Zoe Berg and Ryan Chiao, Photo Editors
The city of New Haven has decided to move back from Phase 3 of its reopening plan to Phase 2 due to the city’s increasing coronavirus positivity rate.
During a press conference over Zoom on Thursday, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker announced the shift, which takes effect on Oct. 30. As a result, City Hall offices will be closing next Wednesday. The shift will affect businesses, particularly restaurants and high-touch services such as nail salons and parlors, which must move from 75 percent to 50 percent capacity. Indoor performing arts centers will also remain closed. The move from Phase 3 to 2 will also delay the New Haven Public Schools’ transition to hybrid learning and will close community learning hubs. According to Elicker, as of Wednesday, New Haven has 3,347 active cases.
“Most of the cases are driven by adults making sloppy decisions,” said Elicker. “It is so important that we as a community make the right decisions so we can lower our cases and make sure that our kids are going back to school, so that we can provide our restaurants the opportunity to make a dollar and hire more people.”
According to Director of Public Health Maritza Bond, the Department of Public Health is initiating a cluster investigation of numerous adult social gatherings. The clusters are in locations such as the First Student Bus Company, Regal Care and Global Daycare. In the First Student Bus Company case, seven bus drivers tested positive for COVID-19, and in Regal Care, asymptomatic kitchen staff tested positive.
Bond said that the uptick in cases is alarming when taking into account gaps in COVID-19 data stemming from several New Haven testing labs.
DOCS Urgent Care, a Connecticut medical group, has been doing extensive testing in the region. However, the group has not been actively reporting the data to the state, according to Elicker.
Data gaps also come from another source: Yale. Because most students have out of state addresses, Elicker said, Yale cases — which now number 88 — have not been included in city-level data.
At the conference, Elicker said that New Haven has 13.9 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, which city officials suspect is an underestimate. This case rate has alarmed the city as it is nearing the red alert level, which goes into effect when the city hits 15 cases per 100,000 residents. Elicker said that the clear upward trend in cases persuaded the city to take precautionary measures before the situation worsened.
Elicker specifically noted that City Hall will close on Wednesday to prepare for same-day election registration on Tuesday. New Haven Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Bombero said that the city is taking “all protective measures” possible to protect poll workers and voters, including sanitizing the venue, writing with single-use pens and propping the door open to encourage reduced contact and ventilation. Signage in English and Spanish will be used to assert social distancing measures, and poll workers will hand out masks to those who are not wearing one before they enter the hall.
The city also guaranteed that it is implementing strategies to protect businesses in New Haven. New Haven Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said that the city is encouraging restaurants to set up new outdoor dining areas and maintain existing ones through March. New Haven officials will also help restaurants market their takeout and delivery options.
Elicker strongly encouraged all New Haven residents, especially adults, to abide by public health regulations.
“Be smart, be mature and keep to [your] core family groups,” Elicker said. “If we don’t take responsibility as adults, we will be living in a very difficult environment for months and months and months.”
New Haven moved to Phase 3 reopening on Oct. 8.
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