On Thursday Gov Lamont gave a press briefing from home as he was quarantining after a member of his security detail tested positive for Covid 19.
He said the daily summary of numbers was “disturbing,” and represented a continuing a trend.
He said Thursday’s positivity rate was 6.5% since the previous day, or 5.8% over the past seven days.
“What that tells you is we’re continuing to creep up,” he said. “It’s based upon 36,000 tests. Obviously we’re testing a lot more than we have before. I know there are lines for people to get tested.”
Lamont said hospitalizations were up 24 from the previous day.
Also, there were 21 fatalities in the past day.
The state has increased its testing sites from 200 to 260 in the past couple weeks to make it easier for residents to get tested.
Lamont said the state is doing 20 times more testing than just a few months ago.
“A few months ago we had to go out and convince people to get tested,” he said.
Jose Geballe, the Governor’s COO, said lanes are being added, sites are starting to stay open on weekends, and staff are being hired to expand capacity.
In the meantime the state has deployed 50 members of the National Guard to help where there are staffing shortages.
Lamont noted most of the towns in the state were code red, or 15+ cases per 100,000.
“Whatever we do on a statewide basis is much more effective than doing it on a municipal basis,” he said. “And by the same token, what we do on a regional basis with our neighboring states that are getting as red as Connecticut, is much more effective than what we do by ourselves for the state of Connecticut.”
In response he said the priority is working on a regional basis, and that he is coordinating with Governors to set priorities.
“Thanksgiving will kick over the hornet’s nest because we have thousands of college kids coming back home – from some much higher infection areas than CT, NY and MA,” Lamont said.
“We have put in place very strict testing protocols and quarantine rules for all those kids coming back to Connecticut,” he added. “And by the same token, all the kids leaving Connecticut and going back home will have similar testing protocols.”
Lamont said CT had reached out to universities around the country to ask them to follow suit.
High schools are increasingly going hybrid, he said, but a majority of K-8 students still attend school in person in Connecticut.
All the governors in the region agreed there was no substitute for in person learning, as long as it can be done safely.
“There is no substitute for in person learning educationally. There is no substitute for it in terms of mental health, and no substitute for it in terms of public health,” the governor said. “We still believe being masked in a third grade classroom is much safer than being out there in the broader community.”
The Governor pointed out that many infections had been related to sports.
There have been 17 school closures due to high school sports teams, including 29 outbreaks attributed to sports teams.
Lamont said he saluted the CIAC decision to postpone all high school winter sports until January 19.
“We’ve just seen too many infections in and around those winter sports,” he said. “We have to err on the side of public health. This is the best way we can keep your schools open a little bit longer.”
Club and other team sports must pause all activities, effective Nov 23, until January 19.
Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, confirmed that the high school pause on sports will apply to high school rec leagues and private sports teams. He said more particular guidance will be posted on the Dept of Economic and Community Development’s website shortly.
Lamont explained the reason the pause does not apply to professional teams or college sports is because they can operate within a bubble.
For example, UConn basketball team members are eating, taking classes and doing sports together, unlike high school where students who go back to school the start of the next day.
He said the governors agreed that November was also complicated because of retail, Black Friday, and the lead up to the holidays.
Lamont said the governors believe retail could be done safely, with 50% max capacity, 6 foot spacing and mandatory masks.
As for Black Friday and the holiday surge, he said people should plan ahead, anticipate waiting in lines, taking advantage of curbside pickup and flexible hours, and segregating special times for seniors to shop. He said stores should consider additional staff and security.
As for Thanksgiving, Lamont said it is important for senior to stay close to home.
“You love grandma and grandpa, but this may not be the ideal Thanksgiving for them to come home, especially if you have young kids. I’m afraid we’re going to have to be strict on our nursing homes. Most of our nursing homes do now have an infection – not an outbreak, but an infection. Do not go visit now.”
Michelle Seagull, Commissioner for CT Dept of Consumer Protection, said the vast majority of businesses are doing the right thing, and following executive orders.
However, she said her department has the immediate ability to suspend a liquor permit if they recognize a significant violation.
Seagull said she was aware that people are concerned about taking calls from contact tracers and offered tips to determine if someone is legitimate.
“If they are a real contract tracer, they are not going to ask you for money, for bank account or social security number, or about your immigration status,” Seagull said.
Mayor of Bristol Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said since September, her city has had 342 students miss school because of exposures related to club and youth sports activities.
“We are definitely seeing an impact, as well as bar and restaurant use, family gatherings, bridal parties, and weddings are leading indicators through contact tracing,” Zoppo-Sassu said.
“We need people to take this Thanksgiving off, and follow the rules,” Gebelle said. “This is such an important time for our state to bend this curve, and get these numbers back under control. Otherwise, we’ll be faced with increasingly difficult choices about how we manage this pandemic going forward.”
“We really need the federal government to step up,” Lamont said. “This country could be plunging into a deep recession that really impacts small business, really impacts families, really impacts unemployment – not to mention our state budget, which takes care of a lot of people in need.”
“That said, we’re in a relatively better position than a lot of our peers because we do have a rainy day fund,” Lamont added. “So, if it takes Washington a couple months to get their act together, damn it, we’re prepared to step up and do what we need to do out of the rainy day fund, in terms of testing and track & trace, so we can continue to keep our people safe. But I can’t bail out every business. I need help from the Feds on that.”