May 21, 2020
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 21
Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut held a press conference on COVID-19 on May 21. Lamont signed an order allowing registered voters to cast absentee ballots.
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Ned Lamont: (06:03)
I haven’t seen you in a while. Katie, I like your office.
Katie Dykes: (06:05)
Can’t beat it.
Ned Lamont: (12:17)
All right. Hey, everybody. Yesterday was opening day. We started doing more things outside, starting with restaurants. So, figured this would be an appropriate place to say a few things with the advent of Memorial Day weekend coming up. And I’ll just say, Gay City State Park, Andy and I go on walks all the time. This is one of our favorite places. People love it so much they don’t come here anymore. Whatever Yogi Berra said, we’ve got gorgeous parks that people aren’t as familiar with and this is where we recommend people focus over this weekend, because some of our parks and beaches may be loved to death.
Ned Lamont: (12:56)
Let me back up just for a minute. I just got the reports, the second day in now on reopening, our infection rate was below 5%, more like 3%. That’s extraordinary good news. Our testing is still at a run rate of about 42,000 a week, which is where we wanted to be. I was struck reading New York Times today. The report that came out, maybe some of you saw it, that said if New York City had closed just two weeks earlier, if they had started putting in place social distancing, the protocols two weeks earlier, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. This report said a majority of those that we lost could still be with us. Connecticut closed early. We closed with New York, but we were two weeks behind New York in terms of the pandemic. So, I think that did spare us up some of the worst of what could have happened, but we were still hit and we were hit hard and we were strict in terms of the social-
Ned Lamont: (14:03)
… protocols, strict in terms of what we closed down, especially when it came to the inside activities, because it was the inside activities where the infection rate is the most severe. One place Katie and I varied a little bit from our peers is we kept our parks and beaches open, our state parks and beaches open. And to me, that was really important. We had our teleconference meeting with the president and Melania Trump, I think it was the day before yesterday, and it was all about mental health. It was all about the stress. And to me, I really wanted people to keep up their social distance, but I also appreciated what an amazing setting like Gay City State Park could do to people’s not just physical wellbeing, but mental health and dealing with some of the stress that’s here.
Ned Lamont: (14:56)
And that’s why I’m proud of the fact that we kept our beaches open and proud of the fact that the people of Connecticut maintained their social distance, kept their masks on as necessary if they couldn’t keep that distance. And now with Memorial Day in front of us, Katie has been working very closely with our regional neighbors here. Rhode Island is opening, Massachusetts is opening, New York on a limited basis. She’s put in place rules that say, “Look, we can’t keep out of staters out,” although I’d say Rhode Island, you’ve got beautiful beaches, you should stay there. If out of staters do want to come, they can pay an extra fee.
Ned Lamont: (15:39)
And my other message I think would be a twofold. One, incredible thanks to the amazing folks at [Deep 00:00:15:47]. The park rangers, what each and every one of you done is, I was just joking on the way, and you weren’t telecommuting for the last few weeks. You were never been busier. Keeping our parks open, we have a beautiful park within a 10, 15 minute drive of every place in this state and that is really an amazing asset. You keep it beautiful and you keep it safe and I cannot thank you guys enough.
Ned Lamont: (16:10)
And with that, I’d like to introduce it. So Katie Dykes who’s been really taken the lead on this, [inaudible 00:16:17] give you a little more about that protocols as we come up to this weekend, but it’s … I used it to say, stay home, stay safe. Now I say go to a little used park. Go to one of the ones that aren’t on the mainstream. Go there with your family. Keep your distance if you see a group of people coming up. That’s what spring’s all about and if we do this carefully, we’re getting through this together, Katie.
