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Lamont says it’s time for the COVID weary take a breath. And maybe a hike.

Gov. Ned Lamont held a press conference at Gay City State Park in Hebron Thursday morning with DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes to lay out the protocols that will be in place for the summer in regards to the use of the state parks. Swimming will be prohibited at inland beaches, such as the one at Gay City, but will be allowed at shoreline beaches. He also used the briefing to give his daily update on COVID-19 deaths and new cases. (Cloe Poisson, CTMirror.org)

HEBRON, Conn. — The tone and substance of Gov. Ned Lamont’s daily COVID-19 briefing changed Thursday as he looked back on the sweeping restrictions he’s imposed since March and ahead to a Memorial Day weekend when salt-water beaches reopen for swimming.

He met with reporters on the edge of a placid lake in Gay City State Park, a relaxed setting for a governor conducting his 52nd briefing about a novel coronavirus that has come to redefine his tenure as the state copes with an unprecedented health-and-economic crisis.

“Annie and I go on walks all the time,” Lamont said, referring to his wife. “This is one of our favorite places.”

Thursday was the second day in the state’s first phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions: outdoor dining now is permitted at restaurants, and shopping malls and other retailers can open, as long as they limit capacity and require masks.

The governor deemed the limited opening a success: Initial reports indicate that people followed the rules, though the tribal owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun announced plans to reopen on a limited basis on June 1 over the governor’s objections.

In response to a question, Lamont said the state was not without power over the casinos, even though they are located on sovereign tribal land. Connecticut could pull their liquor licenses, he said, but hastened to add he has no such plans.

The latest statistics for hospitalizations and new cases were good, a relative term in a pandemic. There were 53 more deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total to 3,582. But only 191 of the 5,729 tests conducted in the last 24 hours were positive, an infection rate of 3.6%.

“That’s extraordinarily good news,” Lamont said.

Public health experts say an increase in cases is inevitable as Connecticut and every other state begin to reopen, some with no limits. It most likely will be weeks before testing shows if there is a resurgence requiring a delay in Connecticut’s second easing, tentatively on June 20.

As he spoke, someone left two spray-painted signs outside the park comparing the governor and the restrictions he’s imposed on indoor restaurant dining and haircuts to a genocidal dictator responsible for a world war and the extermination of six million Jews.

Free on June 3, urged one the signs. That is the day when restaurants hope the governor allows limited indoor dining.

Polling shows that Lamont and other governors are supported by a majority of voters in their response to the pandemic. Governors have assumed extraordinary powers during the crisis, and Lamont took pains Thursday to cast his steps as reasonable and necessary.

He said he was struck by a New York Times story about Columbia University disease modelers who say that 83% of COVID deaths could have been avoided had the U.S begun enacting social distancing measures on March 1, two weeks before most stay-at-home orders.

“Connecticut closed early. We closed with New York, but we were two weeks behind New York in terms of the pandemic. So I think that did spare us some of the worst ,what could have happened,” he said. “But we were still hit, and we were hit hard.”

Lamont declared a public-health emergency on March 10. That was two days after the first laboratory-confirmed case of a Connecticut resident infected by COVID-19, a Wilton man who had just returned from California.

His first order imposing social distancing came on March 12 and was modest: It barred public gatherings of more than 250. Within a week, nursing homes banned visitors. Schools, restaurant dining, non-food retailers and other businesses were shuttered.

But Lamont broke with New York and other states and never closed state parks, opting instead to limit access once the number of cars in parking lots hit certain measures.

“To me, that was really important,” Lamont said.

Keeping the parks open, while limiting access and requiring social distancing, was good for physical and mental health, he said. Every Connecticut resident lives within a 15-minute drive of a state park, he said.

On Thursday, he was accompanied by Katie Dykes, the commissioner of energy and environmental protection. They outlined the protocols for using the state beaches: Swimming remains banned at beaches in inland parks, mostly likely for the summer.

“They’re just not big enough in our inland parks to allow people to spread out and keep social distances,” Dykes said.

But the beaches at state parks on Long Island will be open to swimming. While six feet is the standard for social distancing, beachgoers will be required to keep 15 feet between their blankets and others.

