File photo of a COVID vaccine clinic at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut officials are eying the prevalence of the COVID-19 subvariant that fueled a surge of cases in Europe and plan to shore up the state’s testing capacity in case it causes a similar spike here, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.

Asked about the BA.2 omicron subvariant during a press conference following a state Bond Commission meeting, Lamont said he was watching the strain’s impact on the United Kingdom. 

“Britain has generally been about a month ahead of us over the last couple of years when we look at COVID spread,” Lamont said. “So we’re watching that very carefully. [Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani] and our team, making sure our schools are ready. We got the testing supplies if we find it looks like infections are spiking up.”

According to estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control, BA.2 accounted for 54.9% of cases in the United States last week. Its prevalence was higher here in New England where it made up an estimated 72.6%.

As of Thursday’s weekly COVID report from the Public Health Department, the number of patients hospitalized with the virus dropped by 10 to 88 statewide. The state infection rate has climbed modestly in recent days and stood at 3.95% on Thursday as opposed to 2.58% at the end of last month. Another 32 people died with the virus this week, according to the report.

On Tuesday, the CDC updated its recommendations to advise older residents and immunocompromised people to receive a second booster shot of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines. 

In a press release, Juthani said age had been a consistent risk factor for severe disease throughout the pandemic. During the most recent surge, residents who received booster shots were 21 times less likely to die from the virus, she said. 

“With this new recommendation, older adults are now eligible to receive a second booster dose,” Juthani said. “With an unknown trajectory of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, getting this booster is one additional way that older adults can protect themselves.”

The governor told reporters he expects to avail himself of that protection. 

“I’m going to go get my second booster pretty soon,” Lamont said.