As COVID numbers drop, Lamont optimistic about fall, winter

Photo of Peter Yankowski
Gov. Ned Lamont

Gov. Ned Lamont

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media

With a high vaccination rate, Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday expressed confidence that Connecticut will see a smaller wave of infections than the one it weathered last fall and winter.

“I was really worried about October, but our numbers are still some of the lowest in the country,” Lamont said, speaking with reporters Wednesday after an event in Bethel. “Maybe, just maybe, the fact that we’re 88 percent vaccinated — of adults — is making a difference and we can be able to hold off the worst of another wave.”

Infections and hospitalizations have fallen since the late summer, according to state data. The seven-day average of new cases has fallen by almost half since mid-September, while the state’s hospital census for the disease now hovers below 250 after peaking at more than 390 in late August.

On Wednesday, the state reported a positivity rate of 1.9 percent for new COVID-19 tests. Hospitalizations dropped by a net of seven patients for a total of 230 — the lowest in recent weeks.

“We were hit hardest on the first wave,” Lamont said. “By the time it came around last fall, we were much better prepared, we were not hit as hard. I think this time around it will be less again.”

Nationally, COVID numbers have also shown a decline, suggesting the wave brought on by the delta variant over the summer may be subsiding.

But experts have warned colder weather, along with people gathering indoors, could see cases rising again. Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading voice on infectious disease, said it was “too soon to tell” whether people should hold large holiday gatherings.

The governor also urged residents who are eligible to get their booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Those who are eligible include anyone 65 and older, people with certain conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19 and adults whose job put them at greater risk of contracting the disease. Boosters are given six months after someone completes their initial round of shots.

“We’ve got a lot of vaccine, we can do the boosters— right now it’s Pfizer only, of course. But you can go to any of our pharmacies, virtually no questions asked you can get that booster if it’s been more than six months,” Lamont said.

Statewide, 79 percent of all eligible residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, Lamont has instituted several vaccination mandates, including a requirement for state executive branch workers.

More than 1,000 those state employees as of Tuesday had not submitted documentation showing they were vaccinated or would submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, according to the governor’s office. The state has said employees who fail to do either by next Monday will be placed on unpaid administrative leave.

“I think it’s pretty good news, we’re north of 96 percent now are vaccinated or testing,” Lamont said Wednesday. “I think we’re going to reach a formal agreement with labor very soon so the rules are clear about what happens if you don’t (vaccinate) or test.”

That agreement would include unpaid leave “for a period of time” and testing at no cost, the governor said. Yazbak, Lamont’s spokesman, said state employees would be able to use medical time off to get tested, similar to going to a doctor’s appointment.

“I think we’re all rowing in the same direction, which is how you beat a pandemic,” Lamont said.