Katie Dykes: (16:49)
Thank you governor, and thank you so much for your leadership and support. As we know, we’re so proud of our mission of supporting outdoor recreation and natural resource enjoyment at our department. We know how important that is to the men and women, the families of this state, and it’s never been more important than during this pandemic. I’m really proud that with your support, we were able to keep our park system open. Those days in mid March, when we were trying to think through how this would work, we had the opening day of fishing season coming up and a spring weather getting nicer. And we knew that people needed to have something that they could do to make it possible for them to stay the course with the directives around social distancing and staying at home. And we were able to accomplish that through our park system, over these last several weeks, opening up inland fishing season early, changing some of our operations at our parks help keep people and our staff safe while providing that opportunity to be outdoors.
Katie Dykes: (17:53)
We’ve got Jim Little here from the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association, been great supporters of our system, and I know they’ve seen, and we’ve seen so many people across the state responding to the availability of these parks. Very significant increases in the number of visitors, and we’ve been able to accommodate that in a really safe way over these last couple of weeks. And I’m just so proud of our terrific staff, our park staff, our staff from the Bureau of Natural Resources, our environmental conservation officers who have helped to make that possible.
Katie Dykes: (18:31)
We’ve been doing things a little differently across the state. Within our parks operations, we’ve been hammering home those new changes in the rules, maintaining six feet of distance when you’re passing people on a trail, prohibiting groups gathering of more than five, which means that we’ve been prohibiting picnicking and other types of uses of the parks to keep these focused on providing outdoor recreation as a solitary enjoyment or with members of your immediate household.
Katie Dykes: (19:05)
A lot of those rules are going to still be in place as we head into the summer season. And I know that as we were thinking about how this would work back in March, we didn’t know how the public would respond. This is a lot of change that we’ve asked people to follow and you know what? People did it. We all did this together. Our staff in terms of making these changes, but all of the members, the visitors to our parks who have been wearing masks, who’s been keeping that distance, we’ve done this together and I know we can do this as we head into the summer months.
Katie Dykes: (19:40)
So there’s some additional changes that we’re going to be putting in place in order to support more of those wonderful activities that folks enjoy in our parks as we head into the summer, and I want to share a few of those with folks today. It’s really important to get the word out so that we can continue to keep these parks operating in a safe manner into the summer. So first and foremost, a lot of questions about beaches and swimming as the weather is warming. Our beaches are open, very exciting. Heading into Memorial days, we know how popular those beaches are at our shoreline parks. We are going to be allowing swimming at our shoreline beaches, but we are not going to be allowing swimming this year at our inland parks. I know there’s many beautiful lakes and ponds that people enjoy in normal times, swimming in inland parks. We’re not going to be supporting swimming there. Really important to let people know that’s not because recreational swimming is known to be a risk of coronavirus spread. That’s not the case. It’s because some of the beaches and what happens on shore, they’re just not big enough in our inland parks to be able to allow people to spread out and keep social distance. But that is a little different at the shoreline parks where the beaches are much bigger and we have the ability to accommodate more people on the shore. So swimming at shoreline parks, but no swimming this year at our inland state parks.
Katie Dykes: (21:08)
A couple of key things for folks as you’re planning, heading into Memorial day weekend or into the summer, like a top 10 list, if you will. So number one is if you’re not feeling well, stay home. Don’t come to a park. Keep track of your symptoms. We don’t want people who are not feeling well to come and visit. And if you have underlying health conditions or if you’re over the age of 65, there are risks associated with getting out and coming to locations like this and so we want you to keep that in mind as well.
Katie Dykes: (21:40)
Number two, recreate close to home. As the governor said, we are so blessed in the state to have a park within 15 minutes drive of every resident in Connecticut. So you have a lot of choices that are available to you close to home, and we really encourage you to choose places that are close to you. It’s not a great time for out of state travel.
