Gov. Ned Lamont put members of the media from CT on notice — Monday’s news conference (May 24) might have been one of the last of his twice-weekly COVID summaries, thanks to case numbers falling so low.

The state’s positivity rate of 0.9% over the weekend fell below 1.0% for the third time in a row, something Lamont said hasn’t happened since September. The CT Department of Public Health reported that 127 people are hospitalized with COVID statewide — also the lowest that data point has dropped to in eight months — and only seven fatalities occurred in the last three days, “a number continuing to trend in the right direction,” he added.

The governor credited the state’s vaccination rates (for first doses), starting with the two oldest groups that he said have both hit herd immunity.

  • 65 years and older: 93% vaccinated
  • 55-64-years-old: 82% vaccinated
  • 45-54-years-old: 70% vaccinated
  • 35-44-years-old: 65% vaccinated
  • 25-34-years-old: 55% vaccinated
  • 18-24-years-old: 50% vaccinated
  • 16-18-years-old: 56% vaccinated
  • 12-15-years-old: 27% vaccinated

Overall, 49.1% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, and 58.1% of CT residents have received at least a first dose.

Lamont said the 12-15 year age group’s vaccination rate was “pretty good over a short period of time” since the age group has become eligible to receive the vaccine.

He pointed out the anomaly that more 16-18-year-olds are getting vaccinated than 18-24- and 25-34-year-olds, although Lamont said the numbers do continue to rise. He suggested the overall increase in rates was due to incentives being offered around the state, such as the “Drinks on Us” program, and President Biden’s declaration that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks, even indoors.

[Editor’s Note: A breaking news alert on Tuesday morning (May 25) stated that Moderna reports its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 12-17.]

Wilton’s Vaccine rates as of May 19

Wilton’s own top elected official, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, was just as thrilled with the town’s progress on COVID-19 stats, calling them “great.” Over the last week, the total number of cases (since the pandemic’s start) actually dropped (signaling reporting corrections) and now rests at 1,224 overall.

No new cases were reported to the Wilton Health Department between May 17-24.

COVID-19 vaccine rates are also high in Wilton:

  • Total number of residents who have received the first dose: 68.27%
  • Total number of residents who are fully vaccinated: 56.88%

By age group, Wilton’s vaccination rates (at least one dose) are:

  • 15 — 44-years-old: 79.2%
  • 45-64-years-old: 81.17%
  • 65 years-and-older: 100%

Boosters by Fall? Other Statewide Next Steps 

Acting Commissioner of the CT DPH Dr. Deirdre Gifford said that at least for some populations, booster shots may be recommended, although she said there are no details on who would need boosters or along what timeline.

The state may begin winding down its mass vaccination sites. “We’ve reached a high level of our population having received their first doses. But we still have plenty of places where people can get vaccinated,” she said, listing pharmacies with “plentiful and numerous walk-in appointments available.”

Gifford’s said the DPH is working with the state’s major health care systems to make more vaccines available in private physician offices and other offices. “We’re still working on logistics with our federal partners there, but we will continue to make sure that there are plenty of places where people can get vaccinated, even when the mass vaccination sites are closed down.”

Officials added that many testing sites will likely also scale down as the need decreases.

Gifford commented about reports of some teens and young adults who received the COVID vaccine and later experienced heart problems, after the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an advisory a week ago asking providers to report any such incidents. She called the occurrence “rare” and “mild.”

“We’ve had providers in Connecticut let us know about 18 cases in our state. We don’t know if these are vaccine-related or not, but we have encouraged the providers to reach out and share the information with the vaccine adverse events reporting system, which they have done,” she said.

“These have been rare. They’ve been mild and they’ve been self-limited, and we are tracking them and working with our federal partners,” she added.

All of the heart problem cases (in patients age 12-18) reported to the state involved patients who were initially hospitalized, “the vast majority for a couple of days,” Gifford said. As of Monday’s news conference only one individual remains hospitalized; the others “did fine,” she added.

Parades? Gov. Says Yes

Although many towns around the state, including Wilton, have canceled plans for Memorial Day parades, the governor said he thinks the outdoor celebrations would be OK, with precautions.

“It’s up to the local community, I’m looking forward to a few Memorial Day parades. I know a lot are scheduled. Obviously, it’s outside. A little spacing is not bad, but I think every community can make their own call, but I’m looking forward to a few parades,” he said.

2021-22 School Year: Questions Remain 

Gifford doesn’t yet have answers on whether guidance for schools will be revised for the 2021-22 school year.

“The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said multiple times that they’re planning to re-look at guidance for the fall school year. So we’ll certainly be waiting to see what they have to say. We don’t think we’ll have vaccines for young children in time for the start of school in the fall, so we’ll have to see where things are with cases and what the new The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is to know for sure what the fall school year will look like,” she said.

She added that there are trials underway for the 12-year-old-and-under age group, but vaccines for that cohort are still further down the road.

“We understand that we will have data sometime in the fall and then following data, there’s usually an application for the modification of the emergency use authorization (EUA). So it seems like this year is a good bet that we’ll have some further information and maybe an EUA for the younger kids, but that’s still a little bit early to tell,” Gifford said.

Without that data, Gifford said the state can’t yet say whether or not children will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend public school.

“We are watching and waiting and encouraging the 12-and-older to go ahead and get vaccinated. As the governor mentioned, we’ve seen a terrific response in the 16-18-year-old age group, and a really quick start, almost 30% now for 12-15. Lots of young adults are getting vaccinated and we encourage them to do so,” she added.

Lamont said he “didn’t think” he would mandate vaccines for children, “as long as people get vaccinated.” That also includes teachers.

“Obviously 12-and-above, we want everybody vaccinated. I want all the teachers vaccinated. That will answer two-thirds of any issues going forward,” he said.

Lamont indicated he didn’t believe remote learning would still be an option for the next school year, following reports that the Westport School District has already announced there will be no remote option for 2021-22, as has New York City.

“I think it’s pretty tough to do remote learning simulcast along with in-classroom learning school by school. I think that’s asking too much. But I think you will see a more robust online offering made available statewide so that those parents who, for one reason or another, their kids can’t go to school, have that option. But we are going to encourage everybody who can get to school to get to school,” he said.