderly. These are going to be the people who have the highest risk, which are over 70 years of age."

Dr. Ko said they would then look at each industry to create methods of protection.

"Of course, there are people who are working that are over 60 years of age," Dr. Ko said. "That’s the work we're doing right now to understand what the risk is and how that can be potentially mitigated in different environments, and whether sheltering in place is going to need to continue in that age group."

The question of unemployment claims also came up during Thursday's briefing.  FOX61's Zinnia Maldonado asked officials if there were plans to allocate funds to the Department of Labor to create a call center to handle claimant's questions.

According to Josh Geballe, the Chief Operating Officer for the Governor's Office, the Department of Labor is almost through its backlog.

"They've made tremendous progress and I think as they dig out from underneath that, people who have questions will get those questions answered," said Geballe. "We've given them every resource that they've asked for through this, and if we need to allocate more we will."

Geballe added the department is now accepting pandemic unemployment insurance applications for those who are self-employed, freelancers and gig-workers.