Gov. Ned Lamont declined Monday to speculate when his pandemic-related emergency authorizations should be allowed to expire, saying the COVID-19 virus may continue to present challenges for the “foreseeable future.”
The governor made the comments in response to a question during a news briefing where he announced that Connecticut’s seven-day COVID positivity rate had dropped below 2% for the first time in six months. The state also became the first in the nation to fully vaccinate 50% of its adult population.
Lamont and his chief of staff, Paul Mounds, stressed that the duration of the emergency declarations were in large part at the discretion of the legislature, which is in session for another month. The current authorization, which serves as the basis for dozens of ongoing executive orders, is set to expire on May 20.
Lamont said he expects many of the orders to continue beyond May 19, including a requirement that residents wear masks while indoors in public places. He declined to guess how much longer the orders would be necessary, but suggested it might be awhile.
“I’m not going to go there,” Lamont said. “My sense is … that there are going to be booster shots, there are going to be youth vaccinations, there are going to be flare-ups.”
Lamont pointed to the 1918 influenza pandemic. He said it took a few years until the country stopped experiencing flare-ups of that virus.
“You don’t just turn out the light and that’s the end of COVID,” he said. “So I think we’ve got to be very careful and also very agile to make sure we’re able to respond if circumstances change.”
Back in March, the legislature approved the current extension for a 30-day period over objections from Republicans. Legislative leaders have been working with members of the administration to narrow the number of ongoing emergency orders. Mounds said he expects to further reduce the scope of the emergency authority before May 19.
“We look forward to getting some final clarity from the legislature but we’ve been working with them very closely to let them know what are the important aspects to the governor and the administration,” he said.
The administration anticipates using the emergency authority to set up vaccination clinics for children between 12 and 15 years old when the Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine on that age group.
“As soon as we get the green light from the FDA, we’ll have our mass vaccination sites available and other clinics to vaccinate our 12- to 15-year-olds,” Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said.
Geballe said Connecticut’s 12- to 15-year-old population makes up around 177,000 people. Lamont, who recently signed a controversial bill removing an exemption used by some parents to avoid school vaccination requirements, said he did not plan on requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine for public school enrollment in the fall. But he did recommend vaccination.
“I think it would be a good idea with parental permission,” he said.
Although state officials have seen demand for the vaccine drop in recent weeks, Lamont said that 69% of adults in the state had now received at least their first shot. He said Connecticut also reached an important milestone in the national vaccine rollout when it became the first state to fully vaccinate 50% of its adult population.
“That’s an extraordinary achievement that allows the reopening to continue in a prudent way. It makes such a big difference,” he said. “Congratulations Connecticut.”