christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Gov. Ned Lamont (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT – Eight people have now died and 327 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.

A man in his 80s who was at a nursing home in Stafford Springs, and two women in their 80s – one from Rocky Hill and another from New Canaan – are the latest Connecticut fatalities.

More than 3,600 people have been tested both in the state lab and private labs, and 51 people have been hospitalized.

Meanwhile, business owners across the state were looking for clarification this weekend to whether their businesses are considered “essential,” and whether they will be forced to close at 8 p.m. Monday to comply with the governor’s executive order.

During a conference call Sunday, Matthew from Southington, who owns an irrigation company, asked U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st, and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz whether his business would be impacted by the governor’s order.

“We can do 90% of what we do without customer contact because it’s all outside in the ground in your yard,” said Matthew, who didn’t give a last name during the call. “I’m curious about how this might affect me.”

Bysiewicz said anything related to construction would be deemed an essential service.

Deputy DECD Commissioner Gwendolyn Thames, who was also on the call, said anything related to construction and manufacturing will be considered essential. In addition, any supplier of materials to those industries will also be considered essential.

“We’re trying to paint a broad stroke with the guidance as well,” Thames said Sunday.

The guidance was released at 9:15 p.m. Sunday.

It exempts 16 “critical infrastructure sectors,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and identifies 11 other areas that should be considered essential business sectors. Some of the industries overlap with those outlined by the DHS.

The guidance includes some retail businesses like appliance and electronics stores. That’s in addition to stores that sell groceries, pharmaceuticals, hardware, and guns and ammunition.

Pet supply stores will also get to stay open under the guidance offered Sunday.

If a business does not appear on the list, a business owner can contact the Department of Economic and Community Development and apply for a waiver to keep their doors open.

The executive order also allows non-essential retailers to take orders remotely and sell products for curbside pickup or delivery, and allows other nonessential businesses to allow the minimum staff necessary on-site to handle security, maintenance, mail, and other necessary services.

But even if a business is deemed essential, Lamont said everyone should do as much as they can to allow employees to work from home.

“I know this pandemic has brought disruption to all of our lives, but we need to pull together as a community and practice social distancing in order to reduce the spread of this virus and protect the wellbeing of our neighbors and our loved ones,” Lamont said. “We can’t ignore the facts, which prove that efforts like this are the best way to slow down its impact. I cannot say it enough – if you can, the best thing to do is to stay safe and stay home.”

But there’s a recognition from the administration that some things must continue.

“Our primary goal was to support our public health objective while balancing the important needs of our citizens and the Connecticut economy,” DECD Commissioner David Lehman said. “I encourage residents and businesses to review the guidance carefully and apply for a waiver only if they deem it necessary.”

The state’s unionized workforce expressed concern about the handling of which state employees should be considered essential and non-essential.

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents state employees, continues to have strong concerns about both the protection of state workers performing essential services on the job and the implementation at an agency level. Even though the governor has directed all workers who can work from home to be allowed to do so, that’s not what is happening in every agency, according to SEBAC.

“Our state employees are some of the heroes serving Connecticut during this public health emergency and the administration will continue to work to protect our state workforce as much as possible while also maintaining the vital functions of government to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said Sunday.