Natalie Kainz, Contributing Photographer
If all goes according to plan, restaurants, religious groups, museums and other local businesses will enter Phase 3 of Connecticut’s COVID-19 reopening plan on Thursday.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced the state’s next step in its roadmap for reopening at a Sept. 24 press conference, during which he described the transition as essential to the health of the economy. The governor said he expects the newest regulations to allow 99 percent of the economy to operate as it would before the pandemic.
The shift from Phase 2 to Phase 3 will allow restaurants to allow indoor and outdoor dining options at 75 percent of their normal capacity, an increase from the 50 percent capacity in stage 2. Religious institutions will also be allowed to host services at 50 percent capacity instead of 25 percent. Additionally, the policy will allow performing arts venues — which have been closed since March — to reopen immediately at 50 percent capacity. Bars and clubs will remain closed to the public but can continue to host private functions.
Yalies offered mixed reactions to news of the Phase 3 reopening, which spurred them to consider how they will continue to interact with the Yale and New Haven community.
Even with the changes, Viktor Kagan ’24 does not plan to take advantage of soon-to-be loosened restrictions.
“I don’t think I’m going to be going out more,” Kagan told the News. “I don’t think there’s much more to see. Being outdoors at restaurants has been great and takeout is a great resource.”
Connecticut has maintained some of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. The current statewide test positivity rate is at 1.4 percent as of Oct. 2. However, the state’s Connecticut’s infection rates have seen a small upward trend over the past two weeks.
In his announcement, Lamont said that the move to Phase 3 could still be rolled back if major hotspots like Arizona, Florida and Texas see significant increases in infection rates in the next week. The Governor almost moved the state into Phase 3 in early July, before reversing his decision and announcing the state would “err on the side of caution before the next phase of reopening.”
Elijah Kennard ‘24 said he is worried the loosened restrictions may lead to an increase in cases in the New Haven area.
“I understand that Connecticut is doing this for an economic reason and everything has been restricted for a very long time,” Kennard said. “But at the same time, I think we’ve been able to keep our counts low and I’m afraid that loosened restrictions might increase COVID cases at Yale.”
Religious institutions in Connecticut are also able to double their capacity. Many Yalies have been attending in-person services, including Hannah Armistead ’22 and Marcella Villagomez ’24.
Armistead and Villagomez have both attended Vox Church at College Music Hall, which, in adjustment to Phase 2 guidelines, re-opened its doors on Sept. 27 for services every other week. Under the guidelines, churches have had to maintain a maximum occupancy of 100 people. In compliance with these restrictions, Vox Church has required parishioners to pre-register and practice social distancing guidelines within the church. Many of these guidelines will remain in place, with the exception of pre-registration, as Connecticut shifts into Phase 3.
Both Villagomez and Armistead told the News that they feel comfortable with the new restrictions and will continue to attend services if they see responsible social distancing practices continue at their church.
“I would still feel comfortable,” Villagomez told the News. “They have in place excellent standards to maintain safety. They thoroughly clean and are efficient in promoting social distancing.”
However, not all Yale students feel comfortable with the move to Phase 3.
Kadidia Sylla ‘24 expressed discomfort with the idea of attending in-person prayers if mosques choose to follow the increase from 25 to 50 percent allowed attendance. While Sylla has not attended in-person services since her arrival in New Haven this fall, she said she feels she would have been more comfortable resuming services if the gatherings were limited to 25 percent capacity.
“With the recent spike in cases, I am extra wary of group gatherings and wish to avoid them as much as possible,” Sylla said.
Now that Phase 3 is beginning this Thursday — barring any significant changes in COVID-19 cases before then — students are not only worried about the cases at Yale but also about how the shift to Phase 3 will affect the surrounding New Haven community.
“I think the biggest problem will come if other states come in,” Kagan said. “Essential workers should feel that people in New Haven and Connecticut are putting the utmost respect and efforts in, but people in other states where cases are going up might take advantage of the more open environment and that’s when it could become very dangerous for people in the service industry.”
Connecticut moved to Phase 2 of its reopening on June 17.
Liz Carter | firstname.lastname@example.org