HARTFORD, CT — The same day thousands of workers across the state are returning to work, around 300 showed up at the state Capitol to claim that Connecticut wasn’t reopening quickly enough because their businesses were left out of the first phase.
Stylists and barbers, whose opening was pushed back to June 1, made up a bulk of the protesters.
Many like Jessica Viera, owner of Style & Grace in Wethersfield, and Greg Reed of Spa Express in Vernon, said they’ve spent thousands of dollars to reopen their salons safely, but aren’t being allowed to because Gov. Ned Lamont pushed back the date.
“I spent a lot of money to reopen and he took our choice away,” Viera said.
She said she bought disposable capes, gloves, and thermometers and had over 100 customers with appointments that she had to cancel with less than 48 hours’ notice. She said if salons didn’t feel comfortable reopening Wednesday, they could have remained closed.
“People are angry. They don’t understand the constant changes,” Viera said.
Reed said his space includes both hair and nails and he was ready to open up the hair part of the salon. He said he’s already installed an air flow system at each station and Plexiglas barriers in the nail salon portion.
Reed said he’s disappointed in the decision not to open up nail salons because now is the time of year for people to be getting pedicures and they’re missing out on a lot of business as a result. He said he still doesn’t understand the decision not to open up nail salons.
“With this guy you can’t get an answer,” Reed said referring to Lamont.
In protest of Lamont’s order, a barber demonstrated on the north steps of the state Capitol how they planned to safely cut hair.
On a separate part of the state Capitol lawn, a group of about 20 dental hygienists protested guidelines the state issued Tuesday that allow the dental industry to begin routine procedures.
Dentist offices have never closed, but the group of hygienists at the Capitol Wednesday said they are afraid it is too early to reopen.
The Connecticut Dental Hygienists Association signed off on guidelines to allow a safe reopening on Wednesday.
“We’re the highest-risk profession,” Meg Zadrowski, a dental hygienist, said.
She said everyone who is not in full PPE in a dental office is at risk because the coronavirus can spread through the air.
“We should not be part of phase one. There is not enough known about this virus,” Zadrowski said.
Offices, restaurants and museums with outdoor features are allowed to reopen Wednesday if they can agree to daily health checks, adhere to state guidelines for testing and contact tracing, and cleaning. Employers are responsible for providing PPE to their employees and cannot open if they are unable to do this.
While working from home is still encouraged, offices can also open at 50% capacity. Businesses are being asked to stagger shifts and allow employees to continue to work from home if possible. For office workers, masks are required, but may be removed if employees are working alone in a segregated space.
Restaurants will be allowed to reopen for outdoor dining, but not every restaurant will be able to take advantage of that opportunity and it comes with restrictions.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association estimates that only about 25% of their members will reopen this week.
The association is pushing Lamont to allow them to begin indoor dining as soon as June 3.
“We believe that limited, safe indoor dining is possible,” a group of 130 restaurant owners said in a letter to the governor last week.
Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said the decision to open was not an easy one for some businesses and others have been unable to open because they don’t have any outdoor seating.
“I think it’s going to be a slow rollout,” Dolch said, because they have to make sure customers feel safe.
He said reservations are starting to build for Memorial Day weekend, but curbside and takeout are still going to be part of the business model for many restaurants for months to come.
“We have to build consumer confidence and build this back and do this right,” Dolch said. “Every day is a better day.”