Although Connecticut has achieved all seven of its criteria to begin reopening, May 20 has proven to be a moving target for hair salons and barber shops, which are no longer among the businesses allowed to reopen on that date.
Gov. Ned Lamont affirmed that decision at his daily briefing, following an earlier announcement today that he and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo would align the reopening of those businesses in their respective states on June 1.
Those businesses were initially included in Phase 1 of Connecticut’s reopen plan, which begins on Wednesday. However, “I heard from a lot of stylists and a lot of folks who run hair salons,” Lamont explained at the briefing. Those people told him they needed more time to get safety measures in place and to assuage employees’ concerns, he said.
In the meantime, each of the state’s seven criteria have been achieved, including 14 days of declining positive cases, which Lamont said was now nearly twice that; cases now stand at about 53% below the state’s peak.
In addition, the state conducted 45,000 COVID-19 tests over the last seven days, surpassing its goal of 42,000 weekly tests, with plans still in place to ramp up to 70,000 within a week and to over 100,000 by mid-June.
Adequate capacity of contact tracing, PPE and health care have also been achieved. In the latter’s case, about 11% of hospital beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients – well below the target of 20%.
Lamont said the last two criteria – offering sufficient protection for coronavirus-vulnerable populations and establishing appropriate workplace protocols – have also been accomplished.
Guidance for dentists
Lamont also released the guidance document that was developed through a collaborative working group organized by his administration and provides best practices for dental offices that are considering expanding their operations beyond emergency care in the coming days.
Although dental offices were considered an essential business and were never ordered to close in the state, following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such offices were strongly advised to temporarily limit their practices to urgent and emergency dental care.
As several other sectors of the economy continue preparations to reopen on May 20, some dental practices in the state indicated their intention to resume elective services on that date, and dental hygienists and assistants contacted the Lamont administration asking for more guidance.
The governor directed leadership at the Connecticut Department of Public Health to convene a working group of dental professionals representing dental hygienists, dental assistants and dentists. The group recently met through video conferencing over a five-day period and reached a consensus on the final guidance document.
DECD offers small-business guide
The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has published a small-business reopening resource guide, which includes not only guidelines to follow but also a list of financing resources, employee training and support, and a geographic list of suppliers, both within and without Connecticut.
DECD will also be launching a series of webinars with the Small Business Development Centers to share best practices later this month.
Over the last 24 hours, the state conducted another 7,072 tests and recorded 697 more positive cases, bringing those respective totals to 177,679 and 38,116. Hospitalizations fell by 17 to 920, while deaths increased by 41 to 3,449.
Fairfield County now has 14,436 positive cases, 1,153 deaths and 287 hospitalizations.
Stamford has the most positive COVID-19 cases in the state, with 3,046, followed by Bridgeport (2, 917), New Haven (2,213), Hartford (1,952), Norwalk (1,898), Waterbury (1,700), Danbury (1,600), West Haven (962), Hamden (869), New Britain (783), Greenwich (750), and Stratford (721).
Encouraging signs for possible vaccine
Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech Moderna said today that all 45 participants in an early-stage human trial for its COVID-19 vaccine produced antibodies, indicating that it may be able to stimulate an immune response against the virus on a wide scale.
Each participant received a 25, 100 or 250 microgram dose of the drug, with 15 people in each dose group. Participants received two doses of the potential vaccine via intramuscular injection in the upper arm approximately 28 days apart.
The FDA has already given Moderna permission to undertake a second phase involving 600 people to begin over the next couple of weeks, with a third phase involving thousands of healthy people scheduled to start in July.
If all goes according to plan, a vaccine for widespread use could become available by the end of this year or early 2021, the firm said.
As of this writing, there are nearly 1.5 million positive cases and over 90,000 virus-related deaths in the U.S., with over 281,000 recovered. Globally, there are more than 4.7 million positive cases and in excess of 316,000 deaths, with over 1.7 million recovered.