Connecticut’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to 2.3% Thursday as Gov. Ned Lamont announced that nearly 12% of the state’s population had been vaccinated against the virus.
During a televised news briefing, the governor said the infection rate was the lowest Connecticut had seen in more than three months and a continuation of a weeks-long downward trend in the state and the rest of the region.
“That’s extraordinarily positive good news,” he said. “Let’s make sure this time it’s permanent. Let’s make sure the vaccines make it permanent.”
As of Thursday, 417,644 residents had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Another 162,788 had received both doses. About 61% of residents 75 years old or older had been vaccinated, as had around 13% of those between the ages of 65 and 74.
Thursday was the first day in which people between 65 and 74 were officially permitted to make appointments, but providers began vaccinating people in that age bracket earlier this week if they had extra doses. Lamont said some residents in the age group were also given shots during the first phase of the state’s rollout which included the residents of nursing homes.
Although he said vaccinations of the group were “ramping up quickly” he cautioned it may take several weeks to complete. On Thursday, there were still around 300,000 people in that age bracket waiting on their shots and the state receives around 69,000 doses per week.
“This is going to take a little more patience but I’d like to think the number of vaccines could ramp up in a couple weeks– and so far so good,” he said.
Lamont declined to say which groups of residents would next become eligible for vaccination. The current phase of the rollout includes an enormous swath of the population encompassing essential workers and residents with preexisting medical conditions making them especially vulnerable to the virus.
“We’re thinking about age, we’re thinking about essential workers,” the governor said of the next group.
Asked when people with developmental disabilities and their caretakers, as well as the unpaid caretakers of elderly residents might expect to get vaccinated, Lamont said they were “a priority population,” but did not provide a specific timeline.
“We’ll have to figure out how we get people prioritized in the post-65 and above age group. Obviously folks with particular health disparities, we’re going to make sure they’re prioritized as well,” he said.
One area where the state has prioritized vaccinations is residents living within congregate settings. Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the state Correction Department had made progress vaccinating both staff and inmates inside the state’s correctional facilities. He said about half of correction officers — around 1,500 — had gotten their first shot already. Meanwhile, about half the incarcerated people aged 65 and above had. Geballe said that 200 of the 204 inmates in the age group who had so far been offered the vaccine had opted to take it.
“So a 98% acceptance rate, which is really fantastic news,” he said.
For the next few months, Geballe said state officials would work to provide access to the vaccine to as many people as possible and ensure an equitable rollout. After that, he said the state would need to shift gears and try to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“This is going to pivot to a point where everyone who wants the vaccine has gotten it and now we’re trying to help drive rates even higher beyond that,” he said.