Gov. Ned Lamont touted the state’s current successful COVID-19 data, noting at his Monday, May 3 press conference that “very positive trends continue.” He pointed out a positivity rate below 2% (1.78%) and a seven-day case average below 2%, which he said was the first time that’s happened in CT in over six months.
Also hitting a new low is the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide; that total number dropped by 41 patients over the weekend to 342, which Lamont said was also the lowest number in the past six months.
Fatalities have also dropped to around 6-7 COVID-19-related deaths per day.
Lamont credited the state’s vaccination program for any progress made in COVID-19 case declines.
“We’re the first state in the country to have over half of our adults fully vaccinated. That’s an extraordinary achievement that allows the reopening to continue in a prudent way,” he said.
In all there are 1,393,894 CT residents fully vaccinated. Additionally, 69% of the population has received a first dose of the vaccine. Lamont did say that the rate of vaccinations has slowed and his administration is looking for ways to incentivize residents who haven’t yet chosen to receive the vaccine. The state received $13 million to assist in that outreach effort.
“Because that’s how we break the back of COVID,” he said. “That’s going to go out to messaging, going out to door knocking, going out to telephone calls, working with our amazing local public health departments and community support groups, making an extra effort right now to do everything we can to convince those that are maybe a little hesitant, holding off, invincible, don’t think they have to get vaccinated. This is the time to do it.”
Lamont’s COO Josh Geballe made a more direct tie between vaccinations and the metrics watched by state officials.
“[COVID-19 related fatalities] always tends to skew towards people who are older, people who have other risk factors. But more recently it’s overwhelmingly people who are unvaccinated. That’s the main, common thread at this point of people who are hospitalized and people who pass away from COVID-19, overwhelmingly, is people who are not vaccinated,” Geballe said.
While he didn’t have an exact percentage to back up his statement, he did say “overwhelmingly” meant “extremely high upper nineties…nearly 100%.”
In Wilton, well over half of the residents eligible to receive the vaccine have done so, at 61.47% of those able to be vaccinated having at least the first dose. Even better is that 100% of individuals age 65-and-above in Wilton have received at least one dose of the vaccine (as of Friday, April 28).
With the news breaking late in the day that the FDA is likely to approve vaccinations for children aged 12-15 sometime next week, the state will respond quickly.
“As soon as we get the green light from the FDA, we’ll have our mass vaccination sites available and other clinics to vaccinate our 12-15-year-olds,” Geballe said. “We can get that access set up as quickly as the FDA gives us the green light. There’s about 177,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the state of Connecticut. So once that approval comes through, if we get a good chunk of that population, that’ll move that overall state vaccination rate up a couple of percentage points.”
He added that vaccine providers have seen high demand from 16-17-year-olds for vaccines on the weekend, especially as anyone under 18 years old needs a parent’s consent.
Lamont is hopeful that more people continue to seek out vaccines, especially when it comes to achieving herd immunity.
“It’s not an on-off, it’s not like, ah, finally we’re at herd immunity and we’ve stopped COVID dead in its tracks. Fifty percent fully vaccinated makes an enormous difference; 80% makes an even bigger difference going forward. Then we have to worry about the variants. If something happens in Brazil and India, where there’s an awful lot of infections and an awful lot of room for new variants, the herd immunity could be compromised. All I know is the more people who are vaccinated, the safer we are,” Lamont said.
One area of concern expressed by Lamont is a growing mental health crisis.
“We still do have some healing to do, and a lot of that is related to mental health. There, we still do have some work to do. A lot of the calls to 2-1-1 are spiking right now, and you’re also seeing that related in some crime-related statistics as well,” he said.
That was echoed by Kim Beauregard, CEO of InterCommunity Healthcare in Hartford, which provides support services for physical health, mental health and addiction recovery. Her organization has seen an increase in psychiatric calls and substance abuse issues over the last three months.
“We really need to start focusing on people’s mental health and substance abuse issues that really have just been astronomical through this whole COVID pandemic. People are stressed, they’re tired. Many people, especially people of color have seen their friends and family die. And so many changes have happened in our work lives, our school lives with our children. And really, we cannot underestimate the toll that had has taken,” she said.
While Lamont didn’t have anything other than anecdotal examples about how the state began relaxing restrictions over the past weekend, he did say acknowledge that plans continue for more restrictions on CT businesses to be loosened by May 19.
The one exception will be the indoor mask mandate, which he said will probably be made by executive order.
“It’s a continuation of the executive order for indoor masking. And of course, the legislature is welcome to step in anytime. If they think we’re being too strict or not strict enough, they can take a look at any individual executive order and make a change, they’re in session,” he said.
Wilton Case Numbers
Over the weekend, there were seven new COVID-19 cases reported in Wilton, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic over 1,200 (actual number: 1,206). That drops the town’s two-week rolling new case average to 49 (per 100,000 people). That rate is the lowest it’s been since October 2020.
Wilton Public Schools reported one new COVID-19-positive case in Cider Mill.
In addition, Superintendent Kevin Smith reminded Wilton High School athletes and their families of the more stringent policy regarding return to play after a student is exposed to a COVID-positive case.
“While there are options to reduce quarantine to return to school after completing 10 or seven days of quarantine after having had close contact with a COVID-positive individual, athletes must adhere to a 14-day or 10-day timeline before returning to athletic participation. Please note that athletes must be cleared through the nurse’s office at Wilton High School before they return after day 10 or any day before day 14, and they must have a negative PCR test,” he wrote to the school community on Monday.