Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced details in the long-awaited Phase 3 reopening of the state economy, with some good news for the hard-hit hospitality industry, but bars and night clubs will remain closed in the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes will take effect Oct. 8, Lamont said. They are happening as COVID-19 numbers remain low, despite a slight uptick in the last two weeks.

“We’ve watched this closely and it’s been pretty successful,” he said. “If we have to change course we will.”

Restaurants, hair salons, barber shops and personal service providers will be able to accept 75 percent of capacity, up from 50 percent. Outdoor venues including stadiums and concerts can go up to 50 percent of capacity, from 25 percent, with mandatory masks and social distancing.

Indoor performing arts venues can open up to 50 percent capacity.

Indoor gatherings such as weddings in commercial venues can be up to half of the location’s capacity — to a maximum of 100 people. Outdoor private events, with limits now of 100 people, will move up to 150 people.

Religious gatherings indoors can be up to 50 percent capacity, capped at 200 people, up from 100 now.

Outdoor religious gatherings and graduations can now have numbers of people limited only by the capacity of the locations — with distancing between groups.

All of these expansions come with mandatory masks and distancing, Lamont said. He had little to offer to the shut-down bars, however. “I think it’s worth waiting a little longer,” he said, noting that bars are by their nature hard to make safe.

Indoor social gatherings at private residences are still limited to 25 people, no change from Phase 2.

Restaurants and caterers, in particular, which have been trying to stay in business with outdoor dining, takeout orders and a fraction of indoor business, have been lobbying hard for looser limits heading into the cooler fall season.

Other businesses, notably personal services such as hair and nail salons, have also pushed for a lifting of some restrictions.

Will they come?

One question is whether customers will come now that the limits are being raised. Phase 1 of the reopening came in the third week of May and Phase 2 in the third week of June, with adjustments in July.

We’re ramping up a little bit in terms of risk,” Lamont said, “but look — we could dial it right back.”

Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said Thursday afternoon that industry leaders have met recently with Lamont and his top aides in attempt to persuade them that they can operate safely beyond the current 50-percent capacity limits for restaurants and 25 people for indoor events.

“Today’s news is another important step in Connecticut’s nation-leading efforts to respond to COVID-19 in a safe and responsible manner,” Dolch said in a statement released during Lamont’s daily news conference. “Like the rest of the country, Connecticut is not out of the woods of this pandemic by any stretch, but we've proven that it’s possible to be mindful of our local economy at the same time we keep our residents as safe as possible.”

Connecticut reinstated limited indoor dining on June 17.

Still far ahead of the nation

Connecticut has had a slight increase in cases and infection rates over the last two weeks but remains within its own three-month range, far below the national average.

The state had the nation’s lowest percentage of tests showing positive COVID-19 cases for much of the summer, mostly below 1 percent, falling as low as 0.5 percent. The rate moved up over the last two weeks and is now at a 7-day average of 1.3 percent.

The national 7-day average positivity rate hit a summertime high of 8.4 percent and is now at 5 percent, with a few states, notably Texas, over 10 percent, according to data compiled by Kaiser Family Foundation.

In number of new cases per day per 1 million residents, Connecticut has bounced between 20 and 50 for most of the summer and is now at a 7-day average of 45 - the 4th lowest among all states, with all of the lower states in the Northeast.

The nation hit 200 new cases per day per 1 million residents in late July, then fell to just over 100 two weeks ago and has climbed back up to 132. The states with the highest percent of new cases are in the South and especially the Midwest, led by the Dakotas.

The nation hit 200 new cases per day per 1 million residents in late July, then fell to just over 100 two weeks ago and has climbed back up to 132. The states with the highest percent of new cases are in the South and especially the Midwest, led by the Dakotas.

Associate Editor and columnist Dan Haar and Staff Writer Peter Yankowski contributed to this report.