Courtesy of CT-N

WINDSOR, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont announced some “sobering” COVID-19 numbers Tuesday: Connecticut has reached a 3% positivity rate for the first time since June and more than 200 people are now hospitalized with the virus.

Lamont announced the new infection numbers at a Windsor press conference to highlight grants for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Since Monday, hospitalizations have risen by 22. There have been five additional deaths related to the virus.

“That tells you it’s going to take a little bit longer for us to get through this, a little bit longer before the therapies and vaccines are able to give us some security on the backside of COVID,” he said.

During the press conference, Lamont also reversed course on changes to the travel advisory he had announced just the day before. Travelers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days if they come here from a state with 10 cases per 100,000 residents or 10% positivity rate. Those conditions catch around 40 states and territories including Connecticut.

Rather than modify the conditions for the travel advisory, Lamont said he and the governors of New York and New Jersey have agreed to allow essential travel in the tri-state area.

“We’re almost like one region so there’s going to be no travel advisory as regards travel among our three states. That said, urge everybody to stay close to home as best you can,” he said. Lamont said he planned to reach out to the governors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well.

The governor urged residents to maintain their discipline by observing public health guidance.

“I know they’re exhausted, I know they’ve been going through this for months, I know you wish this was over and it will be over and it will be over a lot faster if you wear the mask and keep the distancing,” he said.

Lamont and other state officials gathered at Lilly’s Soul Food to announce $50 million in grant funding for the state’s smallest businesses. Under the program, companies with 20 or fewer employees or a payroll of less than $1.5 million are eligible for a $5,000 grant. Funding for the program will come from the CARES Act.

Department of Economic and Community Development Deputy Commissioner Glendowlyn Thames said the agency would begin accepting applications during the week of Nov. 9. She said 50,000 businesses meet the qualifications for the program and they employ 350,000 people in Connecticut. Many of those businesses had trouble qualifying for other pandemic relief assistance, she said.

The new grants will “target areas of the state that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID based on unemployment and economic loss,” she said.

Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said the $50 million in funding isn’t enough.

“How can it make sense for Connecticut to put a maximum of $5,000 on its small business grants when Maine is allowing up to $100K, New Hampshire up to $300K, and Vermont up to $350K? Not only that, but each of these states, while smaller in population, has a program that is larger in total dollars than Connecticut’s at $50 million,” Dolch said. “That increased funding is allowing them to also beat Connecticut when it comes to eligibility: by limiting the program to businesses with 20 full-time employees or less, Connecticut will leave thousands of small businesses ineligible, which is why most states are using a 50 full-time employee limit or higher.”

Connecticut’s program is capped at fewer than 20 employees.