Last week, Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 9K (“Order”) — the 79th such order — rolling back the State’s reopening to “Phase 2.1” effective November 6, 2020.  This Order comes in response to the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases statewide and implements mandatory changes to restaurants, event venues, performing arts, movie theaters, and religious gatherings.  A copy of the Order can be found here.

Phase 2.1 brings two notable changes from Phase 3: a mandatory closing time and occupancy limits and caps. First, a 10 p.m. closing time is implemented for in-person dining at restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues (i.e. movie theaters, bowling alleys, and performing arts theaters), and indoor and outdoor events at commercial venues.   For restaurants, the last service for in-person dining must be at 9:30 p.m., but takeout and delivery services may continue after 10 p.m.  Note that this time is still subject to change in the future by the Department of Economic and Community Development.  It is also important to note that sectors not currently subject to this mandatory closing time may become subject to it at a later time.

The second notable change is the following occupancy limits and caps that are now in effect:

  • Indoor religious, spiritual, or worship gatherings are limited to no more than 50% of the building’s capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people
  • Outdoor religious, spiritual, or worship gatherings are limited to the number of people that can be accommodated safely by the location provided that all persons are wearing masks and a distance of 6 feet is maintained between persons
  • Indoor graduation ceremonies are limited to 50% of the venue’s capacity up to a maximum of 100 people
  • Outdoor event venues, like amphitheaters and race tracks, are limited to 25%
  • Restaurants with indoor dining are limited to 50% of the building’s capacity with 6 feet spacing with a maximum of 8 people per table
  • Indoor recreation capacity has been capped at 100 people.  The capacity limit, however, remains the same–50%
  • Indoor and outdoor private, social and recreational gatherings for commercial venues are capped at 25 and 50 people, respectively
  • Indoor and outdoor private, social and recreational gatherings for private residences are capped at 10 people

Sector-specific guidance sheds further light on new limitations under this phase, which are important with the winter months ahead.  Particularly, restaurants may only utilize outdoor tents or membrane-like structures if there is adequate ventilation and the entry door and two or more windows are open at all times. Other outdoor structures that lack the ability to ventilate outside or fresh air may be prohibited between parties without proper sanitization or downtime.  If utilizing tents or structures for outdoor dining, restaurants must also post signage for customers that there is a heightened risk in enclosed spaces and that vents must remain open at all times.  Current sector-specific guidance can be found here and is organized by industry.

While the State is reverting to Phase 2.1 to avoid a larger shutdown later, that plan is in increasing jeopardy.  Cases this week are rising to levels not seen since the spring, with positivity rates over 5 percent at times.  As such, employers should not get too comfortable with the current sector rules as it is quite possible that a reversion to Phase 1 may not be that far off.  Businesses that have to close will have to revisit their plans for layoffs, shared work programs, furloughs and the other difficult employment decisions.

If you have any questions about the Governor’s new Executive Order, its implications, or related issues, please contact Shipman & Goodwin LLP’s Labor, Employment and Benefits group.