Connecticut’s governor said Monday he does not want to see schools closing their buildings because of isolated coronavirus cases and urged districts offering only distance learning to consider revisiting their plans.
A third of Connecticut students between kindergarten and eighth grade will soon be going to school full time, Gov. Ned Lamont said, expressing hope that the number will rise to over 50% within a few weeks. While many have hybrid plans offering a mix of in-person and distance learning, Lamont said very few including New Haven are offering only distance learning.
“Come on New Haven, I think you ought to take a look,” Lamont said during an afternoon news briefing. “You have a very low infection rate, and these kids ought to have an option to go to school.”
Also Monday, Lamont, a Democrat, announced fines that local officials can impose for violations of orders intended to fight the pandemic. People can be fined $100 for violating mask orders, $500 for organizing events that exceed size limits and $250 for attending events that exceed size limits.
Connecticut’s infection rate out of all people tested has been hovering around 1%.
A number of schools across the state have switched temporarily to online learning because of positive coronavirus tests. But speaking on WNPR radio earlier Monday, Lamont said he does not believe that is the correct approach to handling limited outbreaks.
“No, no, no, no,” he said. “Especially for K through 8, we’re trying to keep that 4th grade class unto itself as a pod as a cohort. So that if there happens to be an infection in that one class, it’s just those 20 students and that teacher who would have to quarantine — not the entire middle school or not the entire school.”
Killingly High School and Bridgeport’s Tisdale School were closed for at least Monday after positive tests there. It was not clear when those schools will reopen to in-person learning.
The Dag Hammarskjold Middle School in Wallingford said it will be closed until Wednesday at the earliest while the local health department conducts contact tracing on a member of the school community who received a positive coronavirus test.
The Chase Elementary School in Waterbury remains open, but students in a specific classroom have been ordered into quarantine after a classmate tested positive. That class will switch to remote learning through Thursday.
All those schools have said they will conduct deep cleaning during the closures to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Connecticut’s Department of Public Health has issued guidelines for schools on how to handle virus outbreaks but has left the decisions on whether or not to close up to districts.
“We’re working every day with the superintendents; every day with the principals,” Lamont said. “So far, I think they’re doing pretty well.”
Lamont said schools have been doing a good job of contact tracing and it is important that kids get back into the classroom.
“Let’s put this into context,” Lamont said. “We’re still one of the lowest states in terms on infection rates in the country.”