Connecticut to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions on May 20 – will Northeast coalition follow suit?

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Connecticut plans to start easing its coronavirus lockdown measures on May 20, Gov. Ned Lamont has announced, raising speculation that other states aligned with it in a Northeast coalition could soon follow.

Lamont said offices, hair and nail salons and restaurants that have outdoor dining areas are among the businesses that will be given the green light to open their doors again in late May pending certain criteria are met, such as a two-week decline in hospitalizations and increased availability of testing.

The announcement comes after Connecticut officials observed economic activity restart in states like Georgia, which has been one of the most aggressive in the nation in terms of reopening during the pandemic.

"I know how important hair [salons], barbers, salons, nail [salons] are — I know it's been a long time, I know it's getting a little awkward. I also know it's tougher to enforce social distancing in an environment like that," Lamont told reporters Thursday. "But based upon what we see in Georgia and other places, people aren't flooding in. People are doing it by appointment."

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Lamont says Georgia is also proving that more testing is important for restarting the economy.

“We're finding that, down in Georgia, testing gives the consumer confidence that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe,” he added.

Lamont putting a date on the calendar – at least for now – would be a move that would appear to break ranks with a coalition of Northeast states set up to coordinate the reopening of their economies, which includes Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Other governors in that group have talked about their own phased reopening plans, but have not yet given firm dates of when those will begin.

Yet in Pennsylvania, golf courses, marinas and privately owned campgrounds are reopening Friday, while New Jersey is opening its golf courses and state parks Saturday.

Looking ahead, Pennsylvania is expected to announce Friday which counties and regions can start reopening by May 8.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing for the states to move in lockstep with their plans over concerns that residents could start crossing borders en masse if one state starts reopening sooner than another.

“Beaches, public facilities, schools, parades, concerts — these would all be magnets for people. I work with our other states because if they open up a beach in Connecticut, you could see a flow of people from New York going to a beach in Connecticut if I don’t open our beaches,” Cuomo said in April.

“Anything that New Jersey, Connecticut, New York does can affect everyone else... that is the reality,” he said.

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And with any reopening, safety for the public remains key.

"Even as we go to reopening in very baby steps… we're going to be worried about the most vulnerable for the COVID virus, and those are, of course, going to be the elderly,” said Albert Ko, a doctor and co-chair of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, according to Fox61.

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“Certainly, recommendations are going to be continued to shelter in place for the elderly. These are going to be the people who have the highest risk, which are over 70 years of age," he added.

Connecticut’s coronavirus hospitalization rate is on the decline, Lamont said, and as of Friday, the state was reporting 27,700 confirmed cases, with 2,257 deaths.