Things are–cautiously–looking up, as COVID-19 numbers go down in Wilton, and Gov. Ned Lamont announced some GOOD news Monday about proms and graduations that high school teens and their families are sure to like.

Wilton Cases Numbers

Wilton added only three COVID-19 new cases to its case total over the weekend, a count that First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice acknowledged is “much lower than recent weekend case counts.” It’s also representative of a much lower test positivity rate, at 0.81%.

Wilton’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is also trending well. As of last Thursday, April 8, the CT Department of Public Health reported 9,605 Wilton residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine. This represents 52% of all residents and 73% of Wilton residents aged 18 and up.

Another GOOD low:  Wilton Public Schools reported the lowest total case and exposure count in a long time, although admittedly that comes after a 10-day spring break. Two new COVID-19 cases were reported to school officials as of Monday, April 12, which now represent the only positive cases in the district. There are 10 students quarantining due to close contact.

Statewide Progress

At his Monday, April 12 press briefing, Gov. Ned Lamont characterized Connecticut’s status as one that’s “making progress,” with a slightly lower positivity rate (3.02%) and a decline of hospitalized patients (although still above 500, at 524.)

“That said look around the rest of the world. You can see a Europe is flaring up and locked down. India is flaring up and locked down. Brazil is flaring up in lockdown. Idaho and Michigan here, slightly closer to home, and surely Michigan locking down. So, we take nothing for granted, but I think we continue to make good progress here in our region, particularly here in the state of Connecticut, in part because of the vaccine and we’re having good progress from the vaccine,” Lamont said.

Statewide, 52% of people 16-and-above have received the first dose; Lamont was “particularly impressed” that 83% of those 65-and-above have now been vaccinated, something he pointed out was higher than expected after a reported 50% of the age group said they were vaccine-hesitant. Instead, he called the senior age group the “canary in a coal mine,” as other age groups have followed in embracing the vaccine:  71% of the 55-64-year-olds, 54% of the 45-54 age group, and 30% of residents age 16-44 have received the first dose.

“I’d like to think those numbers will continue to go up, as we move towards, really, herd immunity. It’s very important that young people continue to get vaccinated, as they’ve been doing. That’s really what’s going to protect us from what you see going on in some of these other countries and regions of the country,” Lamont said.

He added that he expects FDA permission to provide the Pfizer vaccine to teens aged 12-15 within the next four weeks.

Lamont’s only worry is about the drop in vaccines the state will receive, due to the Johnson & Johnson production problems. “We’re receiving less vaccinations this week than we did last week, it’s gone from about 288,000 last week to about 180,000 or so this week. That shortfall is really all related to Johnson & Johnson,” he said.

Editor’s note:  Tuesday morning, (April 13, 7:15 a.m.) according to a CNN breaking news alert, the CDC and FDA have recommended the U.S. pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due to reports of six U.S. cases of a “rare and severe” type of blood clot.

The New York Times reports, “All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.”

Moreover, the governor said it’s much easier to get a vaccine appointment now, with “tens of thousands of appointments opening up every day.” Residents are encouraged to visit the state vaccine website or call 877.918.2224 for possible same-day appointment availability–something Lamont predicted will eventually become the norm.

Proms and Graduations

Coinciding with much of the positive news statewide, the CT State Department of Education and CT DPH announced new guidance for school administrators for planning year-end activities for proms and graduation ceremonies (high school and college).

State officials did caution that risks for spreading the virus still remain and stressed the need for “appropriate mitigation strategies and comprehensive planning,” and that “large events with multiple interactions between individuals may make contact tracing very challenging.” They urged a “cautious approach” to planning events.

“Leadership planning these events, and all attendees, will also have to consider the potential downstream consequences of hosting or attending large events with limited control over the movement and interactions among attendees, which could include quarantining an entire class of students if a single case of COVID-19 is present at an event.”

Some recommended guidance for events includes:

  • mask-wearing by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status
  • social distancing whenever possible
  • limiting the number of people/cohorts and length of close contact
  • excluding symptomatic or quarantined individuals
  • hand sanitizer stations, signage and reminder markings

The DPH said restrictions on gathering sizes may still be in place, including capacity limits or caps for any single event.

The recommendations for schools to consider for lowering transmission risks include (and are not limited to):  location–holding events outdoors at larger outdoor venues, in open-air accommodations rather than tents with walls, and using stricter limits for indoor events (including rain-dates); timing–scheduling proms and prom-related activities later in the school year/after the school year ends to encourage more teens to be vaccinated and to limit the effect of any potential COVID-19 exposures/outbreaks on in-person learning opportunities, AP testing, or other end-of-year academic activities; and combining multiple year-end group events into one larger event; testing–incorporating testing strategies into end-of-year event planning, requiring proof of negative COVID-19 tests (e.g., within 72 hours) prior to admission for anyone not fully vaccinated; movement–restricting event participation to students currently attending the school, limiting/eliminating food and drinks and maintaining social spacing; and alternatives–one or more smaller alternative events in place of/in addition to traditional events, providing access for virtual participation, and providing alternative ceremonies without the interaction involved with a large crowd. 

Josh Geballe, the governor’s Chief Operating Officer said officials are more optimistic this year that residents will get to enjoy events that approximate something more traditional than they did last year, although events will probably be smaller, much more likely to be outdoors, a shorter duration, and fewer people indoors.

“This is just one more step, hopefully, back for as normal. But as the governor said, the message to high school students out there is, you’ve got, hopefully, a few weeks before your prom to go get vaccinated. That will definitely help reduce the risk. So please, get an appointment and go get vaccinated,” Geballe said.