On Thursday Governor Lamont gave his first formal Covid-19 update since May.
“We were hoping (in May) we were in the last innings of the Covid ballgame, but Delta has thrown us a curve,” he said. “We have some extra innings to go through. But before you say, ‘Oh my God, here we go again,’ we are in so much better position as a state and as a country today than when were in that fall flare up and where we were 14 or 16 months ago.”
“This is our back to school special,” Lamont said, mentioning the new CT state Commissioner of Education, Charleen Russell Tucker.
Lamont said there were 534 new Covid cases on Thursday since the previous day.
CT’s positivity rate was 3.37%.
For perspective, a couple months ago the state was at .5%.
“We have a sense that we are able to manage the infection rate, but I’m less concerned about infections than hospitalization.”
Lamont said 344 people are hospitalized. Connecticut had just 50 people hospitalized a couple months ago, though the 344 was still far less than a year ago.
He said 23 more Connecticut residents has died from Covid in the past week, or about three a day.
“It’s a sad number, but we have just about the lowest fatalities in the country,” he said, adding that CT is faring better than much of the rest of the country.
Lamont noted that Louisiana, Alabama and Florida are highly infected.
“Sadly they have some higher hospitalizations and infections than during the worst of Covid. They have hospitals in some regions that are overwhelmed, or close to being overwhelmed. That is not happening in Connecticut.”
“We are twice as vaccinated as most of the areas you see in red. Thank you Connecticut, that makes an enormous difference.”
Lamont noted that the southeast of Connecticut are the most infected. The northwest part of the state including Salisbury is “sort of our Vermont,” he said. “It’s much easier to social distance, there’s not as many people there and they’re more likely to be vaccinated.”
To give context to the 344 people currently hospitalized, Lamont noted that at the worst of the pandemic, 2,000 people were hospitalized.
“I do expect that number to go up because it’s a lagging indicator behind the infections,” he said. “But I believe we’ll be better off than early on in the pandemic. We’ve learned our lesson, we’re best in class, that’s because we’re vaccinated.”
Lamont said 74% of the 12+ population in CT are fully vaccinated, and 83% have had at least one dose. That makes Connecticut the second highest in terms of vaccinations.
He noted that 97% of people 65+ are fully vaccinated.
Third shots (boosters) are available now for immunocomprised people.
“Very soon we’ll have booster shots for everybody, the theory being that after 8 or 9 months, the efficacy of both the Moderna and Pfizer begins to recede a little bit.”
Lamont said people should make sure they’re ready for the booster shot. People can find out when their 8-month mark comes up from the DPH website.
“The booster shots work and ward off any diminution of efficacy,” he said.
Lamont emphasized that despite some breakthrough Covid cases among the vaccinated, people are ten times more likely to suffer severe complications if they are unvaccinated.
The governor said the state has made many efforts to incentivize citizens to get the vaccine.
“We’ve done well, but we have to do better,” Lamont said, noting that he recently issued an executive order requiring all nursing home workers to get vaccinated or the nursing home will be fined.
There are religious and medical exemptions and testing opt-outs.
The governor said there will also be a vaccine mandate, effective Sept 27, for all state employees: K-12 teachers and staff and early childhood teachers and staff.
There are 300 vaccination sites all over the state for convenience.
“The vaccines work.They’re safe. Hundreds of millions have been administered,” he said. “I want CT to take the lead in terms of employees getting vaccinated.”
He listed companies that have a vaccine mandate.
“Hats off to Cigna, hospitals across the state, universities, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Uber, Delta and United Airlines.”
As for schools, Lamont noted that all students in K-12 in Connecticut will be required to wear a mask in the fall.
“In person classroom education, there’s no substitute for it….We’re not Mississippi,” he said.
Lamont explained his reasoning for vaccine mandates.
“I see what’s going on in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Alaska and Israel. I thought the more people vaccinated, the less targets there are for Delta or the next generation of variant to find a willing receptacle. Let’s face it, we tried a lot of incentives but he vaccinations weren’t going up the way it should.”
The mandate applies to both public and private schools.
Deirdre Gifford, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said that all vaccine mandates have an accommodation for medical exemption or for a “sincerely held religious belief.”
“Typically, a provider would need to document the medical reason why a person could not be vaccinated.”
Paul Mounds, chief of staff for the Governors office, said that, as an incentive, the state of CT has offered comp time to state employees for each shot they go take. That was a negotiated with the state employees union.
Lamont said about 75% of CT teachers have been vaccinated.
Josh Geballe, CT’s chief operating officer, said if a teacher or state employee refuses to be vaccinated they will not be permitted in the state facility.
“From there, the discipline will be determined through the employee contracts ad details worked out through the collective bargaining process with state employee unions. For K-12 education and early childhood, that will be determined and worked out between those employers as well,” Lamont said.
There will be no remote learning prior to the 2022-2023 school year. A reporter said she was hearing from parents that they had no choice but to home school or pay for a for-profit online school.
Lamont said districts are working individually to accommodate students who are in quarantine or immunocomprised.
Deirdre Gifford said some districts are talking about tutorial support, or synchronous or asynchronous learning.
Lamont said the state had contracted for a number of online learning modules, broken down by grade.
But, he said, “If you can, go to class. Go to school. We don’t want a dual education system out there.”
As of this moment, the vaccine mandate for state employees are set to expire Sept 30, when the Governor’s emergency authority expires.
After several questions from reporters about religious exemptions and “conscientious objectors,” Lamont said, “I would say, broadly speaking, we can talk about, ‘I refuse to wear a mask. My kid refuses to wear a mask. I want a bigger exemption so I don’t have to be vaccinated. I don’t think I have to be tested.’ – the wider you cast this net, the bigger the loophole it is, the more dangerous it is for our community, the more dangerous it is for allowing our kids to get back to school safely and allowing you to get back to work safely.”
At the close, Lamont said, “Look, I’m not eager to do this. We’re doing everything we can to keep us safe…We’ve got the masks, we’ve got the vaccines, we’ve got the capacity and we have over 80% of our adults vaccinated. Let’s build on that. That’s what gets our kids into schools safely.”