Connecticut: Businesses, casinos shut, curtail services to fight virus Dave Collins, Associated Press · March 16, 2020 at 6:32 pm HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Businesses across Connecticut, from the sprawling Mohegan Sun casino to small, independently owned Pilates studios, were preparing to shut down or curtail their services Monday to comply with a new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Connecticut officials ordered movie theaters, gyms and other businesses closed until further notice, and bars and restaurants were limited to offering only takeout. Nearby New York and New Jersey were enacting similar measures. Connecticut’s tribal-run casinos were also taking steps to address the virus, even though the tribes are considered sovereign nations. Gov. Ned Lamont had urged the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun earlier on Monday to close. Shortly afterward, Mohegan officials said they had begun temporarily shuttering parts of their gambling and entertainment complex. Meanwhile, essential businesses such as supermarkets and gas stations will be able to stay open. “We are in this together,” Lamont said during a conference call with the governors of New York and New Jersey. “This is changing so fast. We’ve got to work together on a coordinated basis.” Public gatherings of more than 50 people have also been restricted in Connecticut, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lamont on Sunday ordered all public schools in the state to close beginning Tuesday. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover. TRIBAL CASINOS Mohegan Sun said the Mohegan Tribal Council was “in discussions” with Lamont’s office and was already shutting down various parts of the property in Uncasville, such as the race book, poker room and buffet and the Earth Hotel Tower. Some gambling and other amenities will remain open at least temporarily. “These are difficult times the state and nation are facing, and as such, they bring about difficult decisions for Mohegan Sun and Mohegan Tribal leadership,” said Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun in a written statement. Lamont acknowledged Monday there are “legal and jurisdictional issues” concerning whether the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes would agree to his call to close their casinos. “We are urging the tribes in the strongest possible way, they ought to be closing down those casinos,” Lamont said. Soon afterward, the Mohegans announced various closures on Monday and promised additional updates related to the temporary public closure will be coming soon. In a written statement, the Mashantuckets said they’ve also already taken steps to address coronavirus at their Foxwoods Resort Casino and have been in ongoing contact with Lamont’s office and “anticipate communicating more details” by the end of Monday. “We have already closed down various facilities, suspended bus transportation, instituted aggressive and thorough sanitation and cleaning processes, and initiated social distancing. We consider our Team Members and guests as members of our extended family and their safety is paramount in our minds,” the tribe said in a statement. Lamont also urged the state’s off-track betting facilities to close. The operator of off-track betting sites in the state, Sportech, announced Sunday that the facilities will close at least until the end of the month beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, but said telephone betting and its online site will remain open. On Saturday, business was slow at Mohegan Sun, where Chubby Checker was performing at the casino’s Wolf Den venue – the last show before a string of cancellations takes effect. Many seats were empty, and the number of people in restaurants and on the gambling floor was also spare. ___ SMALL BUSINESSES Mary Badon, a licensed physician in Connecticut who owns SOMA Movement Studio in Unionville and West Hartford, said while she had taken extensive steps at her Pilates studios to keep her clients safe from COVID-19, she understands the need for Lamont’s order. “If there’s going to be a blanket rule, I think this is the correct one,” she said. “It’s an inconvenience. I mean, we’re definitely going to be affected by it, financially, ” she said of the shutdown, adding how her six instructors are contractors and will be out of work. Badon said she does have two employees who will continue to work behind the scenes. She plans to work on studio renovations and improvements to her company’s website during the downtime. Badon is also looking at ways that her instructors can keep teaching online. Meanwhile, Badon said she’s been heartened by how many customers have told her they are willing to keep paying their membership fees or pay early for future lessons in order to help keep her in business. Restaurant owners said they already have been taking action in response to the coronavirus, including increasing cleaning. “Local restaurant owners will continue to offer safe, clean service to customers via takeout, curbside pickup and delivery,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. ___ CONCERN FOR PRISONERS A coalition of groups is demanding that Connecticut officials immediately release as many state prisoners as possible to protect them from the outbreak and place a moratorium on further incarceration. The groups said they were publishing an open letter to Lamont on Monday calling for urgent action to protect people in the state’s prisons and jails, including employees. They said state officials can release pretrial prisoners detained only because they can’t afford to post bail, limit arrests to serious offenses and expedite parole for elderly prisoners and others who are at high risk of serious illness. Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said the Department of Correction has taken prevention measures to protect the safety of staff and prisoners, and the governor has been in contact with the groups calling for more releases of prisoners. “At this moment there are no plans to release currently incarcerated individuals,” Reiss said. ___ UCONN SPORTS The University of Connecticut has officially canceled all its remaining athletic events this year. The school last week had suspended spring sports with the hopes of resuming them after the remaining winter sports, including postseason tournaments for basketball and hockey, were called off. Monday’s move was expected. ___ Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton Robb contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.