 

The danger of transmitting COVID-19 outdoors is low, and wearing a mask generally is unnecessary outside where people can maintain a social distance, Dykes said. But having a mask to put on if encountering a crowd is recommended.Dykes warned that popular parks are likely to reach capacity and close by late morning or midday. She encouraged people to go out with a back up plan and consider lesser-known parks and trails.

For ideas, directions and information on what is open, check the web site of the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association, which maintains 825 miles of blue-blazed trails in Connecticut, and the beach report maintained by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at https://portal.ct.gov/whatsopenoutdoors.

Park closings also are regularly updated on its Twitter feed @CTStateParks.

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Norwalk Republicans endorse Wink, Flynn and Doyle Lyons – finish ‘darn good slate’

Former Norwalk City Clerk Ellen Wink accepts her endorsement Wednesday to be the Republican candidate for District 137 State Representative.

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Republicans have completed their slate of candidates for this year’s election.

Endorsed are:

  • Jonathon Riddle for U.S. Representative
  • Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis for State Senate
  • Ellen Wink for District 137 State Representative
  • John Flynn for District 140 State Representative
  • Terrie Wood for District 141 State Representative
  • Fred Wilms for 142 District State Representative
  • Patrizia Zucaro for 143 District State Representative
  • Karen Doyle Lyons for Republican Registrar

Continue reading Norwalk Republicans endorse Wink, Flynn and Doyle Lyons – finish ‘darn good slate’

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Norwalk Fire Chief proposes department start hiring

Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto, during Wednesda’s virtual Fire Commission meeting.

NORWALK – With his department facing at least 13 vacancies by December 2022, Chief Gino Gatto Tuesday proposed hiring four people from a group of applicants currently undergoing firefighter qualification testing.

The department now has four vacancies, Gatto said at a Fire Commission meeting, along with four members on long-term medical leave.

Gatto said the four new hires would attend the state’s Fire Academy in the fall, if it’s able to conduct a session during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading Norwalk Fire Chief proposes department start hiring

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Norwalk’s Ordinance Committee hears plans for expanding Enterprise Zone

Tuesday’s Norwalk Common Council Ordinance Committee meeting on YouTube.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s Ordinance Committee will be working on updating its statutes to allow for expanding the city’s Enterprise Zone from South Norwalk to the West Avenue-Wall Street area.

Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Casey presented a look back at how the current Enterprise Zone has worked as well as why they want to expand it.

“We’ve been talking for a long time in this city about different economic development tools and one of those tools is expanding the Enterprise Zone,” Casey said Tuesday. Continue reading Norwalk’s Ordinance Committee hears plans for expanding Enterprise Zone

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UConn drops SAT, ACT requirement for three years

The University of Connecticut on Wednesday dropped the requirement that students submit their SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.

This three-year trial means the state’s flagship public university will be joining a record number of colleges who have already eliminated the requirement. While many made the move before the pandemic, the cancellation of standardized tests in March and April made the decision even easier for dozens of additional schools. Continue reading UConn drops SAT, ACT requirement for three years

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Lamont announces end to CT’s education partnership with Dalio Philanthropies

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the dissolution of the Partnership for Connecticut on Tuesday morning in a hastily arranged press conference at the Capitol. (Cloe Poisson, CTMirror.org)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont announced the dissolution Tuesday of Connecticut’s education partnership with hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic group — a deal marred by transparency issues and oversight scandals — less than one year after its creation.

The final straw appears to be centered on Dalio officials’ efforts to remove the partnership’s executive director — days before state lawmakers had been notified about the problem. Lamont made it clear that the decision to dissolve the partnership was initiated by the Dalios. Barbara Dalio, the co-founder and director of Dalio Philanthropies, released a statement Tuesday blaming certain Republican lawmakers for sabotaging the experiment. Continue reading Lamont announces end to CT’s education partnership with Dalio Philanthropies

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Wood announces 2020 campaign

From left, Wood Campaign chair Tracy Marra, State Rep. Terri Wood (R-141) and Treasurer Tammy Langalis, all socially distancing. (Contributed)

Send signed letters to [email protected]

I’m pleased to announce that I will be running again for state representative in the 141st district — Darien, Norwalk and Rowayton. I am truly honored to have served these past years and look again to bring my legislative experience in Hartford to bear on solving the challenges we now all face right here.

