COVID-19 Update, Jan. 5: CT’s Vaccine Update, Wilton’s Numbers and New School Cases

Administrator Ellen Casey Receives the Vaccine

Gov. Ned Lamont began his first COVID-19 press briefing of 2021 on Monday optimistically discussing vaccines and how rapidly the state is delivering the first doses.

As of Monday, Jan. 4, hospitals and long-term care facilities in Connecticut have reported to the state that they have administered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 75,180 people. Lamont told reporters that, so far, the state has received “about 167,000 [doses].” Editor’s note:  the CDC reported that CT received 149,900 doses, of which it said 75,946 were given.

Lamont was proud of the fact that Connecticut is one of the first states in the country to administer at least the first vaccine dose to over 2% of its population, something only seven other states have been able to do.

“You can see the other States that joined us as those most likely to get north of 2% population is West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota, Maine, all of which are sort of small population states. For us, it’s a little more complicated as a very dense state with a lot of people. We have to be very thoughtful about how you roll out the vaccine, get people notified, make sure they could do it on a timely basis,” he said, adding that state officials are working closely with hospitals and pharmacy partners CVS and Walgreens on vaccine distribution.

All of the doses under this first phase of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program are being administered to healthcare workers, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In all, 85 facilities (also including hospitals) have begun giving vaccines, with retail pharmacy locations to be added later this month.

State officials are “confident” that patients and nurses (who opt-in) in 100% of the nursing homes in CT will have received their first dose by this Friday. In addition, the state has started to administer second doses for other Phase 1.a. recipients, with the end of January as the goal to complete both vaccine doses for the entire Phase 1.a. cohort.

Who Gets Vaccinated, and When

According to the state’s website, individuals who qualify for the phase currently underway (1.a.) include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and allied healthcare providers seeing patients
  • Licensed pharmacists and registered pharmacy technicians working on-site in pharmacies
  • Custodial, dietary, administrative, and support staff working in patient care settings
  • Some First Responders (police, fire, EMS who actively respond to medical 911 calls or are involved in care for COVID or suspected COVID cases.
  • School Nurses
  • Home health providers, homemaker companions, PCAs
  • Dentists, dental hygienists, and other oral health staff
  • Laboratory staff
  • Students doing clinical rotations
  • Deathcare workers entering healthcare settings, homes, or with exposure to decedents

Clinicians practicing telehealth exclusively and employees of healthcare organizations working away from patient care settings or from home are not eligible during this phase.

Lamont’s Vaccine Advisory Committee’s Allocation Subcommittee is meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to make specific recommendations (based on guidance from the CDC) for who will next begin receiving the vaccine, in Phase 1.b over the next two- to three weeks.

The governor said that this cohort will consist of “essential workers–folks who can’t telecommute, [who] have to interface with people every day.” According to the state’s website, individuals who are broadly eligible to get vaccinated under the next Phase (January-May) include:

  • Critical workforce
  • Those in other congregate settings
  • Adults over 65
  • High-risk individuals under 65

How that shakes out for specific categories between Phase 1.b. and 1.c. will hopefully be clarified after Tuesday’s allocation subcommittee meeting.

Lamont said specifics not have yet been decided about the prioritization of individuals beyond Phase 1.a., but recommendations will be made based on multiple factors, including maximizing the benefits of vaccine access, mitigating the spread of the pandemic, and mitigating health inequities.

The allocation subcommittee will also determine the process for people will be able to get vaccinated, whether through employers, municipalities, or medical providers.

Ultimately, Lamont will make the final call. A reporter asked about the ACLU accusing the governor’s administration of “flip-flopping” on prioritizing the prison system for the vaccine, and whether Lamont will include inmates in Phase 1.b. even if the allocation subcommittee doesn’t recommend doing so.

His answer was inconclusive. “So far what I’ve done is follow the lead of our public health experts–the CDC, and then we’ve got our advisory board–I’m going to follow their lead. I’m leading with public health. I think they’ve been pretty good to date.”

Another group Lamont was asked about was teachers.

“Everybody has somebody they want to put into the next group into the front of the line. Obviously, if everybody’s a priority, nobody’s a priority. But look, I can understand teachers in the classroom, they are frontline essential workers, so I can understand where that question’s coming from,” he answered.

Lamont said he’s unable to set specific benchmarks for how many people each month he’d like to see vaccinated because it’s dependent on what the state gets from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed distribution plan. He attributed reported shortages and delays to “bureaucratic snafus” at Pfizer.

“They were hoping to get a lot more vaccines distributed by the end of last year. They didn’t quite get there, but, they came a long way. We got our a dose. You’re going to see that ramp up quite a bit over the course of January,” he said, noting that he hopes first-tier healthcare and nursing home workers will receive their second dose by late January.

How fast the state can move ahead with Phase 1.b. will depend on the supply chain. “I think we’d like to see that done by, certainly at the end of spring, knock on wood,” he said, noting that he heard states will get allocations of vaccines on a weekly basis.

Lamont’s COO Josh Geballe confirmed that the state has been told to expect about 50,000 first doses per week, along with second doses, and noted that the infrastructure is in place in Connecticut to get those vaccines distributed “as quickly as they arrive.”

After that, how will vaccine distribution for the general public be handled? Lamont hopes that Phase 2 will run June through December. Again, that plan will be formulated based on recommendations that come out of Tuesday’s allocation subcommittee meeting, CDC guidance and what Lamont said was the “experiences in the other 49 states.”

One group that’s still left out of the plan entirely are those under the age of 17, because none of the approved vaccines have been approved for use with children. Lamont estimated that it’s a category that will hopefully be able to receive vaccines in “later summer/fall.”

State Case Numbers as of Jan. 3

The governor also reported that with 4,516 new COVID cases, Connecticut’s positivity rate has held relatively steady, with the Jan. 3 number coming in at 5.29%. Despite a spike of 9% on Dec. 30-31, the state’s seven-day average is 6.6%, something he pointed out makes CT the sixth lowest state in the country.

He gave credit to state residents for keeping numbers low.

“Thanks to you. Thanks for your, you’ve been erring on the side of caution and it’s tough. … So far now, more than a week since Christmas, we’ve still got relative stability,” Lamont said.

As of Sunday, Jan. 3, the number of patients hospitalized in the state is 1,111, an increase of 55 patients. Despite the increase, Lamont told reporters that there is still capacity in the state’s hospitals.

There were also 69 new deaths, with a total of 6,168 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

According to Lamont, there has not yet been any evidence of the highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus in Connecticut.

Wilton’s Case Numbers

In her nightly update to residents, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice provided a chart showing the percentage of Wilton cases by age for the current and previous seven-day periods.

Up until this week, the 45-65 year age group was the highest percentage of cases, and also exceeded the group’s relative percentage of the population, only falling below it from Dec. 29 to Jan 4.

Over the past three weeks, there’s been a marked increase in the percentage of cases for 25-44 year olds, far exceeding the group’s representation in the overall population.

Since yesterday there were six new COVID cases reported, bringing Wilton’s overall total to 614.

Wilton Public Schools Case Numbers

Back from the winter break, Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith updated the community on the number of current cases in the district. He noted that because the seven new cases emerged over the vacation, when students and staff were not in the schools, the number of individuals quarantining as a result of direct exposure to these cases is low.

Cider Mill: 2
Middlebrook: 2
Wilton High School: 2
District: 1

Updated as of Jan. 4, 2021, at 3:54 p.m.

Since the start of the pandemic, the WPS totals are:

Staff confirmed COVID positive: 25
Students confirmed COVID positive: 48
Staff members quarantined: 144
Students quarantined: 523

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