Lamont asks for patience after renewal of emergency powers

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont appealed Sept. 29 for a few more months of patience in pandemic-weary Connecticut following the renewal of his emergency COVID-19 powers.

While asking for forbearance, Lamont and his public health commissioner remained unable to predict if the coronavirus threat will persist beyond Feb. 15, 2022, when the newly extended declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies expire.

“Nobody wants us to get to total freedom more than I do, but we’re going to be cautious a little bit longer, and it has worked so far,” Lamont said during a news conference outside the state Capitol.

The Democratic governor and members of his pandemic response team met with reporters a day after the state Senate granted final legislative approval to extending the two COVID-19 emergencies to mid-February. With the legislature’s backing, the governor continues to wield sweeping authority to set rules and suspend or modify state laws, regulations and requirements through executive order.

Temporary changes to the two emergency statutes require the full legislature approve emergency declarations through March 2022, and grant a select committee of six top House and Senate leaders a veto over emergency orders.

Using a baseball analogy, Lamont said he is hoping the state outbreak is entering its final innings, but acknowledged COVID-19 might throw some curve balls that send the epidemic into extra innings.

“We’re getting back to normal, but we’re getting back to normal in a safe way that allows our businesses and schools to stay open,” he said. “I think the vast majority of the people of Connecticut believe we’re doing this right with an eye on public safety, and keeping your kids in school and you in your job.”

What is unclear is how Lamont and his administration will determine when public health conditions are safe enough to end the COVID-19 emergencies.

“It is very difficult to predict the future at this point,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, the public health commissioner, noting she had been anticipating the state’s outbreak would slow over the summer and flare up again with the onset of colder weather, but then the highly transmissible delta variant sparked a fourth pandemic wave.

“The virus has its own mind and we’ve seen what has happened over the last two months, and we have to be prepared that we will have another cycle like that through the winter,” added Juthani, a former physician of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine. “But I’m hopeful maybe we will just get away with sort of a steady, maybe a slight uptick, but not very high numbers because of the very high vaccination rates we have in the state of Connecticut.”

She said she’s anticipating COVID-19 vaccines will be authorized for children under 11 shortly, and this will push the state’s vaccination rate up even higher.

“Let me just add another metric that I look at is what is going on in other states,” Lamont said. “We could be really in good shape in Connecticut, but Maine and Pennsylvania ramping up in a big way. We’re not an island.”

STATE OFFICIALS REPORTED Wednesday there were 450 new cases of COVID-19 out of 25,302 test results received since Tuesday for a 1.78% daily positive test rate.

There have been 390,180 cases reported since March 2020, and more than 11.1 million molecular and antigen tests have been performed.

There have been 8,483 coronavirus-associated deaths, according to the most recent reported totals.

There was a net decline of nine patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 250 statewide.

There have been 3,989 cases in Naugatuck, 1,082 in Prospect and 647 in Beacon Falls since last March, according to officials.

There have been 100 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect, according to the most recent reported totals.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.