Whether you are heading to a park, a beach, sticking close to home or taking part in some sort of a gathering, Connecticut residents are urged to be cautious on Labor Day weekend and continue to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.
This is historically one of the busiest weekends at Connecticut parks and beaches, according to Mason Trumble, the deputy commissioner for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The COVID-19 pandemic is yet another reason for families to spend time outside, so Environmental Conservation Police officers are preparing for crowds and reminding people not to become complacent when it comes to COVID safety precautions.
"We do recommend that you bring a mask with you and wear it anytime social distancing isn't possible. So, please remember that six-feet-rule. If you are within six feet, please wear your mask. We want to make sure our state parks remain safe for everyone this weekend," Trumble went on to say "We try hard to have an education-first strategy around social distancing. However, our officers do have the authority to enforce those rules and although we'd hate to ask someone to leave the park or enforce in a stronger way, we are prepared to do so if necessary.”
EnCon officers will be reducing parking capacity to help control crowds. They are encouraging families to plan ahead and check the D.E.E.P. What’s open outdoors website to make sure parks have not already reached capacity for the day. It is updated in real time.
Public health leaders warn that Labor Day Weekend will be a critical time to maintain COVID-19 safety precautions and prevent the spread of the virus.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he understands there may be coronavirus or mask fatigue but is asking residents to avoid having large gatherings and to continue social distancing and being safe.
"Those things matter as much as ever," Bronin said. The mayor said he wants Hartford to avoid having any COVID-19 spikes like some regions around the country saw after Memorial Day and July 4.
Hartford is planning to continue to have police and inspectors deterring and breaking up large gatherings, Bronin said.
"We will take whatever enforcement actions are necessary," Bronin said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal said he's spoken with law enforcement agencies from around the state who plan to have a heightened vigilance over the weekend in stopping large gatherings.
"We do need to be vigilant," Mary Day, a public health nurse practitioner for Ledge Light Health District, covering East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington & Waterford, warned.
She has noticed pandemic fatigue over the summer. With Labor Day being a precursor to the colder months, she stressed that it is crucial for people to fight back against any fatigue and follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines.
If you plan on going to a cookout this holiday weekend, Day suggests keeping all activities outside. It is also important to keep any gatherings small and with people who you have already been exposed to all summer, rather than introducing new people into your bubble.
Masks and social distancing, maintaining at least six feet of distance, will be key to having a safe weekend.
If you plan on serving food, Day said you should avoid buffets. If you have to share food, it is important that people sanitize before and after and that a lid is kept on dishes in between uses.
Additionally, it is best to designate a separate bathroom for guests if possible.
"You also want to make sure you are cleaning using EPA approved products," said Day.
The health district has received complaints of people using masks improperly.
Day stressed the importance of the mask covering your nose and mouth at all times. People are encouraged to wash their hands before putting a mask on and when taking the mask off.
In the city of Hartford, police will continue operating with an increased presence as it has over recent weekends to respond to excessively large gatherings and quality of life and safety issues, like street racing
At 2:15 p.m., Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin will hold a news conference with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and city leaders will remind residents to continue to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously over Labor Day weekend.
Labor Day Weekend Guidance from DEEP
DEEP is urging people heading to state recreation areas this weekend to plan ahead and take precautions.
- Plan ahead: State parks continue to operate at reduced capacity and real-time updates on closures are posted on the state parks Twitter feed, @CTStateParks and at https://portal.ct.gov/whatsopenoutdoors. Have a back-up plan in case a park is when you get there. In case your first choice is closed, find other outdoor recreation ideas here. re-are-others-try.
- Practice social distancing and wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including while outdoors and at the beach. Visitors to state beaches must maintain a 15-foot distance between blankets and stay six feet from other visitors not in their household. Masks shall be worn anytime except when in the water or seated on your blanket and six feet from others not in your household. Find CDC guidance on safe outdoor recreation habits here:
- Reduced lifeguard presence: Many DEEP lifeguards have returned to school, so visitors should expect reduced or no lifeguard coverage at shoreline state parks with beaches. Swimmers are asked to take extra precautions. Parents are cautioned to watch their children closely (it only takes seconds for a child to drown, if you are more than an arm’s length away, you’re too far.), be aware of strong currents and underwater hazards in natural swimming areas such as sudden drop-offs, holes, large rocks and tree roots. Beach goers are also advised to drink responsibly because excessive alcohol consumption impairs judgment and reaction ability. Even prescription drugs may impair judgment. For more safe swimming tips, go here: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/State-Parks/Recreation-Information/Swimming---CT-State-Parks-and-Forests.
- Boat safe: DEEP reminds boaters planning to get on the water this holiday weekend to do so responsibly. Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. DEEP reminds boaters to boat sober and always wear a life jacket when on the water. Real-time updates on boat launch capacity closures are posted on the boating Twitter feed, @CTBoatingInfo.
- Non-resident parking fees re-instituted: DEEP recently re-instituted a parking fee collection process for non-resident visitors at 22 State Park locations. DEEP has not collected these fees this season, except at three of the four shoreline state beaches, due to COVID-19 prevention measures and staffing limitations. The new system requires visitors arriving in vehicles registered outside of Connecticut to purchase a parking pass online or by phone when they arrive at the park. Signage at each park location will provide instructions on how to make their payment and complete the form to be placed on their vehicle’s dashboard to confirm fee payment. For more information on fees and the park locations where fees will be collected, go here. Anyone in a Connecticut-registered vehicle can park free of charge at all CT State Parks and Forests year-round through the Passport to the Parks program.
- Alcohol bans: DEEP recently expanded and extended a temporary alcohol ban for Beach Pond State Boat Launch in Voluntown. The alcohol ban, originally implemented July 10, now includes an extended portion of the Beach Pond shoreline as well as parts of Pachaug State forest directly adjacent to the Beach Pond State Boat Launch. For a list of all state parks with alcohol bans, go here: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/State-Parks/Parks-Areas-With-Alcohol-Ban.
- Candlewood Lake boat launches: The Lattins Cove State Boat Launch remains closed, and parking capacity at Squantz Cove State Boat Launch continues to be limited to 50 percent. DEEP staff and Environmental Conservation officers continue to conduct increased outreach and monitoring to deter and identify gatherings on the water and at state boat launches. For more information on these restrictions, go here.
- Leave no trace: DEEP reminds visitors to state parks and forests to ensure that any trash they create while visiting a state recreation area either ends up in a receptacle or is taken out with them.