State trying to boost vaccination rates

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — A shot of COVID-19 vaccine in the arm could get you a free drink at a Connecticut restaurant near you soon.

Gov. Ned Lamont is counting on some people’s thirst to help overcome vaccine hesitancy as state officials are creatively trying to boost vaccination rates.

“We’re doing everything we can to incent people to get vaccinated now that we’re running into a little bit of lethargy, or a little bit of hesitancy,” Lamont said April 26.

Lamont announced hundreds of members of the Connecticut Restaurant Association will be offering free drinks in the second half of May to any customer who shows a vaccination card.

The participating restaurants are going to be offering one free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink. Food purchase will be required. There will be a limit of one drink per person, and drink choices will be limited in some cases.

“You come on in. You get something to eat. You get a free drink. It could be a lemonade. It could be a cool frosty. Probably not their high-priced champagne. But we’re doing everything we can to give you an incentive so that you know if you’ve been vaccinated, come on in,” Lamont said.

The Connecticut Office of Tourism will post a list of restaurants participating in the “Drinks On Us!” promotion on ctvisit.com.

Lamont said the state is going to help promote the free drink giveaway, but restaurants will absorb the costs of the drinks that are given out.

The May 19 kickoff coincides with the date that most of the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses are due to be lifted, including the prohibition on indoor bars.

LAMONT ALSO ANNOUNCED more than 50 providers of COVID-19 vaccines in Connecticut will no longer require an appointment.

The no-appointment, walk-up clinics are part of an ongoing state effort aimed at making it easier to get vaccinated. People will be able to show up and receive a vaccine shot on the spot.

For the most up-to-date list of walk-up clinics, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine/walkup.

Lamont said people also will now be told which locations are providing which brand of vaccine so consumers can choose the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.

The last of a fleet of 35 mobile vaccine vans run by Griffin Hospital will also be deployed over the next week, said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer.

The vans are part of the state strategy for reaching targeted populations and communities. The state is also making use of a mobile clinic from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Geballe said FEMA will be sending a second mobile clinic to the state on May 7.

As of Monday, more than 2.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Connecticut, and more than 1.2 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Lamont and Geballe said the lifting of the pause on J&J vaccines will also boost state vaccination efforts. Geballe reported there were approximately 136,000 doses that were stored during the temporary hold. Before then, 108,418 doses had been administered.

For the time being, the Griffin and FEMA mobile vaccine clinics will continue to use either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Geballe said.

AN ADDITIONAL 2,617 COVID-19 CASES were reported out of 76,873 test results that were received between Friday and Sunday.

There now have been 336,933 reported cases since early March 2020. That represents almost 1% of the state’s newly reported 2020 population of 3.6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 8.5 million molecular and antigen tests have been performed.

Hospitalizations dropped over the weekend. There was a net decline of 42 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 486 statewide.

There were 19 more coronavirus-related deaths reported between Friday and Sunday. There now have been 8,066 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the disease.

State health officials reported Monday there have been 3,419 COVID-19 cases in Naugatuck, 902 in Prospect and 553 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 91 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect, according to state officials.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.