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How Gov. Ned Lamont says he’ll decide when to reopen Connecticut

Questions about when Americans can resume a semblance of normal life are not easy to answer, but the governors of some states are working together to prepare a plan. Among them is Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, who joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the current status of COVID-19 in his state and why he needs more testing and PPE to inform his decision about sending Connecticut residents back to work.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    If you are not dealing with a critical family health crisis, the central question facing so many Americans is, when will we begin to return to normal life?

    There are few, if any, easy answers, and the debate has pitted the president against some governors on both coasts.

    A number of those state leaders are now teaming up.

    One of them is Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut. He joins us now from Hartford.

    Governor Lamont, thank you very much for talking to us.

    Connecticut has a population of something close to 3.5 million people. It was less than a month ago you announced the first death in the state. Right now, I believe it's 671 deaths; 14,000 people, almost, tested positive.

    Where are you in the fight against COVID-19?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    So, Southern Connecticut, Fairfield County, was part of that whole New York pandemic. That part of our state was hit early, hit hard. There, the curve is beginning to bend at this point, as social distancing is working.

    But the rest of the state, the virus is going right up the I-95 Metro North Corridor, New Haven up to Hartford.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In other words, rising in the rest of the state?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    That's right. We have not bent the curve in the rest of the state yet, but we are still thinking about the day after and the months after.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump has spoken, as you know, about May 1 as being a time to think about beginning to go back to normal.

    You have said the date should be closer to May 20. Where do you come up with this date? What factors go into your thinking?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    What I said to our schools is, we're not going to open before May 20th. I said to our small businesses, you're probably not going to open anything before May 20.

    But, by May 20, we're going to have a lot of testing in place. We will have an idea of where the infections are. By May 20, we will have a lot of the PPE and the gowns and the masks that we don't have right now.

    And we will be in a much better position to make a determination as to what we can open, how we can open, and when we can open.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And how are you confident that you are going to have all of those things?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    I'm not sure I'm confident.

    I know we have a much better chance to have it in the next few weeks than I have had it before. Let's face it, a lot of the PPE gets rerouted at the tarmac at JFK. But, right now, it looks like supply is catching up with demand. We're beginning to get some supply in. We will have masks.

    Masks allow me to get people back the work sooner. The testing protocol, we're ramping up. I think, within a week or two, we will be able to do a lot more of the antibody testing, as well as the molecular test to see who is infected.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We know that you and other governors in the Northeast are coordinating, beginning to talk among yourselves about how you might do this together.

    The president, meanwhile, has said he has total authority to decide when restrictions are lifted. Who is right?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    I think the governors working together, we — the governors were ahead of the curve on taking this virus seriously, and I think the governors are ahead of the curve knowing how to get out of the pandemic and thoughtfully open up our states.

    Look, Judy, I can't open up bars and restaurants in Connecticut if Andrew Cuomo keeps them closed in New York, or vice versa. You are just going to have a flow of traffic back and forth. So, some of these things, we are going to do together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And how do you make those decisions? Because one governor could have one set of factors he or she is looking at. Another governor could have a different set.

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    Yes, we all have very different situations. That's true.

    But we want to come up with a set of data. We want to set up protocols that work. I have got an amazing group, a task force that's going to be helping us decide, including the lead epidemiologist from Yale as co-chairman of it, along with the former head of Pepsi Indra Nooyi.

    And, together, they have put together a business and scientific team that's going to help us come up with a strategy to slowly get our state back to work.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about coordinating? I'm going to be talking in a moment with a head of the Chamber of Commerce.

    What about talking to businesses in your state and big institutions in terms of how they begin to open up? How — tell us about how you're coordinating with them the process of sharing ideas and views of all this with these other leaders.

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    Sure.

    We have got major defense manufacturers with big factory floors that are required to be open. And I talk to them every day about the necessity of getting fever testing to make sure nobody goes in there with a temperature. We said, anybody with a temperature over 100.4, you cannot go to the factory floor.

    We're getting masks for everybody. We're setting up the social distancing. So, I'm working with the business. And I'm also working with labor. Let's face it, they're fighting for folks who sometimes are food service workers there at Stop & Shop. And maybe they don't have the masks they need, the protection they need.

    So they're all going to be at the table, as we think about how we open up again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Governor, you have also mentioned July 1 as a key date.

    And what — where did you come up with that?

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    I came up with that because, at that point, all of the federal programs run out of — run out of juice. And that's what really makes me worry.

    We have got the two-month PPP. That's the one for paycheck protection. That's two months. We have got folks who get their insurance are forgiven for two months. At that point, even all of the state aid, the money we need to keep our government going, starts getting a little tighter.

    So I think the government's going to have to make up its mind, the federal government. If we don't get things opened up and people back to work by July 1, there will be another supplemental funding necessary to keep our hospitals going, our small businesses going, and a lot of individuals on unemployment.

    That's a big date.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we know that Congress has just announced that they're going to be away for several weeks, coming back, I believe in May.

    So, we will see about those deadlines.

    Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut, we thank you very much, and we wish you the very best with everything you're dealing with.

  • Governor Ned Lamont:

    Thank you, Judy.

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