Katie Dykes: (22:02)
Number three, while folks are excited about the beaches and coming to some of our really popular shoreline parks, this is a great time to get creative and to consider some of the less popular locations. With over 100 state parks, over 100 state boat launches, we have all of our land trusts are open and operating and available across the state. There are so many different opportunities that people have. So as you’re weighing whether to head to a beach or think about getting on a bike path, going out for a hike, going fishing, there’s so many different options, and we encourage you to get creative and choose less popular or undiscovered gems as you’re considering ways to get outdoors with your family. We’ve been running a campaign on Twitter under the hashtag CT trails less traveled. So if you follow that hashtag, we’ve got lots of folks who have been tagging some their special secret, less popular locations and hiking trails that they love. It’s a great way to explore parts of the state that you may not be familiar with.
Katie Dykes: (23:05)
Number four, come early in the day if you’re choosing to go to a popular park or to a shoreline beach, or come during a weekday. We know that those are times where we see fewer visitors and we’re encouraging people, again, to choose trails less traveled or choose times when we see fewer people coming out.
Katie Dykes: (23:25)
Another really important one, number five, is to check ahead. So we are able to maintain social distancing in our parks through … We’ve been able to do that through this spring by establishing lower capacity levels in our parking lots and some of the more popular parks. We’ve been monitoring usage on a daily basis and how social distancing has been practiced at each different park. And in some locations, we’ve determined that there’s just a threshold level when the number of visitors gets to a point that it’s difficult for folks to maintain social distancing. And so in some locations, we have used that benchmark to reduce the parking capacity in some places is as low as 25% of what our normal parking capacity would be.
Katie Dykes: (24:12)
What that means is that parks that reach that capacity are going to be closing for the day. They will reopen the next day, but no one else will be able to come into the park once it’s closed for the day. So we’re seeing that, again, with that reduced parking capacity, plus the increase in visitors who want to visit our parks, that parks are closing more frequently and more parks are closing on that daily basis. So it’s really important for folks to follow along with those closures.
Katie Dykes: (24:42)
And today, I’m really pleased to announce a new tool that people have to be able to check on that information on a real time basis. We’re setting up a website at portal.ct.gov/ what’s open out doors. I’ll repeat that. It’s portal.ct.gov/what’s open outdoors. And if you go on that website, you’ll be able to find real time, up to date information about daily closures of some of our shoreline parks where we have those popular beaches so you can factor that into your planning. So before you hop in the car and head out to the shoreline park, check that website to find out if it’s open. And over time, we think that we’re hopeful that that website can also provide additional resource information for closure information for other types of recreational facilities. More to come on that.
Katie Dykes: (25:33)
Number six, make a backup plan. So if you arrive at a park and you find that the gates are closed because it’s reached capacity, don’t get into a debate with one of our staff. You’d be surprised. Folks see the end [N con 00:00:25:46] officer’s vehicle there at the entrance and they still need to go up and ask if the park is actually closed. Just trust me, it is. Your cooperation and understanding is really critical for us to be able to continue our safe operation. So have a backup plan, choose another location, or come back at a different time or on a different day. We’re going to be here all summer. So just be aware and have another, a plan B in mind.
Katie Dykes: (26:14)
Number seven, bring your mask. So under the governor’s executive order, masks are required if you can’t maintain a social distance of six feet, and that includes when you’re at a park. Have your mask available when you’re in the parking lot and passing folks, if you’re out on a trail and passing another visitor or a group, if you’re at the beach where you may be in closer proximity to other visitors. Those are places where we want masks up. Of course, I get the question if you’re out on a trail in the middle of nowhere, just with your family or by yourself, we’re not requiring masks in that instance, but there are those times when your, as part of your park visit that you may be in close proximity.
