Todd Turcotte, owner of Highland Bowl, didn’t mince words when talking to The Herald this week: He’s frustrated. He’s angry. He’s worried about what the future holds.
In speaking with several businesses these last few months, it’s clear he’s not alone, even if he’s more blunt in his assessment of the current state of the state. Many are discouraged by what they see as a lack of a long-term plan, even while acknowledging that such plans cannot be set in stone when dealing with a pandemic that has a lethal mind of its own.
This has always been the terrible balancing act for our state and local leaders. Fighting a virus dictates that lockdowns may be required and that, at times, people will be asked to quarantine. But doing so means the shuttering of businesses, the laying off of workers, and putting people’s livelihoods in critical jeopardy. It’s why lockdowns should only ever be viewed as temporary fixes, and why more long-term approaches to dealing with an infectious disease that shows no indication of just disappearing on its own are needed.
Without one, the state will likely see the end of many small, family-owned establishments that, even with federal and state aid, simply won’t be able to navigate a world where shutting the doors every few weeks or months is a possibility.
Connecticut currently finds itself in an enviable position. After a horrific spring that saw the state’s per-capita death rate climb to frightening levels, things are heading in the right direction. The state has partially opened back up, navigating Phase-One and Phase-Two of Connecticut’s plan without much issue, and the state’s infection rate, daily death count and number of hospitalizations remain some of the lowest in the country.
Gov. Ned Lamont has delayed the Phase-Three reopening, which would have allowed for more businesses to open, more capacity at some local establishments, and less restrictions on the number of people allowed at certain gatherings. Lamont’s decision was, he said, based on the fact that, across the country, many states have seen a significant rise in infection rates and cases, and some have suggested the increases could be due to those states reopening too soon. Given that, it’s understandable that Lamont would want to be cautious. No one wants to see Connecticut return to those dark days of April and early May when it felt as if the virus was spreading at an exponential rate.
Too many people lost loved ones during that time — Connecticut has experienced more than 4,400 deaths due to COVID-19 thus far.
Yet, one can’t blame local business owners for being frustrated when their futures are so negatively impacted by the happenings in distant states that have little way of influencing what occurs in Connecticut. If Lamont and other state leaders are hesitant to continue moving forward with reopening plans now, when the numbers look so good, when exactly will be the right time to resume?
Turcotte told The Herald that he remains in fear of being told that his business must be locked down again. We don’t blame him. Connecticut must continue to do what is necessary to keep its citizens healthy and safe, but it must have a long-term plan...one communicated clearly to all state stake-holders.