We live in very different and challenging times. Many of us have adapted with a compassionate understanding of the many complexities brought on by the coronavirus.  While witnessing such widespread negative impact, I see positives, as well, with our citizens genuinely working together like I’ve not seen in many years. Collaboratively, we seek common sense solutions that allow us to return to a more normalized life for ourselves, and our families. Continue reading Wood announces 2020 campaign

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A Tale of Two Businesses: How a Norwalk pair are navigating these uncertain times

(Kelly Kultys)

(Kelly Kultys)

NORWALK, Conn. — On Saturday, March 14, Brooke Capriotti’s Shear Genius Salon in Norwalk had a full slate of clients. But by Tuesday, March 17, a few days ahead of Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order closing nonessential businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, Capriotti had already shut her doors.

Her breaking point came when a client receiving a service “informed us that her husband was exposed to someone who had it,” Capriotti said. “I didn’t deem it safe to stay open.”

Michele Stuart, whose Michele’s Pies is located just steps away from Capriotti’s salon, decided to close for two weeks after the governor’s order, even though as an essential business she was allowed to stay open. Continue reading A Tale of Two Businesses: How a Norwalk pair are navigating these uncertain times

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Candidates endorsed for Norwalk legislative seats

From left, former State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142), State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and District 143 State Representatie candidate Patrizia Zucaro.

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Updated to include videos.

NORWALK, Conn. — Legislative candidate endorsements continued Tuesday, with Fred Wilms and Patrizia Zucaro cruising to Republican candidacies with no opponents.

In addition, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) was endorsed for reelection Monday, also without opposition. Continue reading Candidates endorsed for Norwalk legislative seats

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Democrats, Republicans, move forward Norwalk candidates

From left, Stephanie Thomas, Lucy Dathan and Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis, as shown during Zoom meetings.

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Updated, 3:35 p.m.: Videos added.

NORWALK, Conn. — Two Democrats and a Republican won endorsements Monday to run as State legislature candidates, to represent Norwalk and parts of surrounding towns.

Norwalk Democrats invited the press to their caucuses, where State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142) was unopposed in her bid for reelection and Stephanie Thomas won endorsement to run for State Representative in the 143rd District, also without opposition. A press release announced that Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis “clinched” the Republican endorsement to run for State Senate in the 25th District. Continue reading Democrats, Republicans, move forward Norwalk candidates

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Norwalk officials discuss streamlined restaurant/retail permit process

Clockwise from upper left: Director of Business Development & Tourism Sabrina Church, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, Maor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Casey. Five businesses will be approved today for reopening, Casey said.

NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor Harry Rilling and three of his administrative leaders addressed multiple Norwalk reopening challenges during his virtual town hall Monday.

A summary:   Continue reading Norwalk officials discuss streamlined restaurant/retail permit process

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More Norwalk photos (and a video)

(Posted on Facebook by Jim Amato)

NORWALK, Conn. — Saturday’s balloon parade down East Avenue featured Norwalk Town Clerk Rick McQuaid as a clown walking on his hands.

McQuaid’s Facebook feed features photos and videos of the parade, posted by Jim Amato. You’ll also find references to a near miss – a driver hit the brakes and avoided a minor fender bender – and a comment from parade admirer who called the parade “amazing.” Continue reading More Norwalk photos (and a video)

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NPS remote learning policy set for a vote

Norwalk Public Schools Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo makes changes to a drafted “Emergency Closure Remote Learning Policy” during last week’s Board of Education Policy Committee meeting via Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — A finely tuned “Emergency Closure Remote Learning Policy” is up for a vote at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Its primary goal is to reduce the achievement gap given the realities of distance learning.

“Prolonged school closures disproportionally impact high needs students whom lack the resources and access to equitable online learning experiences. Understanding, addressing and … mitigating this inequity is a cornerstone of this policy,” the draft states. Continue reading NPS remote learning policy set for a vote

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