Katie Dykes: (26:55)
Number eight, two numbers for you, six feet, and now here’s another one, 15 feet. So we all know that we need to keep six feet of space between ourselves and other visitors. At the beach, we’re giving people another guideline, which is to maintain 15 feet of distance between beach blankets. So that includes six feet of space on either side of a blanket plus three feet for people to walk in between. Again, this is just a rule of thumb. It’s a guideline to help people think about, as they set up for the day, how to maintain social distance in a beach environment. Number nine, our restrooms are currently closed. Our concessions are closed. We are asking folks … We are evaluating the ability to change and open up those facilities through the summer, but we are providing for portable toilets in many locations, but just plan ahead. In some cases, this means not coming for a full day visit but for a shorter time, as we make updates to those availability of facilities. We will be providing that on number 10, our Deep website. So all of our operational plans-
Katie Dykes: (28:03)
… we are updating on a frequent basis as we get new public health guidelines and as the summer goes forward. So everything that we’re doing today may be subject to change. We are going to be updating our plans and our operations, including, for example, around campgrounds and campsites. Really important part of our park operations in normal times. Those campsites are still closed as of this time through June 11th. And we are assessing what the feasibility of being able to provide for camping. That is a decision that will be coming in the next few weeks. And we hope to update people on that soon.
Katie Dykes: (28:42)
But, finally, I just want to say again, we’re excited. It’s a gorgeous day. It’s going to be a gorgeous weekend Memorial Day. We are blessed to have such terrific parks. We are excited to share that with everyone. I know that our staff are working hard to implement these changes to our operations. And I know that with the cooperation of the public, we can have a really successful and safe summer season. We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone to our parks. So thank you so much. And let me turn now to Jim to share a few words. Great.
Jim Little: (29:16)
My name is Jim Little. I’m with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and we’d like to thank the governor and the commissioner for their leadership in keeping trails open and parks open. CFPA runs the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails, which is 825 miles of trails. Many of those trails are hosted in state parks and state forests, so it’s important for people to have access to them. And as a person who hikes every day, I very much appreciate the opportunity of being able to get out. And as someone who lives in Hebron, I love the fact that Gay City is really one of the great resources that are available to us. I would back up what the commissioner said. DEEP has some really great resources. We work very closely with them. It’s a wonderful partnership for the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
Jim Little: (30:05)
There are other resources. One of the things I would encourage people to do is, if you’re looking for a trail to hike, go to ctwoodlands.org. We have an interactive map that will show you all the Blue Trails and places to park that’s supported in part by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. And, again, it is a great resource to find that trail that is perhaps a little bit less used than some of the more popular trails.
Jim Little: (30:38)
The other final thing I’d like to mention is that we are going to be restructuring Connecticut Trails Day, which will take place the first weekend of June. It’s going to be a “do it yourself” type of Trails Day. And on the Connecticut Woodlands website, you’ll find videos from some of the trail leaders. So again, if you’re looking for a new place to walk or hike and you are a little bit uncomfortable with it, take a look at some of the videos and it’ll give you, I think, some additional resource to find great places to hike. So thank you very much for the opportunity.
Commissioner, can you talk about lifeguards?
Katie Dykes: (31:19)
Like hiring lifeguards? How you’re doing that and how many?
Katie Dykes: (31:21)
Sure, yep. Great, thank you for that question. So we are in the process of staffing up for summer season. We won’t have lifeguards on the beaches and in the chairs this weekend at our shoreline parks, but we are working towards being able to provide that later in the summer.
Keith McGilvery: (31:42)
Governor, Keith McGilvery from Fox 61, with a question on casinos. In South Korea, we saw health officials trace back a number of confirmed cases to a single individual at a nightclub. Is that a scenario you fear now that these casinos have defied your wishes to open June 1st? And if that were to happen, does the state have any recourse if you’re left dealing with the aftermath?
Ned Lamont: (32:05)
Yeah. I saw how that one super-spreader in South Korea goes to a number of nightclubs, a few nightclubs and… What was it? Well over a hundred incidentally got infected along the way. Question was about casinos. Look, we’ve been advised by some of the really great healthcare pandemic experts in the country. And you heard what each and every one of them said, that opening too early in an enclosed area like a casino, which caters more towards an older population, is something that could be put off. As I said early on, a couple of weeks makes a big difference. That was the report I was referencing earlier.
