Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu was invited to participate in Gov. Ned Lamontâ€™s daily press briefing on Nov. 19, to talk about how the state mandated covid-19 restrictions are helping at the local level.
Lamont led off by summarizing the â€śdisturbing numbersâ€ť that show where Connecticut is with the pandemic â€“ a 6.5% positivity testing rate, 21 new fatalities since yesterday, and about 96% of the stateâ€™s residents now living in towns at Red Alert for covid-19. Bristol, New Britain, Southington, Plainville, Berlin and Plymouth are all included in the red zone.
He talked about the importance of area governors working together on a regional basis to set priorities for issues including thousands of college students coming home for Thanksgiving from all over the country. He said he also supports the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference decision to postpone all interscholastic winter sports, as well as club and other team sports, till Jan. 19, and he urged retailers to enforce social distancing and mask mandates during the holiday shopping season.
Zoppo-Sassu said these mandates make sense from a municipal level.
â€śI can tell you here in Bristol that since September we have had 342 Bristol students miss school because of covid exposures related to club and youth sports activities, so we are definitely seeing an impact right now,â€ť she said.
â€śBar and restaurant use, as well as family gatherings, bridal parties, and weddings are our leading indicators through our contact tracing,â€ť she continued. â€śSo anything we can do to work together to make sure that all of these are enforced is going to be very helpful for us to keep the kids in school, to keep people shopping and supporting our local businesses, but also giving us the tools to ensure that everybody is playing by the rules, because that is the only way all of this succeeds.â€ť
She responded to a question about how she would rate the stateâ€™s communication with local governments, by saying â€śwe really have no complaints.â€ť
â€śThings have been going very smoothly based on the level of communication,â€ť she said. â€śFor a long time we met weekly with our governorâ€™s calls with municipal CEOs. That was very helpful as, both as a preview as well as an open forum, so that we could talk about things that were coming down the pipe.â€ť
Zoppo-Sassu said she has also emulated that type of communication network locally. â€śWe meet weekly with our department heads so that we can again triage whatâ€™s happening. Our Bristol-Burlington Health District has been at the forefront for coordinating a lot of these resources and itâ€™s been going really well.â€ť
â€śLikewise, weâ€™re been talking to other towns around us and created a network,â€ť she said. â€śSo I would grade it as excellent and itâ€™s been very helpful to have all of these communication networks available to us. Weâ€™re able to coordinate testing sites, weâ€™re working with federally qualified health care centers, we do have a hospital in Bristol, weâ€™re working with our superintendent, weâ€™re working to set up child care at some of our nonprofits to support parents that are still working.â€ť
These networks have â€śallowed us to be very versatile and pivot from one issue to another as theyâ€™ve developed,â€ť she commented.
Zoppo-Sassu appeared at the briefing in the wake of the state Department of Consumer Protection suspending the liquor permit for Legends Sports Bar in Forestville last Friday, for staying open past 10 p.m. and violating other state mandated covid-19 restrictions.
A team of health district agents conducting spot inspections in the city went to Legends after 10 p.m. and saw patrons crowding the bar, no six foot spacing or plexi barriers between parties, and other violations. They said when they spoke to the owner he was uncooperative and there was no indication the establishment was preparing to close for the night any time soon.
â€śThe potential for exposure to covid-19 at this location is compounded by the fact that patrons from other bars congregate there after 10 p.m.,â€ť they wrote in their report.
At the press briefing, DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said Legends was one of just two establishments that have had their liquor permits suspended recently.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.