With Connecticut’s COVID-19 infection rate over 8%, Gov. Ned Lamont waved off new restrictions during a radio appearance Tuesday but said his administration was coordinating with neighboring states on a vaccine passport platform.
In a morning interview with WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil, the governor said the state infection rate had risen to 8.33%, up from 5.8% on Monday.
“That’s a big increase from where we were just a month ago so it is ramping up,” Lamont said. On Nov. 8, the infection rate stood at 2.57% and 207 COVID patients were hospitalized, according to updates from the governor’s office. As of Tuesday, more than 500 patients were now hospitalized with the virus, the governor said.
Asked by Nalpathanchil if the climbing metrics had him considering reimposing public health restrictions to mitigate spread of the virus, Lamont said he believed further restrictions were not necessary.
“[F]or every mandate there’s enormous pushback as well and you create some issues. I do believe that fear is a great incentive. So we have more people getting boostered today than we had two weeks ago,” Lamont said. “Without a mandate, they’re doing the right thing.”
Lamont said vaccines and booster shots offered residents more freedom. He added that Josh Geballe, administrative services commissioner and state chief operating officer, has been coordinating with other states on a “digital health cards” platform, often called vaccine passports.
“So that people will be able to identify whether they’re vaccinated and or even boosted, make it easier for our businesses and our restaurants and our stores,” Lamont said.
The governor has long expressed interest in the idea of developing a platform for residents to provide digital proof of their vaccination status. Several states have adopted some version of the idea, including New York back in March. Late last month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told GBH News that his administration had been working with “a bunch of other states” to establish a widely-accepted QR code system for vaccine requirements.
On Tuesday, Max Reiss, Lamont’s chief spokesman, said it was important that Connecticut’s system be accepted on a regional basis.
“We want to make sure that we develop something, that if it is going to be standardized; something that if businesses want to require, we want to make sure that it’s something that will in fact be recognized across states,” Reiss said. “While we understand everyone wants to do their own thing, we want to make sure that whatever Connecticut develops, it’s something that’s accepted across states.”
Although the apps are voluntary, the idea is considered controversial among privacy advocates. Some states have adopted policies explicitly banning vaccine passports and Lamont’s discussion of the idea has prompted a privacy debate here.
However, the idea has some support in the business community, especially in industries under strain to comply with government-imposed mandates that their employees be vaccinated. In September, Chris DiPentima, president of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said a standardized vaccine passport provides a solution for businesses uncertain how to enforce those mandates.
“[B]usinesses are saying ‘Hold on a second. You’re telling me I’ve got to mandate this vaccine, how do I know which of my employees have been vaccinated?’ The passports are certainly the best way to do it. It’s the same across all industries, the same across Connecticut,” DiPentima said.
Reiss said Lamont heard those concerns.
“Businesses have said they think it could be a useful tool for those businesses who decide they want to require vaccination in order to patronize their establishment and this is the governor being receptive to that,” Reiss said.