Ned Lamont: (32:47)
So I talked to my fellow governors. They feel very strongly that this should be put off. So we’re going to work collegially, I hope with the tribes. They want to do everything they can to keep their people safe, keep their customers safe, and keep the broader community safe because there are hundreds of employees going back and forth. It’s a part of the state that’s been less affected by COVID over the last two months and I want to keep it that way.
Speaker 1: (33:12)
Have you had any contact with them since they made this announcement that they’re going to reopen on June 1st?
Ned Lamont: (33:18)
I last talked in a formal way with the leaders, I guess, probably a week ago.
Mark Pazniokas: (33:27)
Did they tell you then they were going to do it to June 1st?
Ned Lamont: (33:32)
They certainly referenced the fact that they were planning to open a lot sooner than me and any healthcare professional I’ve talked to thought was safe. And I urged them to think about the broader community as they make that decision.
Mark Pazniokas: (33:48)
Their sovereign status… I mean, other lawyers have described it to me as it’s obviously not absolute. There’s a lot of complicated interactions with the State of Connecticut based on compacts and just general practices about public health and whatnot. Have you had any further discussions with your staff about what you might do, other than what you mentioned yesterday, using the bully pulpit to make clear to the public your opinion about whether or not this is safe?
Ned Lamont: (34:19)
Yeah. Yeah. You know me, Paz. Yeah. I’ve talked to the attorneys and liquor licenses and our executive order about bars, or executive order about indoor restaurants, or executive order about hotels. I mean, this is a lower public standard than everything else I’ve got around elsewhere in the State of Connecticut and elsewhere throughout the entire region. That said, I can’t think of it any worse, if I was operating one of these casinos, is to open it too early. One of two things happen. People don’t show up because they know it’s not safe or they show up and there’s an infection. Both to which would be terrible business decisions as well for those casinos. So I think we ought to work together to make sure that when they open, they can open successfully. And it won’t be successful until people really feel like they’re safe. It’s too early right now.
Mark Pazniokas: (35:09)
So are you saying that one possibility is you would pull their liquor licenses if they go forward?
Ned Lamont: (35:15)
No, I think that’s premature. But you were asking some of the discussions people have had, and that was one of the ones that was brought to me.
Mark Pazniokas: (35:21)
It’s in the toolbox? Yeah? Okay.
Governor, as time goes by, are you afraid that some of your decisions are going to be seen as partisan?
Ned Lamont: (35:37)
I don’t… I mean, saying that I think it’s too early for the casinos to open on June 1st, I think it’s really based on science. I mean, it was Scott Gottlieb, Zeke Emanuel, Dr.KO. I mean, they’re not very partisan people, I don’t think, Christine. They were looking at the facts. And when I say I think outdoor restaurants can open because it’s outdoors and it’s safe. When I say, “By the way, it’s really nice to see you ,[inaudible 00:08:05]. I’m sick of these virtual press conferences. I’m glad we can do it in person and it’s better to do it outside when we do it in person.” I’ve I think we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure that politics takes the backseat to science on this.
Okay. And when are we going to see the work product of the reopening committee?
Ned Lamont: (36:22)
Well, it’s going to be my work product and we’re going over it right now. We’ll have it early next week.
And do you feel like you’ve done enough for nursing homes?
Ned Lamont: (36:34)
When you say “done enough”? Look, the nursing homes have been an incredible tragedy. There’s no question about it. That’s across the country. We were the first to say, “No visitors”. And we took a lot of heat about that. If I had done that earlier, would that have been better? You know, yes. We are one of the very first to say, “Go back. You’re going to be in a quarantined area, not in the general area.” We were one of the very first to go out there and test everybody, which we’re doing as we speak right now. My biggest regret there is, when we started doing that early testing, it took us, as you’ve heard me say before, four or five days to get the results back. And by then it was late.
Speaker 2: (37:17)
You offered a strong public health rationale yesterday on the executive order on absentee ballots. But it’s impossible to separate that from partisan debate. The president on down, Republicans are very opposed to anything that expands the use of absentee ballots. So, going forward, as far as looking at what Connecticut should do permanently, what would be things you would consider to assuage what Republicans say is a problem on, I guess, potential for fraud? The fact that some of the list have not been perused as regularly as the Republicans would like. So have you given any thought to what might be a broader package you could put forward that could maybe take some of the temperature out of that debate?
