HEBRON, Conn. — Connecticut shoreline towns are planning to limit beach access to local residents, eliminate some parking and add extra police patrols to help keep up social distancing as they prepare for a potential influx of visitors over the Memorial Day weekend.
In East Lyme, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said they are discouraging visitors from out of state. Even during the best of times, his picturesque town and its three small beaches become crowded when the much larger Rocky Neck State Park reaches capacity.
“In time, we’re going to welcome all the New Yorkers that want to come up and visit our great little town and eat and shop and get on the beach and enjoy a cute little seaside fishing village,” he said. “But there’s just not going to be that capacity during this pandemic.”
State beaches have remained open, with limited parking to reduce crowds. But several towns along the coast have implemented their own restrictions on local swimming spots to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 3,637 people in Connecticut as of Friday, an increase of 55 since Thursday.
In Fairfield, where restrictions banning swimming and sunbathing are being lifted this weekend, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said lifeguards will be looking for people not following the health rules and will contact police if necessary. Groups at all beaches in the state are limited to five people, unless they are part of an immediate family and blankets must be at least 15 feet apart.
“Those areas are all resident-only and we've made that very clear,” Kupchick said. "So, I don't think other people will be trying to get into those spaces. If they do, they'll be disappointed.”
In New London, the popular Ocean Beach Park will be open to everyone, but there will be electronic signs along Interstate 95 informing people the attraction has reached its limited capacity. Mayor Michael Passero said the water is still too cold for people to do much swimming. He said the park's pool and rides will be closed.
Connecticut state police said they are prepared to disperse any crowds this weekend. But those found without face masks or failing to socially distance will be educated before any enforcement action is taken.
“I think if we do our part to provide them with the information needed to keep them safe, it will go a long way,” said Trooper Josue Dorelus, a state police spokesman. “We've been finding a lot of cooperation from members of the public and we don't anticipate that being a huge issue or concern.”
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
NURSING HOME DEATHS
New data on nursing homes released by the state Friday shows coronavirus-related deaths increased by more than 260 compared with last week, bringing the total to 2,190.
The number of nursing home residents who have tested positive for the virus increased by more than 900 to 7,875, as the state moves to test all residents and workers at nursing homes. In all, 165 of the state’s 215 nursing homes have at least one resident who has tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, 79 assisted living facilities across the state have had at least one positive case of the virus that causes COVID-19. There have been 231 deaths associated with the virus and 75 deaths considered probable COVID-associated deaths.
Leaders of industry groups for nursing homes and assisted living centers say the amount of infections reflects how easily the coronavirus spreads, not the quality of care.
Advocates for Connecticut prison inmates say a federal judge has asked them to work with the state Department of Correction on a compromise plan to keep inmates safe from the coronavirus.
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Janet Bond Arterton postponed a hearing scheduled for Friday on a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Connecticut, which is asking the court to order emergency actions that could include releasing more inmates to protect them from the pandemic.
Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director, said the judge will arbitrate negotiations on a compromise.
“We have a responsibility to our clients — all incarcerated people in the state — to fight with everything we have for releases and other protections from COVID-19 for them,” Barrett said. “If negotiations prove the quickest way to move people out of harm’s way from COVID-19 in this life-or-death crisis, we will pursue them.”
Barrett said oral arguments have been rescheduled for June 1, should a compromise not be reached.
A similar lawsuit was struck down last month in state court.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.
Because in-person pre-K-to-grade 12 classes have been canceled for the rest of the school year, the families of approximately 265,631 public school students and 1,748 private school students who participate in the free or reduced-price meals program will soon receive additional, emergency food benefits, the Department of Social Services announced Friday.
Pandemic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be deposited in EBT accounts of approximately 70,000 households participating in SNAP and another 800 households enrolled in the Temporary Family Assistance Program on or about Sunday. Another 80,000 households not enrolled in SNAP are expected to receive emergency food benefits on June 7.
——— Associated Press Writers Dave Collins and Susan Haigh contributed to this report.