In his last press briefing before Thanksgiving, Gov. Ned Lamont urged Connecticut residents Monday to limit the size of their celebrations to contain the coronavirus which continues to spread predominantly through close social gatherings.
From his home in Greenwich, Lamont announced the state’s COVID-19 numbers for the past three days. Since Friday, 109,045 Connecticut residents were tested for the virus and about 4.8% of them tested positive. Twenty-seven people were hospitalized with the virus over the weekend, bringing the statewide total of COVID-positive patients in hospitals to 875. Another 43 people died of complications from the virus since Friday.
Ahead of the holiday, the governor came prepared with county-based statistics on the likelihood that someone at a 10-person Thanksgiving gathering has the coronavirus. The chances were highest in Fairfield County, where there was a 24% someone in a 10-person group was infected, he said.
At 14%, New London County had the lowest likelihood of infection. “But don’t get overconfident there, either,” the governor said.
“I don’t say this to scare you, I say this so you understand why we’ve had a limit of 10. I say this to remind you why it’s so important you keep to your particular cohort, your immediate family, this Thanksgiving. That’ll mean you’ll have a much better chance for Christmas and Thanksgiving next year,” he said.
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said contact tracing has suggested that in-person social gatherings continue to be the biggest source of transmission for the virus.
“Those informal events with people you know and trust, you let your guard down, you don’t think you need to wear a mask, maybe [it’s] too close indoors,” Geballe said “It’s why the governor has been so clear about the risks that we have in the holiday season, where we have more of those gatherings.”
During the press briefing, Lamont also reached out to Connecticut residents asking them to volunteer their time or apply for paid positions in an effort to fill staffing shortfalls in hospitals, schools and COVID-19 testing centers.
The program, which Lamont is calling Step Up Connecticut, comes as thousands of college students return home from college for the holidays amidst climbing virus cases and as an unprecedented number of people try to get tested for COVID-19. Many residents have reported waiting hours for a test.
The governor said the current surge of the virus would likely strain the state’s supply of frontline workers. Staffing shortages in schools have forced some districts to return to remote learning while teachers quarantine. Meanwhile, the state is deploying National Guard members to assist at testing sites where there is not enough help to meet demand.
Lamont is hoping to mobilize volunteers to help fill that gap. Positions, in some cases, may offer pay. He said he was looking for hundreds “even thousands” of people to apply.
“Look, you could binge-watch Netflix for three weeks or we have some other ways you could really be of assistance, helping your entire community get through this pandemic,” he said.
The governor said people with “any health care experience at all” could help out at area hospitals where doctors and nurses are exhausted and in some cases working double shifts.
Testing sites can use the help, according to Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, CEO of Fair Haven Community Center, a federally qualified health center in New Haven. Lagarde joined the governor remotely for the press briefing. She said testing sites have been “bending under the weight of demand for testing.”
“We’re having lines that literally go around the block,” she said.
Lagarde said the Fair Haven Community Center was looking for applicants with IT skills who can learn the center’s computer software and help register people waiting in line for tests. She said they were also looking for applicants who were bilingual.
“We’re all in this together. Whether the funds come from the governor, whether they come from the feds, whether they come from donors, we will get the dollars to make this happen,” she said.