Connecticut joins NY, NJ in ordering business closures

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut officials on Monday ordered movie theaters, gyms and other businesses closed until further notice, joining with New York and New Jersey in announcing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Many businesses were ordered to close as of 8 p.m. Monday, and bars and restaurants were limited to offering only takeout. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also urged the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun to close. Essential businesses such as supermarkets and gas stations will be able to stay open.

“We are in this together,” Lamont said during a conference call with the governors of New York and New Jersey. ”This is changing so fast. We’ve got to work together on a coordinated basis.”

Public gatherings of more than 50 people were restricted, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lamont on Sunday ordered all public schools in the state to close beginning Tuesday.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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TRIBAL CASINOS

Lamont acknowledged Monday there are “legal and jurisdictional issues” concerning whether the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes will agree to his call to close Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut. The tribes’ casinos are on reservations that are considered sovereign nations.

“We are urging the tribes in the strongest possible way, they ought to be closing down those casinos,” Lamont said.

Messages were left seeking comment with representatives of both tribal casinos.

Lamont also urged the state’s off-track betting facilities to close. The operator of off-track betting sites in the state, Sportech, announced Sunday that the facilities will close at least until the end of the month beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, but said telephone betting and its online site will remain open.

On Saturday, business was slow at Mohegan Sun, where Chubby Checker was performing at the casino’s Wolf Den venue — the last show before a string of recently announced cancellations takes effect. Many seats were empty at the concert. The number of people in restaurants and on the gambling floor was also spare.

Lamont said he is working with Cuomo on the casinos issue. New York also has tribal casinos.

“They’ve been good legal partners for us for quite some time. But there are legal and jurisdictional issues there,” Lamont said of the tribes, with whom he’s been unable to reach an agreement with on legalized sports betting. “I hope and think they’ll be doing the right thing and we’re going to come up with a unified voice.”

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RESTAURANT OWNERS RESPOND

Restaurant owners said they already have been taking action in response to the coronavirus, including increasing cleaning.

“Local restaurant owners will continue to offer safe, clean service to customers via takeout, curbside pickup and delivery,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

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CONCERN FOR PRISONERS

A coalition of groups is demanding that Connecticut officials immediately release as many state prisoners as possible to protect them from the outbreak and place a moratorium on further incarceration.

The groups said they were publishing an open letter to Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday calling for urgent action to protect people in the state’s prisons and jails, including employees.

They said state officials can release pretrial prisoners detained only because they can’t afford to post bail, limit arrests to serious offenses and expedite parole for elderly prisoners and others who are at high risk of serious illness.

Messages seeking comment were left with the governor’s office and state prison officials on Monday.

The organizations making the requests include the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, the Connecticut Bail Fund, the Global Health Justice Partnership, the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School and Stop Solitary Connecticut. They said more than 20 other organizations and nearly 375 people had also signed the letter.

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