With the COVID-19 vaccine’s release Monday following a weekend of modestly dropping infection test rates, Gov. Ned Lamont cautioned Connecticut residents against lowering their guard.
Lamont also said during Monday’s briefing that he anticipates nearly 1 million Connecticut residents — chiefly front-line health care providers and the vulnerable elderly — will have been fully vaccinated with two doses by the end of March.
“I don’t know if we’re bending the curve,” the governor said after noting that 7,231 out of 119,015 cases processed Friday through Sunday were COVID-19-positive, a three-day rate of nearly 6.1%. “The next two weeks will tell us a lot.”
Connecticut averaged a test positivity rate of about 7% all of last week and has seen its daily rates surge — and even top 8% — since the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday.
With initial shipments of vaccine to 12 Connecticut hospitals beginning Monday, Lamont reminded residents that it will take months for those doses to significantly lower the state’s test rate.
But Connecticut residents can drive those infections totals down in the interim, he noted, by continuing to wear masks and practicing good hygiene and social distancing.
“We’ve still got to buckle up for a bit longer,” the governor said.
The administration also reported Monday that 81 more people died from the coronavirus over the weekend, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 5,444.
And the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 increased by 33 over the previous three days, bringing the statewide tally to 1,243. After surging through much of the fall, coronavirus-related hospitalizations appear to be growing at a slower rate, according to the governor, who noted Connecticut has added a net of just 43 over the past 10 days.
But while the newly released vaccines are not expected to drive down daily infection rates right away, they should reduce infections among frontline health care workers in the next few weeks, the governor said.
And while 12 major hospitals are slated to receive doses this week, vaccinations will go out next week to affiliated hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and local health districts.
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said about 70 healthcare entities either have been approved or are in the process of being approved shortly to distribute the vaccine, and the administration expects the total to reach 100 by the end of the year.
“My hunch is demand will outstrip supply for the next three or four months,” Lamont said, but by late April or May doses could become available for many in the general population.
Keith Grant, an advanced practice nurse and director of infection prevention at Hartford Hospital, who joined Lamont at Monday’s briefing, reminded residents receiving vaccinations this winter not to panic if the weather interferes with their dosing schedule.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer is recommended to be given in two doses, spaced 21 days apart. The vaccine by Moderna also is taken twice, with about a 28-day gap.
Grant said if patients need to postpone a second dose for a few days due to inclement weather, it should not weaken the vaccine’s effectiveness significantly. “You should be perfectly fine,” he said.
Grant, who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday morning, said during the 4 p.m. briefing that he had experienced no side effects other than the typical soreness caused by the injection.