Restaurants with large windows that can open may be allowed to seat a few diners indoors, in the plan to allow outdoor dining during the state’s soft reopening on May 20, Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday.
Speaking during a Zoom morning-coffee gathering sponsored by the New Canaan Advertiser, a Hearst Connecticut Media publication, the governor also said he would consider some level of legal protections for companies that strictly obey forthcoming rules on disinfecting and social distancing.
Asked to provide details of the initial reopening plans, the governor said that protocols for small business and outside dining, as well as nail salons and barber shops, will be subject to adjustments. He said that outdoor diners are much less likely to contract the virus.
“I’d like those tables to be six-feet apart,” he said. “I’d like waiters to have a mask and wear plastic gloves. Maybe if you have a certain number of tables we ought to have a way to take your temperature.” Indoor dining is not part of the plan, but First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that there are a number of clubs and restaurants that have large windows that can open.
“The window seats effectively are outdoors, so we might try to look at this, especially at resort areas and clubs,” Moynihan said “We were kind of disappointed we didn’t get a little more relief for some indoor seating, but I think the window seats can often effectively be outdoor seating.”
“That’s a very good point,” Lamont replied. “I’ll mention that specifically and it’s the type of things we can fine tune as we go along.”
Lamont said he would work with local zoning officials to allow tables to be set up on sidewalks and parking lots. He’s also considering the use of touch-less payments, possibly including Paypal and Venmo platforms.
“We’re going to lay that out and let it simmer for a few days, a couple days and then issue the formal protocols, such as they are,” Lamont. “They may change over time. We’ll get feedback from somebody in New Canaan who says ‘this is absurd you have no idea how a nail salon works.’”
Currently hospitals and nursing homes have so-called blanket immunity against negligence lawsuits during the pandemic, which by Thursday had been linked to the deaths of 2,797 people since the first fatality on March 17. Lamont didn’t say whether his business reopening plans will include added legal protections for employers and workers.
Lamont admitted that he is following the direction of state health experts, and everything is subject to revisions over time in dealing with COVID-19, which remains mysterious in some ways.
“This is our best information about a virus that we’re still learning about every day,” Lamont said. “If you don’t follow the protocols and you’re sloppy and you’re not taking care of the infection standard that kind of gross negligence, you should continue to be liable for. That’s how I think about it as a small business guy.”
Lamont is scheduled to reveal details of the initial reopening, including retail and many businesses first during his daily afternoon news briefing in the State Capitol, then later, over the weekend, in more detail.