With a worrying 3% positivity rate in southeastern Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont advised continuing vigilance against COVID-19 on Monday, contradicting President Donald J. Trump’s upbeat tweet after undergoing cutting-edge treatment for the disease.
The president and two neighboring Democratic governors, Lamont and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, offered strikingly different views of the threat posed by a disease still raging in many parts of U.S., due in part to scattered outbreaks like the one at the White House.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump said in his tweet. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Lamont, who is trying to promote caution as Connecticut prepares to further loosen COVID restrictions on Thursday, said the president was not being helpful, even though his own struggle with the disease was a reminder the coronavirus remains a threat.
I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
“I think it’s totally inappropriate,” Lamont said of the president’s tweet. “This is the exact wrong time to relax your guard. I wish the president was not making light, especially giving the fact he, at his age, was afflicted. Thank God it was not more serious.”
Exactly how serious remains to be seen.
The president was returning to the White House on Monday after being hospitalized since Friday. He was treated with supplemental oxygen and two experimental treatments, as well as the steroid dexamethasone. The White House physician said the 74-year-old president was doing well, but still faced danger as the disease runs its course.
While the president downplayed getting COVID, Lamont made a gesture prompted by the outbreak that has infected the president, first lady, three senators, the Republican national chair and various White House aides and advisors.
The governor appeared alone at his briefing at the State Capitol. His chief of staff, Paul Mounds, and chief operating officer, Josh Geballe, participated remotely from their offices one floor down.
“It’s a little lonely up here today, as you may have noticed,” Lamont said. “The reason for that is we just want to err on the side of caution again.”
The governor has been getting COVID tests every two to three weeks, but his administration is now formalizing a testing regimen for the governor, his senior staff and state police detail, and his family.
Connecticut, which does not post results over the weekend, recorded 833 new infections among the 50,333 tests over the past three days, for a positivity rate of 1.64%. But Lamont said rate was 3% in New London County.
Despite this, Lamont said the administration intends to go forward on Thursday with the third phase of easing restrictions.
Now limited to 50% of indoor capacity, restaurants will be able to use 75%, with social distancing rules still in effect. Theaters and other performance venues can open at 50% of capacity.
Lamont noted that consumer confidence in dining and attending indoor events would not necessarily return as restrictions eased.
He was asked if he had dined indoors.
“Yup, once,” he replied. “Next to a really big window.”
COVID-19 is more likely to spread when people are indoors and in close proximity, with the danger increasing with the number of people and duration of the exposure.
“Beware the fall,” Cuomo said at his televised briefing.
Cuomo, who is fighting to contain several hotspots in a state with an overall low infection rate, threatened to limit access to ultra-orthodox Jewish synagogues if their religious leaders do not enforce restrictions against large gatherings.
“This is the last thing I want to do,” Cuomo said during a briefing that overlapped with an upbeat news conference by the president’s doctors. “It’s a difficult conversation. You’re right on the line of government intrusion on religion.”
Cuomo said New York’s positivity rate is among lowest in the U.S., but he also presented data on hotspots that is not readily available in Connecticut. While the state Department of Public Health provides running totals of COVID infections and deaths by municipality, it does not post daily positivity rates.
Both Lamont and Cuomo contrasted their state’s rates with others. Cuomo noted that even Connecticut, whose infection rate has been low, has fluctuated in recent weeks.
“And Connecticut has always been a relatively easier situation than New York,” Cuomo said. “I’m envious of my friend, Gov. Lamont.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on CCN he was “concerned and disturbed” that the baseline of new infections in the U.S. remained at about 40,000 a day.
“That’s no place to be when you’re trying to get your arms around an epidemic and get it to a very low baseline as you get into a situation where you’re going to be indoors more than outdoors,” Fauci said.