Despite expressing concern about some recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Connecticut, notably at a birthday party and a summer camp, Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday that he does not foresee the state following the lead of New York City and requiring vaccination declarations for a variety of indoor activities.
Lamont said he also expects to “give a green light” to local officials to impose their own “higher standard” for masking, based on their local infection rates, rather than impose a statewide mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
“Look, we’ve got towns where less than 50% of people are vaccinated. We’ve got towns where 99% of the people are vaccinated. So I think giving some flexibility there makes a fair amount of sense and we’ll be issuing some directives on that within a day," Lamont told reporters during an event in Manchester. “They know their communities pretty well.”
Various communities around the state have already reinstated mask mandates for everyone who visits municipal buildings. Meanwhile, Lamont's order requiring indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated people in public places remains in place until at least Sept. 30 and state public health officials have strongly recommended everyone in Connecticut over age 2 now wear a mask indoors.
Lamont said his administration is, however, weighing the possibility of requiring nursing home staff to get vaccinated, calling it a “priority" for them to get the shot. In neighboring Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that his administration will begin mandating that staff in long-term care facilities receive COVID-19 vaccines to help protect some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Shortly after talking to reporters, Lamont and Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state's acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, issued a written statement about recent outbreaks in the state among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. They include a birthday party in June in an unidentified community with 50 people that began outdoors and then moved indoors. A week later, there were 10 cases among 13 unvaccinated attendees and six cases among 33 fully or partially vaccinated party-goers. Four cases led to hospitalization.
Lamont and Gifford also noted an outbreak at an unidentified summer camp where 13 out of the approximately 50 campers, ages 11-14, tested positive. No cases were identified among the roughly 20 staff members, all of whom were vaccinated. DPH said the vaccination status of the campers is unknown. Additionally, 28 Connecticut residents who've tested positive have been associated with a recent outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Of those, 26 were vaccinated and none were hospitalized.
“Vaccination remains the most important defense against illness and hospitalization from COVID-19,” according to the statement, which stressed that so-called breakthrough cases in the state remain rare and most hospitalizations and deaths in Connecticut and around the U.S. have involved unvaccinated people.
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 284.7, an increase of 188.5%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. Lamont stressed Wednesday that Connecticut still has “a very low infection rate” and while hospitalizations have mostly increased over the past six weeks, there still remains good capacity to care for people.
As of Wednesday, there were 163 hospitalizations, a decline of three from Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were 537 newly reported probable or confirmed cases.