Connecticut’s COVID-19 infection rate remained elevated at 5.8% through the weekend. Officials Monday attributed the spread to the delta variant even as the first cases of the new omicron variant were identified in the state.
During a televised press conference from New Haven Union Station, Gov. Ned Lamont continued to urge residents to get vaccinated and seek out booster shots if they had completed their initial vaccination cycle more than six months ago.
“Maybe with each of these variants coming along we can’t always prevent mild illness but you gotta know that the boosters and the vaccines are keeping you out of the hospital and are keeping you out of the morgue,” Lamont said at the site of a vaccination clinic in the train station.
The ongoing push to encourage booster shot uptake comes amidst the discovery of the new omicron variant within the state. The administration announced the first confirmed case on Saturday night as an unnamed Hartford County resident in his 60s who developed mild symptoms late last month after returning home from a trip to New York City. The man and a family member who travelled with him were vaccinated against the virus, according to a press release.
Dr. Manisha Juthani, state public health commissioner, said Monday that other members of the family have developed symptoms of what is likely the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The scientific community continues to study the new strain, which includes dozens of mutations with as many as 30 on the protein spikes that affect transmissibility. It may be some time before its effects on the efficacy of vaccines and medications are completely understood.
However, Juthani continued to advocate vaccination and booster shots as the best available protections against the virus, especially as the vast majority of cases in Connecticut continue to be of the delta variant. And so far, she said that cases of the omicron variant have presented with only mild symptoms.
“That could be because these are vaccinated people who we have identified it in. Again, that’s a win for the vaccines,” she said. “We don’t know what that manifestation of the disease may be like in unvaccinated people.”
Officials said the virus continues to target mostly unvaccinated people with serious complications. Hospitalizations have been on the rise in Connecticut as the infection rate has continued to climb. On Friday, the state reported 420 COVID patients in hospital beds, 79% of whom had not been fully vaccinated.
Even if spread of the virus can not be eliminated, Juthani said she considered a few days out of commission with mild symptoms a win for the vaccination effort.
“If we convert this disease into something where you cuddle up with a blanket if you’re vaccinated and stay home for a few days then get better, that is a success of the vaccines that kept you out of the hospitals and that kept you alive and well with your family this holiday season,” she said.
During the press conference, the governor said that Connecticut’s elevated infection rate was the lowest in the region at the moment. “Big deal, the region is popping up,” he said.
But his comments came as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced sweeping expansions to COVID vaccine mandates in the city including requirements that private sector workers be vaccinated, as well as customers of indoor dining areas, gyms, and entertainment venues. The New York City mandates also extend to children as young as 5 for private venues and some extracurricular activities like sports, band, and dance.
Lamont left the New Haven press conference Monday before taking any questions. But during a weekend appearance on Face the Nation, he suggested that further mandates and restrictions would not be necessary in Connecticut despite the climbing infection rates.
“I think right now, the people of Connecticut have been through this for a year and a half. They’re doing the right thing. Like I said, they’re overwhelmingly getting vaccinated, they’re more than likely to wear a mask and do the right thing. So they don’t need me pushing,” he said.