Gov. Ned Lamont talks about the importance of receiving covid-19 vaccine Tuesday at the First Cathedral church in Bloomfield. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Pauline Graham, left, and her husband Gordon Graham, of Bloomfield, wait in the observation room after receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday at the First Cathedral church in Bloomfield. Pauline said at first she was unsure of getting the vaccine, but her godmother, who got vaccinated first and hasn’t had side effects, convinced her. “I want to encourage other Black people,” Pauline said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

With COVID-19 infection rates falling and the weekly supply of vaccines about to increase by 22%, Gov. Ned Lamont told the beleaguered restaurant and catering industry Tuesday it can plan on booking larger events beginning March 19.

Lamont said his administration also expects to outline details in 10 days about the next phase of vaccine eligibility, which will broaden the availability to teachers, other essential workers and persons with medical conditions making them vulnerable to COVID-19.

It promises to be far more complicated than the initial phases, which included health care workers and nursing home patients, followed by anyone 75 or older and, more recently, 65 and older.

“Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has come out with a very clear list of those who are deemed as essential workers, which does include teachers, and they also have a pretty clear list of co-morbidities, so I think we’ll start with that as a template,” he said.

Lamont, 67, was vaccinated earlier Tuesday at a Black church in Bloomfield, an event geared to overcoming hesitancy about the new vaccines among African Americans and to underscore a desire to overcome racial disparities in the vaccines availability.

As is typical of his COVID briefings, the governor offered caution and encouragement in equal measures, noting positive trends and also warning about the unknown impact of more contagious variants recently detected in Connecticut.

The state recorded only two COVID-19 fatalities Tuesday, but the number might be off due to reporting glitches over the holiday weekend. Hospitalizations continued to fall, and the positivity rate was under 3%.

“We continue to have some of our lowest positivity rates in months,” Lamont said. “And this is a trend that is incredibly positive. It’s a trend we see throughout our region. We’re about the same as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, a little lower than New York.”

Lamont, whose oldest daughter was among the would-be brides to have weddings postponed last year, lifted the caps of restaurants and event venues from 25 to 100 persons indoors and from 50 to 200 outdoors, effective March 19. Overall attendance still cannot exceed 50% of rated capacity.

The governor said he was giving the industry a month’s notice so it could begin booking events, but he also warned that a significant spike in new cases could force changes.

“I know you want some guarantees — ‘We can have a big wedding in July.’ I can’t give you any guarantees, but right now the trends are good,” Lamont said.

Scott Dolch, the executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant, the industry was “very appreciative” of the change.

“This new timetable for reopening will give confidence to our customers and guests who need to plan months in advance for their special events,” Dolch said. “We’re thankful the governor understood that dynamic and that his administration took action. We look forward to being part of Connecticut’s post-COVID recovery in the months and years ahead.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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