Connecticut governor says Texas, Arizona should shut down bars to slow coronavirus spread

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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told CNBC on Tuesday that the leaders of Arizona and Texas, two states grappling with growing Covid-19 outbreaks, should reinstitute more aggressive containment strategies. 

“I’d close down the bars,” Lamont, a Democrat, said on “Closing Bell.” 

Both Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have said that a larger share of new Covid-19 cases in the states are occurring among young people, Lamont noted. 

“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said last week, according to the Texas Tribune

Lamont, whose state has seen its Covid-19 cases fall from nearly 1,000 per day in early April to less than 200 recently, said he was “not surprised” to see people at bars were not taking social distancing seriously. 

“We’ve seen that has been a great source of infections,” he said. “I think you do have to be very strict.” 

Connecticut entered the second phase of its reopening last week, allowing restaurants to go to 50% indoor capacity, for example. It began to ease restrictions on May 20 for nonessential retailers and offices, among others. 

Lamont said he thinks people in Connecticut are taking precautions seriously as they begin to engage in the economy because of the severity of the state’s outbreak. 

“Sadly, because we were hit hard, people probably know somebody that was hit hard by Covid and we’re more likely to wear the mask,” Lamont said, suggesting states that are seeing a flare-up in cases push harder for people to wear face coverings in public. “I think that makes a big difference.” 

In an interview with local outlet KBTX-TV on Tuesday, Abbott urged Texans to stay home, going out only if it was necessary. Texas reported an all-time high of more than 5,000 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday

Most businesses in Texas were allowed to reopen May 1, with capacity restrictions and other public-health measures in place, after Abbott’s mandatory stay-at-home order expired

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state are putting up a 250-bed field hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Tom Fox | Getty Images

Abbott, in a press briefing Monday, said Texas will take “tougher actions” if the state’s Covid-19 outbreak continues to worsen. But, he said, broader closures of the state’s economy would be the “last option.” 

“Wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open, because not taking action to slow the spread will cause Covid to spread even worse, risking people’s lives and ultimately leading to the closure of more businesses,” the Republican governor said.

Arizona also on Tuesday reported its largest single-day increase in Covid-19 cases. Added testing capacity could explain some of the rising case counts. However, Arizona has seen its rate of positive tests increase from around 5% in early May to around 20% in recent days, according to state data. This is an indicator of how broadly the virus is spreading in the state, experts say. 

Lamont said state leaders will closely watch coronavirus trends in Connecticut and would consider putting back in place tighter restrictions if hospitalizations were to rise. 

“The hospital system is a key metric. We have better than 50% capacity now,” he said. But if the number of Covid-19 patients in ICU beds started to increase, “we’d have to take a second look.” 

Lamont said that in general states are better equipped to handle new surges in coronavirus cases because of their experiences and actions since March, when the pandemic first began to intensify. 

“We’re not waiting for a national stockpile. We’re building our own stockpile of masks and gowns. We’ve got a lot more testing capacity than was available 100 days ago, and we’ve got track and trace,” he said. “So I’d like to think that we’re much better prepared for what could come next.” 

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