HARTFORD,CT—State officials urged Connecticut residents Wednesday to keep their holiday gatherings small this week but were nonetheless bracing for an expected spike in COVID-19 cases following Christmas and New Years.
During a televised news briefing from the state Capitol building, Gov. Ned Lamont said the state’s virus situation had begun to stabilize after a rise in cases following Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday, the state infection rate was at 6.08% and there were 1,155 COVID-19 patients admitted at Connecticut hospitals. Both indicators have been roughly stable for much of the month. Lamont also reported the deaths of another 33 people as a result of the virus, bringing the total number of Connecticut fatalities of 5,736.
Lamont said he worried about the virus spreading as a result of social gatherings during the coming holidays. He asked residents to stay close to home and restrict their festivities to immediate family members.
“That’s my strong advice and guideline to each and every one of you. You’ve got grandma and grandpa around and you’ve always celebrated with them. Put it off this year. Show them how to use Zoom,” he said. The governor said he planned to spend the holiday with his wife, three kids and his “would-be son in law.”
But administration officials also acknowledged that many residents would likely choose not to follow those guidelines. Lamont said commercial flight information suggested that more travellers were opting to fly in and out of the region than had last month.
Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford offered some advice for residents who planned to attend gatherings with friends and family who they did not live with.
“If you are going to be joining someone outside your household for the holidays, wear a mask even when you’re indoors and keep your distance when you take the mask off. If you’re joining someone for a meal… the physical distance, opening windows, and weather-permitting to be outside, all of those things are going to help lower risk,” Gifford said.
Lamont said he hoped the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine would make future holidays safer to enjoy with more family members.
As of Wednesday, the state had administered more than 16,000 doses as part of the first phase of that rollout. So far, the doses have gone to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents. Lamont said 76 locations around the state were now vaccinating health care workers. He expected about one-third of the state’s nursing homes to be administering doses by the end of the week.
The governor said he did not see a need to impose additional restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Ahead of Thanksgiving, Lamont signed an executive order authorizing up to $10,000 in fines for businesses that refused to comply with limitations already enacted by the state. Asked Wednesday whether any business had received that fine, Lamont said he did not know of any.
During the press conference, the governor applauded residents who have chosen to take part in the “Step Up” program he announced last month aimed at assisting the critical workforce through the pandemic. Lamont said more than 1,000 residents have stepped forward to help teach in state schools and more than 400 have signed on as temporary nurses. He said many of those nurses came out of retirement to help. Another 300 residents have volunteered in non-medical capacities like assisting at COVID testing sites, he said.
Lamont ended his last press conference before the holidays by reflecting on the year.
“It’s been a heckuva year hasn’t it? We wish you all obviously the very best for Christmas and this holiday season,” he said. “And man, I’m ready for 2021.”