Virus Outbreak Connecticut

Bartender Jen Dutkiewicz walks through the patio area with a take out order at Smokin' with Chris in Southington, Conn., Friday, May 8, 2020. Town officials are working on ways to allow businesses to expand outdoor dining in anticipation of fewer state restrictions on commerce starting May 20. Chris Conlon, owner of Smokin' With Chris, is still debating whether to open his patio or offer other outdoor dining. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

HARTFORD — Summer camps may open next month with some strict public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Connecticut officials said Monday.

Beth Bye, the commissioner of the state Office of Early Childhood, made the announcement at a roundtable discussion of Gov. Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group that focused on education.

Camps will be allowed to open on June 29 with a limit of 30 campers per program, Bye said.

Larger camps that can demonstrate they have the space for more children can apply for a waiver from her office, she said.

Parents working on the front lines during the pandemic can receive a subsidy to cover up to three weeks of camp or other child care, Bye said.

The advisory group’s education subcommittee, which includes the state’s top education officials, also discussed parameters for reopening schools in the fall.

Those are expected to include smaller class sizes, fewer students on school buses, and the continuation of online learning for at-risk students, teachers and professors.

The reopening likely will occur in phases and could look different in different parts of the state, officials said.

Some community college, vocational and other nonresidential programs, where students are spread out in work shops and laboratories, could be ready to accept students as early as next month, former Yale President Richard Levin said.

But Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist, cautioned the group that a second wave of the virus is possible in the fall and that plans need to be flexible.

More than 33,000 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the coronavirus, and nearly 3,000 had died as of Sunday. While deaths continue to increase, hospitalizations have been declining for two weeks.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Gun rights lawsuit

Gun rights supporters sued Lamont and several police chiefs over the coronavirus-related suspension of fingerprinting services needed to obtain gun and ammunition permits.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League filed the lawsuit Saturday in U.S. District Court, saying a March 17 executive order issued by the Democratic governor violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Lamont’s order, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, suspended the state law that prohibits state police and local police officials from refusing to collect fingerprints. That effectively shut down the issuance of permits for firearms, the gun rights group said.

“Law enforcement throughout the state are refusing to collect fingerprints for firearms permit purposes, and are refusing to process firearms applications, even while fingerprinting and application processing continues for other purposes,” the defense league said in a statement Monday.

State Attorney General William Tong said that the lawsuit has no merit and that his office will defend the governor’s order.

“Our state constitution and state laws grant the governor broad authority to protect Connecticut residents and families in a public health emergency, and his executive orders have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified,” Tong said in a statement.

Suspending the fingerprinting law was an attempt to keep state police employees safe, said Brian Foley, an aide to Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella.

Worries about the pandemic have sparked a surge in gun buying across the country. FBI data show there were 3.7 million background checks to purchase firearms conducted in March, which smashed previous records, and a slight leveling to 2.9 million checks last month.

Long lines have been seen outside gun stores across the U.S. Unlike some other governors, Lamont has allowed gun stores to remain open, but they can conduct business by appointment only in order to limit personal contact. Several states are being sued over ordering gun stores to close during the pandemic.

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