Virus Outbreak Connecticut Prom

In this Friday, May 15, 2020 photo, photographers Jennifer Dougan, left, and Christy Mitchell, of Wallingford, photograph Lyman Hall High School student Imaan Raza, 18, and mother Umera Raza at their residence in Wallingford, Conn. Dougan and Mitchell are offering Lyman Hall High School seniors complimentary mini-prom photo shoots as a silver lining to the pandemic canceling the event. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

HARTFORD — That haircut will have to wait. Salons and barbershops across Connecticut are not being allowed to reopen on Wednesday after all.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that Connecticut is now aligning its plans with neighboring Rhode Island to reopen hair salons and barbershops sometime in early June.

Lamont said the decision came after having extensive discussions with the shop owners and employees. He said it’s in everyone’s best interest to have some additional preparation time.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from many owners and employees, and at this time I think the best approach is that we hit pause on the reopening of hair salons and barbershops, take a step back, and allow some more time as preparations continue to be made,” Lamont said in a written statement.

Over the weekend, the Connecticut Beauty Association, which has more than 3,600 members, expressed concerns for members’ safety given Wednesday’s planned reopening. CBA noted the industry is comprised of more than 90% women, many of whom are responsible for homeschooling their children.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a fellow Democrat, said in a written statement that she understands how hard the pandemic has been on close-contact businesses like hair salons and barbershops.

“We’re working around the clock to get you back to work quickly and safely,” she said.

Connecticut still plans on Wednesday to begin the gradual, multi-stage process of lifting restrictions on businesses and activities, including allowing limited outdoor dining at restaurants. Retail establishments, outdoor exhibits at zoos and museums, outdoor recreation and university research programs will also be allowed to open with detailed, social distancing restrictions.

Medical support for reopening

Dr. Ajay Kumar, the chief clinical officer at Hartford Healthcare, said Monday there is no playbook, but the models he’s studied support the governor’s decision to being reopening parts of society.

“I think this is the right place to be at this time,” Kumar said. “We need to be cautious. We need to be optimistic. But at the same time we need to continue to follow the safety principals.”

Kumar said he believes the state will see a slower increase in the number of reported positive cases and a continued decline in hospitalizations. But he also cautioned the death toll likely will continue to rise by about 50 to 60 a day, being driven by cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“As our society opens up, I think if we continue to follow social distancing, some discipline around the travel, we’re going to hopefully reach a place where we’re going to be able to live with the COVID-19 in our community,” he said, adding how he doesn’t expect everything to reopen in the near future.

Hospital visits

Disability rights advocates are urging the president and CEO of Hartford Hospital individually to change the hospital’s strict “no-visitor” policies because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and allow people with disabilities to bring a support person with them.

In an open letter to Jeffrey A. Flaks, released Sunday, one family told the story of a 73-year-old wife and mother who arrived at Hartford Hospital on April 19 alone, unable to communicate, with severe short-term memory loss. With no family at the hospital, they said there have been “numerous misunderstandings and missteps in her care,” leading her to be confused, frightened and unnecessarily restrained.

Earlier this month, several disability rights organizations submitted a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights, arguing that Connecticut’s guidance on hospital visitation policies during the pandemic violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In an addendum to that complaint, released Sunday, the groups said Hartford Hospital continues to violate the unnamed 73-year-old woman’s civil rights by refusing to modify its no-visitor policy and denying her access to effective communication.

Dr. Kumar said Hartford HealthCare continues to evaluate its policy and has made accommodations for patients who need support. He said the hospital also is using electronic tablets and other measures to make sure patients remain in contact with family members.

State budget cuts

The co-chair of the Connecticut House of Representatives’ Progressive Democratic Caucus said Monday the state needs to consider higher taxes on the wealthy before cutting any essential services to help cover the massive drop in state revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Anne Hughes of Easton appeared on a conference call organized by the AFL-CIO labor organization. She said front-line workers are risking their lives as state officials consider reducing state and municipal services they rely upon.

Figures released earlier this month show Connecticut is facing a $900 million deficit in the current budget year, which ends on June 30, and a roughly $2.3 billion shortfall in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s mostly due to the devastating financial impacts of the coronavirus.

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