HARTFORD - Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday he would lift virtually all coronavirus capacity restrictions in public spaces.
Beginning March 19, restaurants, retail, gyms, libraries, museums, offices and houses of worship will be able to open at full capacity, though masks will still be required.
Theaters will continue to operate at 50% capacity, and restaurants will still have to close by 11 p.m. and limit tables to eight people.
"While it is encouraging to see the number of cases in our state gradually going down and people getting vaccinated at rates that are among the highest in the nation, we need to continue taking this virus seriously to mitigate its spread as much as possible," Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.
The number of people allowed to gather at indoor and outdoor events will also be increased, and all sports tournaments will be allowed. Beginning in April, outdoor sports venues will be able to operate at 50% capacity, with up to 10,000 visitors.
The announcement came as a number of states have begun to ease restrictions, but Connecticut is the most prominent blue state fully to lift capacity limits.
Lamont in a press conference Thursday emphasized his state was not the same. "This is not Texas. This is not Mississippi. This is Connecticut," Lamont said. "We are maintaining the masks."
Still, the move goes against the guidance of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky.
"With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19," Walensky said Monday. "I understand the temptation to do this -- 70,000 cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago -- but we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths."
COVID-19 cases average 67,000 per day as of Monday, compared with 300,000 cases a day in January.
Mississippi and Texas made headlines this week when their Republican governors announced they would be rolling back capacity limits and removing their mask mandates.
President Biden criticized those states’ decisions, saying that Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, and Tate Reeves of Mississippi were guilty of "Neanderthal thinking" for rolling back their mask mandates.
Arkansas has lifted almost all of its restrictions, and a number of other states have already reopened completely, including Iowa, Missouri (with county-wide exceptions) and Florida.
Fifteen states have either lifted or never implemented statewide mask mandates, leaving it up to counties to make the rule.
Thirty-five states have eased at least some restrictions -- such as restrictions on in-person learning and indoor dining -- since last year.
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