Gov. Ned Lamont has shifted his plan for vaccine distribution, opting to pursue an age-based phasing system rather than follow the original schedule recommended by his vaccine advisory group. His plan overhaul will also speed up the estimated schedule for vaccinating the state’s residents.

Lamont will also prioritize educators in the next group to begin receiving vaccine doses.

The governor said CT thus far has done a very good job of getting residents vaccinated compared to other states. Still in the top five, Connecticut has administered 826,125 total COVID-19 vaccine doses; of the residents eligible to receive vaccines, 70% of the state’s residents age 75-and-above, and 37% of CT residents age 65-74 have been vaccinated.

Until now, Lamont had followed his Vaccine Allocation Subcommittee‘s initial recommendations, starting with emergency responders and frontline medical personnel in December, and then nursing home residents and employees, followed by residents age 75-and-above in January, and then age 65-74 earlier this month.

The subcommittee’s next suggested cohorts to receive vaccines were frontline workers as well as residents with pre-existing medical conditions that would put them at higher health risk from COVID.

Saying he saw how complicated it was for “other states that tried to finely slice the salami,” Lamont said he preferred to “focus on the business motto, KISS–keep it simple, stupid.”

He cited complicated problems trying to sort out who was eligible and who wasn’t, and how to make the vaccine process fair. How do you define a frontline worker–are convenience store and grocery employees the same as big box or liquor store employees? How do you define high-risk medical conditions and what if someone’s condition wasn’t on the CDC’s list? Would a resident need a doctor’s note to certify they had a condition?

While Lamont’s new plan runs counter to federal and state advisory groups, he looked closer at the correlation between age and risk of death, complications and hospitalizations and decided to let age determine eligibility.

Beginning March 1, residents over the age of 55 will now be eligible to register for the vaccine. On March 22, eligibility will open for residents age 45-54; the window for residents age 35-44 opens on April 12; and general availability for age 16-and-above begins on May 3.

Separately, the state will open dedicated clinics for pre-K-12 educators and childcare workers starting in March. Lamont’s hope is to help prevent school shutdowns due to staff quarantine and “to get schools fully opened ASAP.”

“It’s important to say ‘Thank you’ to that community that’s been on the frontline taking care of our kids and making sure our kids are educated and making sure we can keep our schools open as broadly as we can,” Lamont said.

He specified that this group will not include school employees who are telecommuting or who are not in school buildings, nor will it include members of school boards.

Lamont said the new plan will help meet two goals:  “One, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can, … and compliment that with equity. We’re making a concerted effort to reach out to underserved communities,” he said.

According to CT News Junkie, there have been “deep racial disparities” in Connecticut’s vaccine distribution, “with Black residents less likely to be vaccinated than white residents in the 75 and older age category and overall.”

The website cited CT Department of Public Health data as of Feb. 3, “that showed of the more than 333,800 doses it administered, only 3.4% went to Black residents while about 5.2% went to Hispanic residents and 187,000 doses or 56% went to white residents.”

Execution of Lamont’s new vaccine distribution plan depends on product availability and weather, as well as interest from the public in getting vaccinated.

“But I think it gives you a strong idea of how we think we can get you vaccinated on a prearranged schedule and do that efficiently, and in a way that if we get more vaccinations more quickly we can ramp up,” he said.

Lamont also said Connecticut continues to see a relatively low test positivity rate, most recently at 2.58%, with 2,233 new cases reported since Friday, Feb. 19 (out of 86,401 tests). The number of hospitalized patients has dropped by 35 to 500 total statewide. There were 39 new fatalities linked to COVID-19.

How to Sign Up for a Vaccine Appointment (Once You’re Eligible)

CT Vaccine Administration Management System–VAMS (Including All Town Clinics)
Sign up online or call 877.918.2224

Yale New Haven Health
Sign up online or call 833.ASK.YNHH (275.9644)

CVS Health (Limited Locations)
Sign up online or call 800.679.9691

Walgreens (Limited Locations)
Sign up online or call 800.925.4733

Stamford Health
Sign-up online or call 203.276.7300

Hartford Healthcare
Sign-up online or call 860.827.7690

The Latest Wilton Data

Wilton’s COVID-19 case numbers also tell a good story–although the town passed the 900 total case marker over the weekend to hit 905 total cases since the start of the pandemic, only six new cases were reported as of Sunday, Feb. 21. Wilton’s test positivity rate was also low, at 1.97%.

Following the state’s indicators for a community’s risk for virus transmission, Wilton’s latest figures show the town heading into lower-risk categories. According to GOOD Morning Wilton’s data coverage*, Wilton’s current 14-day rolling daily average is at 14.44 cases per 100,000 people–a significant drop from 50.35 cases/100,000 on Feb. 3.

As for the CDC’s new metric that it uses for recommending school learning models– tracking the 7-day case total per 100,000 people, Wilton is now at 82 total cases/100,000; the most recent high-point was 437 total cases/100,000 on Jan. 27.

This latest figure as of Feb. 22 categorizes Wilton in the “Orange–substantial transmission” risk category.

* GOOD Morning Wilton’s data reflects the most current numbers; state calculations typically lag by up to two weeks, as CT risk maps are published on Thursdays.