Ned Lamont: (38:09)
Well, I’d remind you that, I don’t know, half the states that do absentee balloting by mail right now are Republican states. So you’re right. In this state, for some reason it’s got some Republican pushback. But that’s not really true in most of the other… West Virginia, that’s, this is a Republican state as they get and they’ve been successfully doing this for a while. The president himself voted by absentee ballot, as I said the other day.
Ned Lamont: (38:35)
But, no, I’m going to sit down with the legislative leaders. I mean, I can’t have them undercutting the public health premise for why we’re trying to do the absentee ballot. I made it very specific in my EO. I said it’s related to the fact that we don’t have a vaccine. If we have a vaccine in time for our vote in August, then we don’t have to have this EO. So I’d try and tie everything I do strictly to our public health ramifications.
Ned Lamont: (38:59)
You ask, “What happens in November?” I’m told that I don’t really have as much control over that in terms of my executive authority. So I would like to work with the legislature, hopefully at a bipartisan basis. But if we don’t have a vaccine by then, you still don’t want 65-year-olds going out and having to vote. You still don’t want people with preexisting conditions to vote. I think it’s very important that they don’t give up their right to vote by only being allowed to wait in line at some polling booth.
Speaker 2: (39:27)
You plan on voting by absentee, sir?
Ned Lamont: (39:29)
That would mean voting by absentee. That’d be my strong recommendation.
Speaker 2: (39:32)
No, how about you, personally?
Ned Lamont: (39:34)
Oh, me, myself personally?
Speaker 2: (39:35)
Ned Lamont: (39:36)
I think I probably should, since I’m over 65. Trick question.
Speaker 2: (39:41)
It’s kind of pretty straightforward myself.
What kind of feedback… You talked a little bit about it yesterday, but you’ve had the full day. Feedback about people obeying distancing at restaurants and in stores and stuff?
Ned Lamont: (40:00)
I checked with all of our team and people felt pretty good about opening day. Maybe you’ve heard otherwise, Ken, but I read all the articles. I’ve talked to a couple of people on my staff. It looked like, as we went around in all the different towns, people were sitting outside. They weren’t all wearing masks, because they were eating. I think day one went pretty well. I think people really respected the protocols that were in place and they know we’re not going to get to day two or stage two, unless we respect those protocols along the way. I think the restaurants handled it really well.
We’re hearing that people calling 211 with complaints are being told that there’s no set up yet on 211 and they should call either the grocery store where people aren’t social distancing or the local health department. Is that-
Ned Lamont: (40:49)
My understanding is the 211 was working. But I’ll get back to you if that’s not working as as well as it should.
Speaker 3: (40:58)
Governor, yesterday you mentioned colleges and universities. Is it your goal to have colleges reopen by the fall?
Ned Lamont: (41:06)
Yes, that’s our baseline. That’s what I’d like to see. That’s what Rick Levin and his education team recommended. As you remember, they had a slow ramp-up there. They talked about graduate housing first. See how that works. A little more likely to social distance. They talk about testing before you go into the residential colleges. But I can’t predict where COVID is going to be in August. I’m hopeful. I think the scientists said they feel like we’re going a pretty good trajectory, which we probably can anticipate into early fall and that would mean anticipate opening. But we’ll give you a notice if the facts change at least 30 days in advance.
Speaker 3: (41:46)
What have the experts that you talked to told you about how long it will take to see what impact the reopening has on the numbers? When will we know whether reopening caused some sort of increase in hospitalizations or in active cases?
