Lamont: Stricter enforcement of COVID rules possible after bar incidents
Connecticut officials may take a stricter stance on enforcing COVID-19 rules, after two recent incidents at bars near college campuses.
“I think the answer to that is ‘yes,’” Lamont said, when whether he would consider additional measures in response to the incidents.
That came as the state saw a surge of new cases over the weekend, along with a dozen new deaths, bringing Connecticut’s death toll to 4,589.
Around the state, health officials reported 2,047 new cases out of 92,191 new tests, with a seven-day positivity rate of 2.4 percent, Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said Monday.
Thirty-seven more patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 over the weekend, according to the governor’s office. That brought the total number hospitalized with the illness to 270.
Over the weekend, The Brickyard Pub in Fairfield was ordered to close until Monday, after law enforcement and local health officials witnessed a large gathering of about 50 people outside the establishment Friday night— many of them not wearing masks, Fairfield Police said.
“They willfully went out of their way,” the governor said, adding that the pub’s shades were pulled down so passersby couldn’t see the crowds gathered inside.
“This keeps going you’re going to ruin it for all the restaurants and everybody who are following the protocols really seriously just so we can stay open,” the governor said.
Fairfield officials said that under normal circumstances, the Brickyard Pub would be allowed to host 150 people indoors, meaning the establishment is restricted to 112 people or 75 percent of its capacity under the state’s Phase 3 reopening guidelines.
“The majority of the patrons observed within Brickyard Pub were found to be gathered at the bar and were found not to be wearing face masks,” Fairfield police said.
The pub’s owner, Easton resident Jennifer Wilson, was fined, according to police.
But on Monday the governor said he does not anticipate rolling back reopenings statewide, favoring a localized approach instead.
“I think we’ve learned over the last eight months that we really can target our response, so it gives us a lot more flexibility than we had back in the spring,” Lamont said.
Along with that targeted approach, the Democratic governor said he wanted to see more enforcement— including pushback from the restaurant association over the reopening guideline violations.
“I’d like to see strict enforcement,” Lamont said. “You can have one or two superspreader events that’s some event or some party or bar turned restaurant turned bar that can really turn a safe area into a COVID-infected area.”
Trinity College in Hartford, meanwhile, announced 15 students had been kicked out of campus housing for “significant COVID-19 conduct violations,” school officials said in a message.
“In one incident, 14 students who live in campus housing visited a local bar,” the message to the school community said.
The 15th student violated the college’s guest policies, the school said.
The governor also indicated more guidance would be forthcoming for winter sports, including ice hockey.
On Sunday, Massachusetts officials announced ice rinks will be closed starting Monday through Nov. 7, after dozens of “clusters” of COVID-19 infections emerged from hockey games, practices and tournaments.
Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said the state officials are in discussion with other leaders throughout New England about hockey, prompted by Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s office.
Mounds said those talks are focusing “particularly on travel from one state to another for hockey-related tournaments.”
“In addition to that, we’re also having our usual conversations with the CIAC, who should be looking to put out their guidance in the coming weeks” Mounds said, refferring to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
In the meantime the state will be focused on limiting the spread of the virus through travel from hockey tournaments as Massachusetts — as well as New Hampshire — contend with closed rinks, Mounds said.