HARTFORD—While Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate held roughly steady through the holiday weekend as 113 people died of the virus and a fourth member of Gov. Ned Lamont’s staff tested positive.

During a televised news briefing from the state Capitol building, Lamont called the holiday weekend fatalities “always tragic.” His chief of staff, Paul Mounds, meanwhile, declined to name the infected staff member but said the person “works in our office as a member of our team.” Lamont said that unlike following previous infections in his office, he would not be self-quarantining at his home in Greenwich.

“We’re keeping real distance, myself and all the staff including this person who I was not in close contact with at all over the last couple of weeks. So it felt like it was not necessary,” Lamont said. 

More information on vaccination phases

Although officials are expecting to see a rise in COVID cases as a result of December holiday gatherings, the state infection rate remained stable since Thursday at 6.05%. Over the holiday weekend, the state’s net hospitalizations rose by 19 to 1,219.

“I think there will be some increase,” Lamont said. “We saw a lot of air traffic back and forth, more importantly driving around. That all seems to stir the pot.”

Josh Geballe, state chief operating officer, said it was important for residents to do their best to avoid risk for the rest of the holiday season.

“We still have a lot of community spread in Connecticut as well. We still have about 170 people a day checking into our hospitals with severe COVID,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid / ctnewsjunkie photo
During the briefing, Lamont and Geballe touted the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, which they said was going smoothly. So far, about 36,000 people in Connecticut have received their first doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Both require two doses spread several weeks apart to be effective.

The doses administered during the first wave have gone to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents. Lamont said he expects to have about two-thirds of the state’s nursing homes vaccinated by the end of this week and the rest by early January. The first phase will also include residents of assisted living facilities and emergency medical responders.

Lisa Nowak, a retired school nurse from West Hartford, was among the residents to receive the vaccine at the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Monday morning. Nowak said she will be one of the health care providers administering the vaccine to the general public once they are eligible.

“I feel that it’s a responsibility, something that I can do to help keep the health of our citizens and our friends and family so that’s why I got my vaccine today. So I can go and vaccinate you guys when they get all this all set up,” she told reporters outside the health district.

The state is still working on finalizing which groups will be eligible to get vaccinated under Phase 1b of the rollout, which officials expect to begin near the end of January. While the phase will generally apply to members of the critical workforce, a state task force is working on specific recommendations. When the state will vaccinate its incarcerated population is among the topics the group is looking at, Geballe said.