Ned Lamont: (41:59)
Well, I mean, we’ve known in Georgia and Oklahoma, and places that have been open for…
Ned Lamont: (42:03)
… now I think a month, that there have not been flare ups in and around the reopening. There’ve been flare ups obviously in congregate settings. I’ve had in my mind and working with our team, let’s at least give it two to three weeks to see if we see much evidence of symptoms. We’ll have two to three weeks of more testing. That would give us a week or two before the next stage.
Governor, a follow up on restaurants if I could. What is your message to members of Connecticut’s restaurant community? Many of whom are telling me that outdoor dining is potentially little more than window dressing. And that in order to really generate some profit right now, they need to be filling 75% of their seats, at a minimum, to really make any money?
Ned Lamont: (42:50)
Look at Georgia, just throwing open the doors and say, “Everybody come.” That’s not the way it worked. I think people want to feel safe, a lot of people aren’t going to go out at all, but I think more people will come out here in Connecticut because they think we’re doing it on a very thoughtful basis based on the science. Let’s give it a few weeks, let’s see what happens in terms of the outdoor dining. That will build the confidence of the consumer and give people the sense that it’s safe to go inside. I’m not keeping people out. I think a lot of consumers don’t want to eat inside right now.
Governor [inaudible 00:43:19] can you talk a little bit about enforcement as more people come out, especially at the parks. You walk the airline state trail here, and a lot of people aren’t wearing masks. And so, is the enforcement being ramped up as the parks open? How is that working?
Ned Lamont: (43:35)
How’d you say that works, Eddie?
So, one important area where we’re doing enforcement a little differently this spring and headed into the summer, is with respect to people parking outside of a park that has closed and then attempting to walk in. Also, under an executive order from March 30th, we have the authority now to issue fines for folks who basically disregard our closures and walk in. That’s really challenging for us to be able to manage when we’re using the limitations on capacity of parking as a tool to enhance social distancing.
We are getting daily monitoring reports from our park staff, from our environmental conservation officers. And I’m reviewing every day, where we’re getting reports about where there are issues with social distancing that are being observed. Overall, on balance, I think people have been doing a really good job, especially as we’ve made these changes really quickly for some behavioral changes that are long standing.
We do have a terrific environmental conservation officer force, that they’ve been out there doing patrols, our parks staff as well. Our first preference is always education to remind people of what these rules are, and I think we’ve seen really good compliance over that. But again, that’s what we’re going to be assessing as we go forward to determine whether we need to make tweaks to our plans. Hopefully we won’t have to, but we’re watching it really closely.
Is there a chance, commissioner, that you could reconsider on the Inland bathing. I’m pretty familiar with Indian Well around July 4th, that could be an end con officer’s nightmare.
Listen, we’re using… There’s really no playbook for this, but we’re using all of our experience from what normal summers look like and knowing where we do see a lot of visitors coming and challenges with crowds in normal times to guide a lot of our decision making here. Again, focusing on the shoreline beaches where there’s more opportunity for people to spread out, that’s where we’re allowing the swimming right now. We’re going to see how that goes, partly to test whether our plans are working well and also how well the public is working with us to follow these rules and make this possible. And as we go forward, we can reassess based on how that works out, any changes or different things that we can offer than what we’re doing currently today.
So, there’s a possibility that you could open up Inland later if…
It’s possible. I think, again, part of this also is that we’re staying in touch with what’s being observed in terms of infection and rates and following the public health guidelines. So, as we look through the summer, if we see, in consultation with DPH, that there’s the ability to support folks being in closer proximity or larger groups, that could play into the decision making around our Inland park swimming and some of our other activities as well.
But you’re out hiring lifeguards for the lakes yet?
No. So, we are ramping up. In a normal year we hire about 500 seasonal staff. That is a process that we work through in the spring to ramp up to a day like today, in normal circumstances. We’ve had to adapt those changes, so we are hiring seasonal staff, we are hiring lifeguards. We will be placing them around the various locations, but we are not going to be supporting swimming. We’re prohibiting that at the Inland parks and we will look to have lifeguards in place at the shoreline parks in the chairs as the summer goes forward.
