Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Plastic bags (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — As Gov. Ned Lamont looks to begin reopening the economy next week, there are some deadlines he’s had to reconsider — like the suspension of the tax on plastic bags.

In his 41st executive order Lamont extended the suspension of the tax on single-use plastic bags until June 30. It was originally set to expire on May 15.

Lamont suspended the tax at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak because there were too many questions about how long the virus could live on certain surfaces and whether bringing reusable bags into stores would further community spread.

“During the height of things we didn’t want all that touch going on,” Lamont said. The suspension paved the way for stores to provide single-use plastic bags to customers for free.

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, thanked Lamont for extending the suspension of the tax.

Pesce said he’s not sure consumers were ready for the change.

“They need time to adjust to rules so I think it’s a good thing the governor extended the executive order,” Pesce said. 

Pesce said safety and economic concerns are still on people’s minds and you have to be “careful about throwing too much at citizens at one time.”

As of Wednesday, there were 34,855 Connecticut residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 1,158 patients hospitalized and 3,125 people have died. While hospitalizations have continued to decrease, the number of tests performed on a daily basis is still below the 6,000 tests per day Dr. Albert Ko, who is chairing the Reopening Connecticut Advisory Committee, has said are necessary for him to feel comfortable reopening on May 20.

On Wednesday, the state reported that it tested 4,122 people since the previous day. A total of 142,943 tests have been given since the state first started reporting the numbers in mid-March.

Lamont is planning to move forward with the first phase of the reopening on May 20. The first phase will allow restaurants with outdoor seating to open for more than take-out and delivery and it will allow hair salons and barbers to reopen. Retail locations like malls will also be able to reopen at half their capacity with appropriate social distancing.

He said Wednesday that the second phase will likely begin on June 20.

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, who owns a restaurant, said the industry is asking for dine-in service to begin sooner, on June 3.

Lamont said the state is allowing outside dining starting on May 20 because you’re 90% less likely to catch the infection outside than inside.

“I think we’re going to get to inside dining, but it’s not simply a matter of the state saying June 20. It’s also a matter of giving the consumers confidence,” Lamont said. “Let’s err on the side of caution here.”

Formica said he doesn’t want to give up July and August, if there’s a second wave of the virus, for a hurried opening in June, but it’s up to people to take personal responsibility “if we’re going to make this work.”

He said he would like Lamont to take a look at June 3 for dine-in service, but wants to “proceed cautiously.”

Lamont said next Wednesday will not be a “light switch” that turns on, “I think it will phase in over a period of time.”