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Gov. Lamont on election results, economic reopening

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont joins Yahoo Finance to discuss his state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 election results and much more.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: Let's turn our attention now to one of these states that is imposing some restrictions, rolling back-- I suppose we could say-- some of the reopening plans that had been in place. That state is Connecticut. We're joined now by Governor Ned Lamont.

Governor, thank you so much for joining the program today. So let's start with those new rules that you've put in place. They'll take effect tomorrow, where restaurants closing at 9:30, capacity coming down to 50%. Talk us through, I guess, some of the numbers your team was looking at to change those rules and how often you, perhaps, expect to revisit this, what you're hoping, I suppose, to see the numbers come down to before you take your next steps.

NED LAMONT: The number one metric we're looking at is hospitalizations-- a little bit like it was during the spring. I just heard the previous analysis. I think some of the relative good news is that we have fewer people going into the hospital.

When they go, we've caught them earlier. They're spending less time in the hospital, less time in the ICU. And the fatalities have gone from about 20% of the folks that went to the hospital, down to about 6%, which is heartbreaking. But it gives you an idea of some of the progress that's been made and what that means, in terms of hospital capacity.

But that said, our infections are going up like they have around the rest of the country. We were some of the lowest infection rate in the country for about five months there. We've gone from 1%, to 3%, to sort of 4% now.

So we did say, look, restaurants, we want to keep you open. But often, a restaurant turns into something like a bar after 9:30 at night. So let's just make it for eating and close to restaurants at 9:30.

MYLES UDLAND: And Governor, do you have a sense of where the rise in infections is coming from. You know, we're here in New York, where it sounds like it's mostly small family gatherings that are, kind of, largely fueling this new uptick in cases. What has your team found, in terms of what are the factors driving higher case counts in your state right now?

NED LAMONT: Yeah, I'd say a few weeks ago was those informal social interactions. It wasn't at school. It wasn't at the workplace. It wasn't even in the houses of worship.

And then, just like Andrew Cuomo in New York, we saw flare ups in different neighborhoods, communities, or in our case, cities. And now, it's more broad-based. Now, it's more community spreads. You can potentially pick up the infection at a wider variety of places. That's why we're tripling down on our testing, especially in our schools, doing everything we can to make sure our kids can continue to go to school.

JULIE HYMAN: Governor, Julie Hyman here. Thanks for joining us. I wanted to ask you about coronavirus, as it relates to the election. Because even though, at this point, it looks like-- I think we can cautiously say-- that Joe Biden is going to emerge the victor. This election was painted as a referendum on President Trump's performance on coronavirus.

Now, on the one hand, obviously, we have seen a shockingly high number of cases and deaths in the United States. On the other hand, we've also seen a lot of resistance to the idea of lockdowns. And so I wonder, as you look at the situation in your state, what are you hearing from your constituents? And how do you, sort of, balance that idea of safety with lockdowns, especially at this point in the pandemic?

NED LAMONT: Yeah, you're right, Julie. There is a lot of exhaustion. And the word, lockdown, is terrifying. And we see what's going on in France, Germany, Britain, which is maybe three weeks ahead of us. And they are in lockdown.

I mean, when Boris Johnson shuts down a pub, you know it's a big deal what's going on over there. The way I've tried to phrase it is look, I'm doing everything I can to keep our economy open. And the only way to do that is if we take care of those places, where you're most likely to have spread, like at bars, restaurants after 9:30 or 10:00 at night. Those places, where we trim our freedoms there a little bit, we'll all be a lot safer and be able to keep our economy open.

JULIE HYMAN: And also, just to ask more of a pure, sort of, election question. I've seen a lot of analysis over the past couple of days that even if President Trump is no longer in office, you still have to, sort of, deal with Trumpism, so to speak, that he is not going to shrink from public life. So as someone who is trying to govern a state that probably needs some funding still from the US government-- I know that the fiscal position of your state, particularly with some pension liabilities-- is you know, maybe not fantastic, I think we could say. You know, how is that going to influence how you continue to govern going forward?

NED LAMONT: Well, first of all, I think some states have learned the lesson the hard way. Those states that say, we don't need a mask mandate. Just let it rip. Do what you want. That's called North Dakota, South Dakota, other upper midwest states, where they've had an infection rate that's so much higher than what we're seeing in states like Connecticut, where we're at 3% or 4%.

And Julie, even in Connecticut, in those parts of the state that maybe were a little bit more rural, people were suing. Because they didn't want to have to wear a mask. Those are the places that are most infected. So I think, at least in this state, people are pretty well unified that we know what we've got to do to keep safe. We're willing to trim our sales a little bit to get that done. Hopefully, we can keep our schools open.

- Governor, I would say fears are starting to emerge in the business community that a divided government means either no stimulus or what they're calling a skinny slim down bill. Are you confident that a stimulus plan in a divided government could get done? And how much could get done?

NED LAMONT: Look, the Federal Reserve, blue and red state governors, I think business leaders know we need a real stimulus. We know that we are slowly having to close down different pieces of our economy. And it's going to have an impact on GDP. And more importantly, it's going to have an impact on unemployment and families.

And if you want to make sure that this is not a deep recession, but something that we can-- a shallower reception-- recession, you sure as heck better get some sort of a supplemental, some sort of a relief package out there now. You don't want states and localities forced to lay off people or raise taxes. Surely, you don't want them laying off first responders or teachers.

And I think this is the time to use-- you know, fortunately, here in Connecticut, we have a rainy day fund. We've have $3 billion in the bank. So we can mitigate for the near-term. But we do need the Feds to step up.

- Governor, one thing that could boost that rainy day fund is if Connecticut were to legalize marijuana, just like your neighbors in New Jersey did. Is that something you will pursue in 2021?

NED LAMONT: Look, I think so. I mean, even South Dakota voted to legalize marijuana, as well as 15 other states, where it's legal right now. There's a fair amount of history there. And if I learned one thing during this COVID is COVID didn't respect borders. And we've got to think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic. And I think we have to think regionally when it comes to marijuana as well.

Right now, I'm surrounded by states-- you mentioned New Jersey, Massachusetts-- where marijuana is already legal. And I don't need a lot of people driving back and forth across the border. We're trying to keep people close to home as best we can right now. And I think legalizing marijuana, doing that safely, making sure that no poison is laced in there, I think, is one way to keep people closer to home.

MYLES UDLAND: Governor, as an alum of the University of Connecticut, I have to ask you about the upcoming basketball season for both teams. And obviously, right now, there won't be fans, either at XL or a Gampel. And certainly, at the time, they're rolling back some rules. It doesn't seem likely that those are in the cards. But as a personal question, I'd ask what the conversation is like with the administrators over UConn about trying to get some folks back in the seats. Because in a state without a professional sports team, you know, the men and women are basically the pros there.

NED LAMONT: Yeah, well, you know all too well. We love the UConn Huskies. They're winners. And I believe basketball will be played this fall, winter in and around UConn.

Look, unlike high school, they can do that within the bubble, maybe up at Mohegan Sun. They'll be able to be there. They tend to train together. They'll tend to eat together. So they keep things contained.

It's a little tougher doing the sports at the high school level, where the team then goes back to a whole variety of classes. They are less likely to be able to be in the bubble. Look, the NBA bubble worked pretty well. And I think we can try and do some of the same at the college level.

MYLES UDLAND: All right, Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut. Governor, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. And hopefully, we can talk to you soon.

NED LAMONT: I hope so. Take care, everybody. Be safe.