Yale Expert OK With Lifting Capacity Limits Despite Variants

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Yale epidemiologist Dr. Albert Ko, a top pandemic advisor to Gov. Ned Lamont, said Thursday he's concerned about the different variants that have been detected in Connecticut, but he's not opposing the state's plans to eliminate capacity limits.

Beginning Friday, limits will be lifted at restaurants, non-theater indoor recreation centers, libraries, museums, aquariums, gyms and fitness centers, retail shops, offices, personal services establishments and houses of worship. Mask-wearing, distancing and cleaning protocols will still be required.

Also, movie theaters and performing arts venues will only be allowed to open at 50% capacity. Restaurant seating will be limited to eight people per table and hours of operation capped at 11 p.m. Bars, meanwhile, will remain shuttered.

"I think the worst case scenario we can do, going forth, is what's happening in other states in the US where they're letting it fly or hang out and lifting facemask restrictions, lifting all social gatherings, keeping bars open," Ko said. "We know those have really been kind of the pressure point, the touch points of transmission in the past."

Ko credited Connecticut with being "very evidence based" and keeping a close eye on hospitalizations, deaths and testing, noting how wastewater in parts of Connecticut has been under surveillance to detect any possible surge in infections.

"That's not to say that I'm not concerned about these variants,'' said Ko, who is currently working with a team in Brazil where a variant has created a "humanitarian crisis," with intensive care units overflowing with patients.

As of Thursday, five variants have been detected in Connecticut. The variant that originated in the United Kingdom has been the most prevalent, with 283 out of the total 295 variant cases.

Lamont defended his decision to ease capacity limitations, noting the state's COVID-19 infection rate has declined and capacity in hospital increased since the state began reopening things in May. He said if the situation changes dramatically, Connecticut has the ability to change course.

"But right now, I think given the vaccinations, where we are in powering through, I think this is the right decision at the right time,'' he said. "Now wear the mask."

Also on Friday, the next phase of vaccine eligibility begins. People 45 years and older will be able to sign up for appointments.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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