Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday he expects to make an announcement next week about vaccine eligibility for essential workers and people with pre-existing conditions, and he announced some loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on youth sports.
State officials have said they will rely on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to define essential workers and comorbidities. The latter has raised some confusion, as the CDC has two lists, one for conditions that put an individual at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and one for conditions that might put someone at increased risk.
“Obviously those with the most acute risk should be prioritized. Seems logical to me, anyway,” Lamont said, but he said he needed a few more days to determine whether both lists or just the first will be included. Lamont said he will have a definitive list of conditions Monday.
The governor announced that competitive cheerleading and dance will be allowed with precautions, spectators allowed at youth athletic events are increased to 25% capacity and 200 people, and interstate athletic competitions will be allowed as of March 1.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Board of Control voted on Thursday to allow indoor track and field dual meets starting March 1 but not wrestling.
Lamont said he is also thinking about making changes to travel restrictions.
Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, joined the beginning of Lamont’s Thursday briefing but didn’t stay for questions.
“I do need the people in the state to know what a really remarkable job Connecticut’s doing,” Slavitt said. But he said “we shouldn’t take too much comfort that we’re out of the woods because we see cases dropping.”
“Just because you can put 200 people in a room doesn’t mean you need to put 200 people in a room, so continue to exercise caution,” Slavitt said.
The latest COVID-19 case and vaccine numbers
According to data the governor’s office provided Thursday, 547 COVID-19 cases were confirmed out of 27,015 tests reported over the previous day. That’s a 2.02% positivity rate, which Slavitt called “an incredible achievement.”
Hospitalizations decreased by 16, to 568, and 20 more people died, bringing total coronavirus deaths to 7,496. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London reported it had nine COVID-19 patients on Thursday, the fewest on any day since Oct. 8, and Westerly Hospital had three.
COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents have been declining since Jan. 5, dropping from 483 that week to 30 this week, which the governor said is a reminder that vaccines work and are safe.
Ledge Light Health District has seen a similar decline in its jurisdiction, dropping from 878 cases Jan. 9 to 273 Feb. 13.
As of Thursday, 746,888 vaccine doses had been administered, including 504,129 first doses, the governor’s office reported. Vaccination rates are 68% for people over 75 and 29% for people 65-74.
Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said of the 200,000 people over age 75 who have been vaccinated, about 10% are in nursing homes.
According to a tracker from The New York Times, 14.7% of Connecticut’s population has received at least the first dose of the vaccine, the second-highest percentage in the country, after Alaska.
Geballe said Connecticut received about 59,000 first doses of the vaccine this week and has access to 72,000 for next week. In addition, he expects federally qualified health centers to get doses directly from the federal government next week or the week after through a new program, but he’s unsure how many doses that will be on top of the state’s allocation.
In regards to winter weather, Geballe said the Connecticut Department of Public Health has been tracking shipments “incredibly closely” and vaccinators have been great at working together to loan doses from site to site, to avoid appointment cancellations.
But Geballe is concerned, considering vaccine distributor McKesson has a distribution center in Louisville and Pfizer doses come from Michigan, both of which are dealing with winter weather.
He said there is no indication now of delays for next week’s vaccines, but if there are delays, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. If we don’t get doses, we don’t get doses, and we’ll have to work with providers to try to reschedule.”