Connecticut COVID outbreaks raise concern for Lamont

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, listens during a news conference at Goodwin University Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in East Hartford, Conn. Lamont on hand to discuss the expanded Biden Child Tax Credit.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, listens during a news conference at Goodwin University Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in East Hartford, Conn. Lamont on hand to discuss the expanded Biden Child Tax Credit.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

A rash of COVID outbreaks has drawn concern from Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut’s top health official as the state continues to grapple with the spread of the delta variant.

Lamont and Dr. Deidre Gifford, head of the state Department of Public Health, issued a news release Thursday, highlighting small outbreaks of unvaccinated people that occurred last month at a summer camp, group home and private party. The incidents also involved inconsistent use of masks, DPH said.

The department offered few specifics on exactly when and where the outbreaks occurred, but used it to stress the need for people to follow precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

“As we enter the fall, with back to school, holidays, and influenza season on the horizon, the Department of Public Health is reminding everyone of the importance of taking continued precautions against the delta variant,” DPH said in the news release.

Despite Lamont voicing concerns, his office said Thursday there were no plans to modify the state’s strategy or reinstate broad restrictions.

New infections and other key metrics have remained mostly stable in recent weeks, and Lamont has voiced optimism about the curve flattening.

On Thursday, the state reported a daily positivity rate of 2.93 percent for COVID tests. Hospitalizations dropped by a net of 10 patients for a total of 354 statewide — 74 percent of them were unvaccinated, the report stated. An additional 22 deaths were reported in the past week.

Though cases have not continued to steadily climb, experts have cautioned about the possibility for a spike in infections as Connecticut heads toward fall with the delta variant still widely circulating.

Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who appeared alongside Lamont in COVID-19 briefings, told CNBC last weekend that he thought a wave of delta infections was going to hit the Northeast after Labor Day. Other experts said it is difficult to say if another surge of infections could occur in the next few weeks.

As cases started to pick up after hitting pandemic lows in June, Lamont was resistant to issue a broad reinstatement of the indoor mask mandate, eventually signing an order that allows municipal leaders to set requirements within the borders of their communities.

Lamont has avoided widespread vaccine mandates, instead issuing narrowly focused requirements, including teachers and those who work in long-term care facilities.

Despite any vaccine requirement, Connecticut has among the highest vaccination rates in the country. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 76 percent of all eligible Connecticut residents — those age 12 and older — are fully vaccinated.

“We’re really creeping up close to herd immunity, but in this race, the delta variant ... is presenting some challenges,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief medical officer for Yale New Haven Health.

Even those fully vaccinated are getting infected with the virus, and a small number are becoming seriously ill.

On Thursday, the state also reported an additional 1,258 COVID breakthrough cases, which are infections involving individuals who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. There were five additional deaths attributed to breakthrough cases in the past week.

“We are seeing some fully vaccinated patients that are being admitted,” Balcezak said.

DPH on Thursday highlighted that five Connecticut counties — Hartford, Litchfield, New Haven, New London and Windham — are designated as having high community transmission by the CDC.

The number of communities designated as “red zones” by the DPH dropped in the past week from 91 to 84, according to the state. Municipalities receiving these designations have greater than 15 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week span.