Editorial: Go slow, get tough

Gov. Ned Lamont has put the brakes on reopening the state. That’s a good thing. Now he needs to get tough with the travel advisory.

At his coronavirus briefing on Monday, the governor announced he was pausing phase 3 reopenings. It’s an unfortunate setback, but we know the virus is raging in other states and wearing masks and social distancing prevent people from getting sick. That saves lives.

For now, private gatherings will remain at 25 people inside and 100 people outside, bars will remain closed and indoor dining at restaurants and gyms will remain at 50-percent capacity. Lamont did not give a new date for when phase 3 might be implemented. It was originally planned for July 20. Campgrounds will still open July 8.

“We’re just erring on the side of caution,” he said, taking a lesson from what’s happening in Arizona, Florida and Texas. “We never opened up our bars and they are closing their bars down.”

Lamont announced that of the people who had been tested for the virus over the previous seven days, just 0.7 percent tested positive. That is far and away better than states where the positive test rate is in double digits. Still, it means that Connecticut’s positive cases are still rising. Between June 25 and July 6, there were 1,063 positive cases. During that time, there were 51 more deaths. Hospitalizations have decreased pretty steadily.

Here in Wilton, we have seen the number of positive cases grow as well with 16 new cases over the past two weeks, bringing the total to 223 since the first case was announced March 7. While this is a low number relative to Wilton’s overall population, this virus spreads so easily those numbers can grow rapidly in a short period of time.

The governor also announced that 100 percent of local health departments are participating in contact tracing, although only 47 percent of people have been successfully contacted. That is due in large part to the contact tracers not being able to reach the people who have tested positive. Anyone who receives a text from CT COVID Trace is asked to respond and cooperate. In Wilton, contact tracing is done by nurses through the health department and confidentiality is maintained. Patients are not identified. It’s important for people to know if they have potentially been compromised.

Despite the good news on test results and hospitalizations, little has changed over these last four months. There is no cure. If anyone wants to get together with a friend, they are as vulnerable as they were in March.

What has changed is that, whereas the tri-state area was the epicenter of illness and death just a few weeks ago, now the southern and western states are experiencing a rapid escalation of the virus. That’s why Lamont joined with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in instituting a travel advisory for people coming from states where the positive test rate is above 10 percent. As of July 7, there were 19 states on that list.

From the get-go, Cuomo warned that people coming from those states could be fined if they did not self-quarantine for 14 days after departure. Lamont has chosen to rely on people voluntarily doing so. With public service announcements on social media in affected states, at Bradley Airport and with airline personnel announcing the advisory, he said visitors to the state are down.

But if the governor does not want to take a chance on reopening bars, why is he willing to take a chance on people coming from other states, where the virus is spreading, to voluntarily self-isolate somewhere for two weeks? It only takes one family party to ignite another flare-up.

He’s said what we mean, now let’s mean what we say.

In the meantime, please wear your mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands.