Courtesy of CT-N

A week out from Election Day, Connecticut’s new COVID-19 infection rate jumped Tuesday to 4.1%. Gov. Ned Lamont said the increase was “not unexpected but still wakes you up like a cold shower.”

During a West Hartford press conference aimed at highlighting how residents could vote safely during the pandemic, Lamont said Tuesday’s rate was the highest number the state has seen since early June.

In addition to the spike in new cases, a total of 292 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized in Connecticut, an increase of 22 from Monday. Six more residents died of complications from the virus, bringing the state’s total deaths to 4,595.

“We have to be so cautious. I know everybody’s exhausted saying this and I know we’ve got a vote coming up and I know we have thousands of kids coming back from college but this is a really important month for us to get it right,” Lamont said.

The governor appeared with his public health commissioner and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill near a dropoff ballot box outside the West Hartford Town Hall. Voters dropped ballots in the box throughout the press conference.

Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford encouraged voters to cast absentee ballots but said state officials have worked hard to ensure that in-person voting is a safe option for this election.

“If you need to come to the polls on Election Day, a lot of steps have been taken to make sure that will be as safe as it can be,” she said.

Merrill said 673,811 voters have requested absentee ballots already. Close to 500,000 have returned those ballots, according to numbers from her office. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s voter rolls have reached an all-time high with 2.295 million registered voters, she said.

The increase in new voters has been driven in part by a surge in young voters between 18 and 24 years old she said. Merrill reminded residents looking to register ahead of Election Day that they had until midnight Tuesday to do so.

“For years we have been talking about apathy. I don’t think that’s what we have to worry about this year,” she said.

Lamont said some of the enthusiasm may be due to a stark contrast between the two presidential candidates on the ballot.

“Often by the last week of a campaign, the two candidates start blending into a muted shade of grey. I think you’ve got a black and white contrast and I think that’s going to bring out an awful lot of voters and I think that’s good,” he said. “Even in this pandemic, I love the fact that people know a vote matters.”