Lamont warns of holiday gatherings as CT nears 100K COVID cases
Connecticut is on the verge of surpassing 100,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March and Gov. Ned Lamont is warning residents to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings and is suspending all youth sports activities for two months.
Connecticut has now recorded 99,381 COVID19 cases after more than 2,300 were reported Thursday with a daily positivity rate of nearly 7 percent. On Thursday, the state reported 24 deaths and 21 new hospitalizations.
With cases surging and the state’s seven-day positivity rate standing at 5.8 percent, Lamont urged residents to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving and to limit gatherings to those in your household.
“Keep it small, keep it to your family, that way next Thanksgiving can be really good,” he said.
Lamont again spoke from his Greenwich home, where he remains quarantined after his communications director, Max Reiss, tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
A member of the Connecticut State Police on Lamont’s security detail has also tested positive, the governor’s office said. Lamont said he had not been in close contact with that person.
Nearly all of Connecticut’s 3.5 million residents now live in communities that are considered “red alert” zones for the virus, a metric based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people in 14 days.
Lamont on Thursday announced all youth sports activities will be suspended until Jan. 19, following a decision this week by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to postpone the start of high school winter sports until that date.
“I know how tough that is to families ... but we’ve just seen too many infections in and around those winter sports,” Lamont said.
In Bristol, 342 students have missed school since September “because of COVID exposures related to club and youth sports activities,” Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said during Lamont’s news conference.
That comes as several Connecticut school districts have switched to full distance learning. New York City, the nation’s largest public school system, switched to full remote learning after the city’s seven-day positivity rate surpassed 3 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
Lamont, however, reiterated on Thursday that decisions on when to switch schools to remote learning should be made at the local level. The governor said he would consider closing indoor dining at restaurants, gyms and other venues before schools, prioritizing in-person instruction for the youngest students.
“If I looked at a risk continuum, I would say gyms and indoor dining is something I have to look at carefully because that’s relatively more risky than say retail,” the governor said.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have removed two documents from its website that claimed children are at a lower risk of contracting and spreading the illness.
“The body of evidence is growing that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play a role in transmission,” the agency’s website now claims.
Aside from sports, bars and restaurants, family gatherings, as well as weddings and bridal events have been leading contributors to spreading the virus, Zoppo-Sassu said.
Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, said her agency has suspended the liquor licenses of two Connecticut restaurants for violating the governor’s COVID measures.
“When somebody who has a permit from us ... is violating those rules, putting their communities at risk, we really want to be supportive of those local officials,” Seagull said Thursday.
Earlier this month, Lamont reintroduced restrictions on indoor dining, reducing capacity and setting a 10 p.m. curfew for all dining areas.
Surrounding states have announced similar measures as coronavirus infections surge in what experts believe could be the deadliest wave of the pandemic.
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the state is increasing its force of contact tracers “in anticipation of continued case growth.”
He said tracers are reaching nearly everyone who tests positive within 48 hours, and said about two-thirds have been willing to be interviewed.
The state has added 60 testing locations, and plans to add lanes to drive-thru sites as well as extending hours, Geballe added. Fifty members of the National Guard are also assisting at locations with staffing shortages, he said.
The governor also said the state is preparing to roll out a vaccine after recent news that two separate vaccine candidates have shown high levels of efficacy in clinical trials.
“Deirdre Gifford, our commissioner of public health, is working with certainly CVS and Walgreens and Stop & Shop — not to mention our hospitals, not to mention our community-based health centers. So when this vaccine is available, we’re ready to get it widely distributed,” Lamont said Thursday during a web conference call with the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association.