Governor, what is the most recent guidance on the COVID recovery centers? I know that they’re looking at closing two of them that that were opened, and what is the public health thinking on that at the moment?
Ned Lamont: (47:41)
Yeah, we built a lot of capacity there with those covert recovery centers, just so those COVID related patients can be sequestered. Right now, I take it there’s enough extra quarantine space within some of the existing nursing homes. It’s really important not to mix those patients. I think the operators are making some decisions on that along with Josh. I can’t tell you more than that though, Christine.
And the testing is continuing and the inspections are continuing?
Ned Lamont: (48:10)
Well, the testing is certainly continuing in all of those most vulnerable populations, including the nursing homes, patients as well as nurses. Really important. We’re going through all of our correctional facilities, we’re going to homeless shelters, we’re going to those denser neighborhoods we talked about where there’s most likely to see a flare up. So, that’s continuing and accelerating. The infections, as you know, has been declining. Today was the best day we’ve had in I think at least two months, but we’re going to track that. It can change quickly.
Governor, we’ve seen a lot of questions about weddings and whether or not that falls into the phase three of the venues section.
Ned Lamont: (48:49)
I think that’s right. We’ll be able to give a lot more guidance on that, I’d say in a few weeks. You probably saw June 20th, we’re talking about outside gatherings of 50. That’s a pretty small wedding, unless you’re paying the bill, then it’s a pretty good sized wedding. But that number will go up, assuming COVID behaves.
[inaudible 00:49:11] on that, governor?
Ned Lamont: (49:12)
Governor, as the hospitality industry gets ready to ramp up, some hotel workers in particular are concerned about a lack of what they see as safety standards. Are you working with the hotel industry and hospitality industry to-
Ned Lamont: (49:23)
Yeah, we are. As you know, that was part of our June 20 with COVID accommodations. They didn’t know what, that meant hotels, that meant short term rentals. We are now working with the hotels in terms of what those standards are to be. We’re working with the unions and labor and the folks that have to go in those hotels, what they think those standards should be. And that’s all the type of thing I’d like to do alongside the tribes, since they have a lot of hotels.
Governor, yesterday you suggested as a step in response to this casino move, that you might step up and warn or caution people as they head into these casinos about the dangers of being older and out in this population. Is that a message that you don’t think has already come across clearly? Some might argue people know the dangers at this point, we’ve been talking about them for two months and I still want to go to the casino.
Ned Lamont: (50:15)
I don’t think it harms to reinforce that if you’re over 65, if you have preexisting conditions, stay home and the last thing you want to do is go to a very congested area that’s all inside. I think that’s a message we will reinforce over the course of the next month.
Governor, can you discuss summer jobs as people graduate from high school and recent college graduates/. is the state trying to do anything, hire recent college graduates, contact tracers, anything like that to help-
Ned Lamont: (50:48)
We are. Right now, the contact tracing is with hundreds of volunteers. I can tell you that 4-CT is looking at a civilian youth corps, helped them get to work. We need help in terms of delivery of food to seniors who should not be going to casinos, who should be probably staying closer to home. So, Lisa Tepper Bates you should ask about where we are on that process right now.
Governor, we’re getting a lot of questions from parents about youth sports, baseball programs, soccer programs, lacrosse programs for teenagers and what have you. What are your thoughts on when they might be able to continue?
Ned Lamont: (51:24)
Well, certainly we’re doing the summer camps on June 21st, and that involves some types of youth sports. I think more formally, we’ll be able to give guidance in the next few weeks what they can expect in July. Look, I love youth sports, they’re outside, smaller groups. If they’re not the type that have a lot of heavy contact, I think it’s something we should try and promote, just like we’re trying to promote Gay City State Park. Great outdoor activities are something we really want to keep going. Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it.
Nice closing, governor.
Ned Lamont: (51:57)
Miss you, it’s been awhile. Hey Ken, how are you doing, buddy?
Fine, thanks. Have a nice weekend.