Boxes of face masks (Christine Stuart File Photo)

Despite a recent increase in Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he was reluctant to renew any of the pandemic-inspired public health orders he lifted in May. 

The state posted a COVID positivity rate of 2.71% Tuesday, the highest in more than two months. Although the number represents a sharp jump above recent daily infection rates, it is part of a rising trend which public health experts say is driven by the growing prevalence of the more-infectious Delta variant in Connecticut. The seven-day average now stands at 1.58%, the highest since May. 

Following a bill-signing event in Windsor, Lamont was asked whether he was considering restoring some of the pandemic restrictions he lifted when COVID-19 rates were on the decline. 

“I don’t think we need a lot of new mandates right now,” Lamont said, pointing to the state’s high vaccination rates. “I feel like we’re in a different situation but I will watch it. If I see a steep curve, especially when it comes to hospitalizations, that’s the metric I follow.”

As of Tuesday there were 54 patients hospitalized with the virus in Connecticut. A week ago, there were 35. 

Public health officials have attributed the recent climb of COVID cases in Connecticut and elsewhere to the Delta variant. The governor said its impact here has been mitigated by residents’ willingness to get vaccinated against the virus. 

“This Delta variant is twice as infectious,” Lamont said. “It doesn’t take much, it doesn’t take a passing contact sometimes to get somebody infected. Are they suffering real consequences? Not yet. In part because the overwhelming majority of people who get in contact have had vaccinations and they don’t suffer any complications.” 

In some cases there have even been complications for vaccinated residents. As of last Thursday, the Public Health Department had reported 854 breakthrough cases with 150 resulting in hospitalizations.

On Tuesday, the governor had still not yet made a decision on whether the state would require unvaccinated students to wear masks when they return for the school year in a few weeks. 

“Obviously [the Centers for Disease Control] said if you haven’t been vaccinated, wear a mask,” Lamont said Tuesday. “Whether that’s a mandate or strong guidance, we’ll figure that out pretty soon, but you’re obviously safer wearing a mask.” 

The governor said he expected to announce a decision within the next two weeks.