HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont implored residents to follow the rules and not reopen businesses before the state says they should reopen.
“If you care about your community, if you care about your family, follow the rules,” Lamont said at his daily briefing.
But that’s easier said than done in many cases.
About 300 protesters, mostly barbers and hairstylists, came to the state Capitol Wednesday morning to call on Lamont to allow them to open before June 1. Many had spent money and prepared their salons to start accepting customers today.
Cat Thibodeau, owner of Modern Barber and Shave told NBC Connecticut if she’s unable to open, then she won’t be able to pay the bills and keep her business going.
“Do the right thing,” Lamont said Wednesday. “I can talk about enforcement. I can talk about municipal police. I can talk about citations. Do the right thing.”
Lamont asked them to be patient and wait.
Lamont acknowledged that some local elected officials are “feeling politically jumpy,” but he urged their compliance with his executive orders. He said he didn’t appreciate local elected officials “egging” people on to break the rules. “I think we’ve got to stick together on this,” Lamont added.
Lamont also wants to talk to the heads of the two federally-recognized tribes again about their plans to open up the two casinos, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun Casino, in southeastern Connecticut.
“I think that’s incredibly risky,” Lamont said of a June 1 casino reopening.
He said the people who go to the casinos tend to be older and some have pre-existing health conditions.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, who was a member of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Committee, said they have developed a responsible plan.
“The safety, health and wellbeing of our Tribal community, guests, team members and local communities remain our number one priority as we prepare to reopen. With the guidance from our Chief Medical Officer and the CDC we’ve made significant investments to enhance our processes to adapt to the challenges of the new normal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Butler said.
Dr. Albert Ko, the epidemiologist from the Yale School of Medicine who co-chaired the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Committee, said indoors is “much more dangerous than outdoors and even if you’re socially distanced. Within six feet, the more time that you’re spending indoors and have circulation of air, you have risk.”
He said that’s why the committee recommended delaying any large indoor public gatherings out to phase three.
“The risk of outbreaks in this type of setting is enormous,” Ko said.
Indra Nooyi, co-chair of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Committee, said Butler believes he can keep everyone safe, but actually doing that “it’s difficult to imagine.”
She said busing people into the casinos from New York and Boston is the “last thing we need at this stage in the reopen.”
She said the state has to reopen other types of businesses before opening something like a casino which will act as a “magnet” for the virus.
“We completely agree, that’s why the plan we put forward today made clear that both casinos will not accept any buses and clearly not from New York or Massachusetts, nor will we do any marketing to those states at this time,” Mohegan Tribal Chairman James Gessner said. “Second, they are concerned about older customers who may have increased health risks. Again we agree, that’s why the plan we put forward today made clear that we will advise older customers to take specific precautions and to stay home if they are part of an at-risk group.”
The tribes are sovereign nations, so there’s little Lamont can do aside from use his bully pulpit to get them to delay a reopening.
“In the past week, more than 100 casinos have reopened all across America — from California to New York, Washington to Florida, in North Carolina, Louisiana, Arizona and Idaho. Connecticut is no different,” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said. “And we need these facilities open.”