Credit: CTNewsJunkie file

The Department of Correction suspended visits by family and friends to all prisons due to Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate which has been over 5% all week.

“Our COVID pandemic plan establishes a 5% community positivity rate as the threshold to temporarily suspend in-person social visits,” Karen Martucci, spokesperson for the agency, said. “The daily rate has been above 5% for the past four days.

Martucci said the visits would resume as soon as possible once the positivity rate goes back down. Connecticut and the DOC have seen a slow escalation in the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

COVID map for Dec. 2, 2021

As of Thursday the state’s test positivity rate was 6.52%, which is the same as it was last year before the vaccine was widely available. An estimated 135 municipalities out of 169 were at red zone alert levels which indicates that case rates over the last two weeks were greater than 15 per 100,000 population.

The number of staff who are out of work at the prison after testing positive for COVID-19 has more than tripled in five weeks from 40 at the end of October to 142 as of Thursday, according to figures provided by the agency.

The number of inmates testing positive has also increased, but not as steeply as staff, during the same period, the data shows.

As of Thursday there were 97 symptomatic inmates and 184 asymptomatic inmates compared to late October when there were 52 symptomatic inmates and 141 asymptomatic inmates.

As of Nov. 26, 5,565 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 with 22 dying from the disease. Hundreds of staff have also tested positive. More than 5,000 inmates have been vaccinated for COVID-19 since January when the shots became available.

DOC staff have the lowest vaccination rate and highest opt-out testing rate of any state agency. As of Nov. 22, about 65% – or 3,520 – of the DOC’s 5,444 employees have been fully vaccinated. Another 24% have opted for weekly testing and 12% are non-compliant with their paperwork indicating they have tested or vaccinated.

The average vaccination rate for all state employees is 84% with 5% non-complaint and 11% opting to be tested weekly.

“Employees are still testing weekly,” Martucci said. “The overwhelming majority of employees are in compliance with the requirements of the Executive Order in terms of getting vaccinated or weekly testing. Those appearing as ‘non-compliant’ have either had issues submitting their documentation on the app or are new employees who have not been issued an ID number in order to get on the app. We are working with our workforce to correct these issues.”

A spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont said that as part of an agreement reached with several state employee unions, the state will continue to pay for weekly testing with federal COVID-19 relief funds. It had initially said it would pay for the first four weeks.