HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to hover around 1% even as states as nearby as Rhode Island are seeing spikes in the number of cases.
Six more Connecticut residents died of coronavirus over the past 24 hours, and the number of people currently hospitalized increased by 13. Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s not concerned about the increase in hospitalizations because the number of patients discharged has also increased.
But there’s little Lamont can control about what’s happening in other states.
On July 28, Rhode Island experienced its highest number of new infections in two months and now health officials in the Ocean State are sounding alarms. Lamont said that although the positivity rate in Rhode Island remains below 5%, he would not hesitate to add the state to the travel advisory list.
There are currently 35 states and Washington D.C.. on the travel advisory.
While Connecticut’s overall trends remain positive, those between the ages of 10 and 19 saw the highest number of new cases in Connecticut at about 110 new cases between July 19 and 25. The second highest increase occurred in the 20 to 29 age group.
Despite these increases in the school-aged population, Lamont and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who has been advising the governor, agree that Connecticut is equipped and ready for safe in-person learning this fall.
“When can you open schools?” Emanuel said. “You have a combination of low transmission rate in your community and low test positivity rate indicating you are testing enough and not many test positive. How do you get to a low transmission rate? The exact way that Connecticut has done it.”
The state’s plan for reopening schools will allow superintendents to draft their own proposal that can involve full in-person education or a hybrid of classroom time and online learning. If districts feel that a fully online plan will be necessary, the superintendent will have to request permission from Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.
Originally, Lamont statements led towns to believe that the state would mandate what type of plan — hybrid, online or in-person — would be in place for the fall. Last week, he changed course and said superintendents have flexibility to choose what plan would work for their districts. Now, Lamont said the jurisdiction over decision-making is different when it comes to districts that want to opt for online-only education.
“I have not done anything by strict edict, but you know my feelings,” Lamont said. “If a kid has a chance to get to the classroom, I want that kid to be in the classroom. The overwhelming majority of our school districts agree. If there is a rare example with this very low infection rate where some school district does not want their kids going to school, we are going to have a very forceful discussion with the superintendent about why that is.”
Lamont said Thursday that the school reopening will be handled on a county-by-county basis. If there is an outbreak in one county, that area may transition to an online-only format while other districts could continue in-person learning.
Connecticut’s teachers expressed their fears and uncertainties about returning to school in a 500-car caravan that drove by Lamont’s residence in Hartford calling for greater safety measures in reopening.
Lamont said this protest contradicted the productive conversation he had with teachers earlier in the day.
“I was meeting with the Connecticut Education Association, probably 20 teachers around a table — we had a very productive conversation for about an hour or so, and then they had to leave to do a car rally around my residence and house,” Lamont said. “I think it’s very important for the teachers to be involved in the decision-making.”