The next two to three months will be a make-or-break period in Connecticut’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the change of seasons drives more people indoors and closer together, Gov. Ned Lamont and one of the state’s top epidemiologists warned on Tuesday.

In the shorter term, it could be several weeks before state health officials learn whether the Labor Day holiday led to a resurgence of the virus in the state.

“I think November will be a period of risk, so my job is to make sure that we keep our discipline, something that Connecticut has really led the country in, and make sure we realize that this is really a very crucial 60, 90 days coming up,” Lamont said during a morning forum in New Haven. “That’s an urgency I have to repeat. I’m afraid this is not a 10-year or 100-year phenomenon. I think it’s going to be more frequent than that, and we have to be ready.”

Speaking during a panel discussion at the Yale School of Public Health that was a combination victory lap and look ahead for graduate students, Lamont and Dr. Albert Ko, a professor at the school who co-chaired the governor’s committee on reopening the state, said that as responsive as Connecticut residents have been over the last six months, the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.

Later, during the governor’s daily news briefing, Ko said that Connecticut has learned from other states that were experiencing the pandemic even while cases here were decreasing sharply. He said that Connecticut is dealing quickly with outbreaks in Norwich and Danbury.

“With the rules on travel restrictions and quarantine, we could be in the containment phase,” Ko said, praising those who wear face masks and continue social distancing while state government and medical experts have learned from other states that experienced outbreaks after opening bars, sports and other events.

Ko said that while the incubation period of typically five to seven days after someone is transmitted the virus, it takes some time thereafter, possibly as long as five weeks, to develop the infection.

“We should be vigilant now, and we’re going to have to be vigilant in the next several weeks in order really to see what happened over Labor Day,” said Ko, who doubts there will be a viable vaccine until early in 2021.

“You really want to take Vladimir Putin’s vaccine?” Lamont quipped about the Russian president’s professed medical breakthrough.

Lamont said that Connecticut’s cautious reopening, in which bars and music and theatrical theaters remain closed while restaurants may operate only at a fraction of their indoor occupancy, has put the state in a good place, with infections well under one-percent of daily testing.

“We didn’t want to back track as we saw in other states,” Lamont said. “I thought that would be a body blow to our confidence.” The governor reported six new fatalities in the pandemic over the long weekend, along with a net reduction of eight patients, bringing the hospitalization census down to 50.

As colder weather drives more people indoors, state residents will be challenged to remain vigilant and stick to the proven tactics of social distancing and wearing masks.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Lamont said during the hour-long meeting on a stage at the graduate school, in which he voiced confidence that kindergarten through eighth grade education should be safe.

“I’m a little more worried about colleges,” Lamont admitted during the morning session at Yale.

Others participating in the socially distant panel were Indra K. Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO who co-chaired the reopening committee with Ko; New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker; New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond and Dr. Sten H. Vermund, dean of the School of Public Health. About 225 watched it on Yale’s Youtube channel.

What made this different from other states was that first of al,l it was done early,” Ko said, stressing that even at the peak of the epidemic, Lamont and his top aides were thinking about a timeline to return to a new normal.

“We were at the peak of the epidemic, but thinking proactively,” Ko said, adding that the campaign to address the virus was multi-disciplinary, so the governor brought together health experts as well as members of the business, social services and educational communities, led by Nooyi.

“I think it got at this idea of well-being rather than public health,” Ko said. “What differentiated, I think, Connecticut, was that we put well-being ahead, whereas other states just led with either public health or they led with one of the sectors like business, and I think that’s how we got that special formula.”

“When we first started, we were looking at other states to see how well they were doing their reopen plans because every state was heading up a reopen committee,” Nooyi said. “But as we reached about the five or six-week mark, most states were calling us to say ‘What’s Connecticut doing, because we like your approach.’”

Elicker said he was most-disappointed with the problems that state and local governments had in preventing COVID from killing thousands of people in the state’s nursing homes and senior housing complexes.

“I think we will be thinking for many years to come of, could we have saved lives by doing certain things differently that we should have known to do differently,” Elicker said. “It’s easy in hindsight to say we would have done some things different, but we lost a lot of people in nursing homes. I think that there are things that we could have potentially done to help protect those individuals more. These types of decisions will weigh on us for a very long time.”

Bond praised New Haven’s corps of contact tracers, who call COVID patients in attempt to list and track down people who might have been within six of the patients for more than 15 minutes, and who could be likely to be infected as well.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT