State poised to move to next vaccination phase

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — The next group of essential workers waiting for COVID-19 vaccines could start registering for vaccination appointments later this month along with people younger than age 65 with preexisting medical conditions.

Gov. Ned Lamont advised Tuesday that registrations could commence in the next 10 days to two weeks depending on the progress being made in vaccinating state residents age 65 and older.

He reported 66% of people age 75 and older have received COVID-19 vaccine shots since Jan. 18, and 23% of people age 65 to 74 have been vaccinated since the state vaccination program opened up to this age group on Feb. 11.

The 67-year-old governor received the first of two required doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine early Tuesday at a vaccination clinic at a historically Black church in Bloomfield.

Lamont also announced Tuesday that if favorable trends in the COVID-19 outbreak continue, he is planning on March 19 to raise indoor and outdoor attendance limits for private, social and recreational gatherings at commercial venues.

The cap on indoor events will increase from 25 people to 100 people, he said. The outdoor cap will double to 200 people, he said.

Lamont said he will make an announcement Thursday concerning attendance at sporting events.

ESSENTIAL WORKERS IN PHASE 1c of the state vaccination program include teachers and school staff, grocery store and restaurant employees, farm workers, remaining first responders, sanitation workers and manufacturing workers.

Lamont said he expected to make an announcement on sign-ups for vaccination appointments in 10 days to two weeks.

“There are a couple of variables there, but I think we’ll be able to lend some real clarity by the end of next week,” he said.

There are no plans to give preference to any of the eight categories of essential workers in Phase 1c; all are eligible to register for appointments at the same time.

Lamont said residents younger than age 65 with preexisting medical conditions will also be vaccinated at the same time, but he and Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, the acting public health commissioner, were unclear on what health risks will be given priority for vaccination.

Gifford and Lamont only said state officials will follow the guidance of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The allocation subcommittee of the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine advisory group initially recommended including residents with one or more of 11 medical conditions identified by the CDC. Those health risks include chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart conditions, Sickle Cell disease, pregnancy and immunocompromised conditions.

Lamont and Gifford previously said state officials planned to narrow down the CDC list. Gifford said Tuesday she anticipated that selections will substantially follow the CDC recommendations.

The remaining essential workforce in the Phase 1c pool include an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 workers. State health officials estimated there are 362,000 residents age 16 to 64 with one or more of the 11 medical conditions that the CDC identified as high risk.

NEARLY 700,000 VACCINE DOSES have been administered since the state vaccination program was launched in mid-December, starting with critical hospital workers, residents and staff of nursing homes, and emergency medical responders.

State health officials reported that 473,481 first doses of the available Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been given out, and 218,062 residents have received their second doses. The vaccines require two doses to be effective against the coronavirus.

The state is expecting to receive approximately 59,000 first doses this week from the federal government, and the state’s allotment is due to increase to 72,000 first doses next week, said Josh Geballe, chief operating officer of the Lamont administration.

He said the delivery schedule for second doses fluctuates because it depends on the timing of the first doses. The interval between first and second doses is three weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

CONDITIONS IN THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK continued to improve as the positive test rate hovered near 3% again, hospitalizations remained on a largely downward trend, and two new deaths were reported Tuesday.

There were 580 new cases of COVID-19 out of 20,485 test results received between Sunday and Monday for a positive test rate of 2.8%.

There now have been 270,822 cases since early last March, and more than 6.3 million molecular and antigen tests have been performed to date.

Hospitalizations inched closer to dropping below 600 patients for the first time since Nov. 10. There was a net decline Monday of 12 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 606 statewide.

The last time there were two coronavirus-associated deaths reported was on Oct. 20. There have now been 7,449 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the viral disease.

There were 10 more cases in Naugatuck and two more in Prospect reported Tuesday, while the number of reported cases in Beacon Falls dropped by one. There have been 2,663 cases in Naugatuck, 667 in Prospect and 425 in Beacon Falls since last March, according to state data officials have said is primary and subject to change.

The state also removed one coronavirus-associated death previously listed as a Beacon Falls resident. There have been 83 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, five in Beacon Falls and two in Prospect since last March, the state reported Tuesday.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.