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Connecticut Phase 3 Reopening and Potential Municipal Variation

View our original coverage of Connecticut’s reopening process here.

On October 8, 2020, Connecticut entered Phase 3 of the reopening process since the State closed down earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the newest phase, as a result of Executive Order 7MM, municipalities across the State had greater flexibility and efficiency than normal in reviewing and approving outdoor business operations. The Executive Order is in effect for the duration of the public health and civil preparedness emergency, which on September 1, 2020 Governor Ned Lamont extended through February 9, 2021.

Phase 3 Generally

With Phase 3 of reopening, the hallmarks of COVID-19 precautions are still generally in place, such as social distancing of 6-feet and masks, but more significantly, certain businesses are now permitted to increase the indoor capacity from 50% to 75%, including restaurants, personal services, hair salons, barbershops and libraries. Additionally, outdoor entertainment venues may now increase capacity from 25% to 50%, while indoor performing arts venues may open for the first time at 50% capacity, however, bars and nightclubs must remain closed.

Municipal Variation

Although across the State, compared to the national average, Connecticut’s COVID-19 positive test rates have steadily remained low within the State, recent weeks have shown isolated pockets of more significant positive test rate increases, which has led to the State’s latest development. On October 13, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont signed Executive Order 9G that went into effect on October 15, 2020, which permits municipalities experiencing positive test rate increases to impose the more restrictive rules and limitations from Phase 2 within the municipality. Based on data provided by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), which reports the average positive test rate per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, broken down by municipality, certain municipalities may opt to re-impose more restrictive guidelines, if the incident rate is 15 or more new cases per 100,000 residents (Elevated Case Rate). Within 96 hours of an Elevated Case Rate, the Chief Executive of a municipality (mayors and first selectman) must determine and notify the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), whether it will elect to implement the pre-Phase 3 more restrictive rules. Upon election to impose the stricter limitations, the renewed restrictions can go into effect as early as 48 hours after the Chief Executive delivers such notice to the DECD. As a result, businesses operating within such municipalities with more restrictive rules, although perhaps in compliance with the State’s Phase 3 requirements, may unknowingly violate the municipality’s rules. Businesses are cautioned to pay close attention, not only to the State Phase 3 requirements, but also their municipal requirements, that may be more restrictive.

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