Gov. Ned Lamont cautioned on Friday that the positive signs the state Department of Public Health is seeing in the numbers of hospitalizations statewide doesn't mean it is time to stop practicing social distancing.
New patients being hospitalized with COVID-19 have stabilized over the past few days.
Lamont said he had heard from some restaurant and business owners telling him it was time to open up again. Lamont said that would be the wrong decision and that the best action now is to stay the course.
He said the war against the "invisible enemy" was not yet won.
"This silent enemy just doesn't surrender," Lamont said.
As Connecticut goes into the Easter holiday weekend, the governor strongly recommended that family holiday gatherings be limited to to those already in the household.
Bars and Restaurants Closed
On Thursday, the governor announced that all restaurants, bars, and non-essential businesses will remain closed through May 20. Most of those have been closed since March 20, when the governor issued his first executive order.
He planned to issue a new executive order on Friday mandating the closures through May 20. The order also pertains to malls, amusement parks, and other businesses.
Republican legislative leaders expressed some concerns about Lamont's new executive orders.
Sen. Len Fasano, the Senate Majority Leader, sent a letter to Lamont on Friday to complain about the lack of coordination with state legislators on the new directives.
"Over time, your authority has become more broad and your strategy less collaborative. Your latest executive order does not reflect any collaboration with legislative leaders," Fasano said in the letter.
He also expressed concerns that parts of the new executive orders go above and beyond what state law grants him for emergency powers.
Schools Closed Until May 20
“Out of the best interests of the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff, we feel this is the best approach at this time,” Lamont said in a statement. “We’ll continue consulting with our public health experts and education officials in the coming weeks as the situation continues to change. I want everyone to know that this is done out of an abundance of caution, and our education officials will continue to speak with school districts to help amplify their learn-from-home initiatives during this difficult time.”
Relief For Renters
Gov. Lamont also signed an executive order on Friday to provide relief to renters in the state. The order includes a provision prohibiting landlords from issuing eviction notices through July 1. Exceptions could be made for tenants who are an extreme nuisance or could cause harm to the landlord, according to Lamont's chief of staff, Paul Mounds.
The order also enacts an automatic 60-day grace period for rent payments due in April. A second 60-day grace period will be available for May rents, at the request of the renter. The renter will need to notify the landlord they have lost their job or been significantly impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
Applications for the state's SNAP food assistance program have quadrupled since February, according to Department of Social Services commisioner, Deirdre Gifford.
The agency is seeing longer wait times for people calling for assistance.
"I want to assure the public that we are doing everything we can to increase the capacity of our team out in the field to respond to phone calls," Gifford said.
DSS is also processing claims as quickly as possible. Expedited claims are being processed within a week and regular claims are being processed in less time than the 1-month time frame they have to do so, according to Gifford.
With Bernie Sanders now out of the presidential race, leaving Joe Biden as the apparent Democratic nominee, Lamont said he did not want to cancel the state's presidential primary. Originally scheduled for April 28, the governor has already pushed it to June 2. He suggested Friday he would consider moving it to July, but that canceling the primary would set a bad precedent.
CTAlert Notification System
The governor urges Connecticut residents to sign up for CTAlert, the state’s emergency alert system, which provides text message notifications to users. To subscribe, text the keyword COVIDCT to 888-777.