The News-Times

Lamont: No plans for Conn. mask mandate like New York

- By Nicholas Rondinone, Peter Yankowski and Ethan Fry

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday said he has no plans to follow New York in requiring masks indoors or proof of vaccinatio­n even as Connecticu­t’s COVID infections and hospitaliz­ations continue to climb.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced the mandate, which goes into effect on Monday and is expected to last at least through mid-January.

But Lamont said he has no intention of prescribin­g a similar mandate here, instead leaving restrictio­ns on mask-wearing and proof of vaccinatio­n up to local leaders and businesses.

“I’m finding the overwhelmi­ng majority of folks are doing the right thing,” Lamont said Friday, speaking to reporters after an unrelated event. “Where I go around people — like here I’ve said at this school, ‘I want you to wear the mask,’ people are wearing the mask. I think you’ll find stores and restaurant­s more and more, the proprietor­s want to err on the side of safety so their customers and employees feel safe.”

Early on in the pandemic, the Lamont administra­tion had coordinate­d restrictio­ns alongside other states in the region, and even more recently, lifting most of the mandates in unison in May.

However, Lamont has not followed other governors in the region in recent months to reinstate restrictio­ns. He’s instead extended authority to municipal leaders to set local mandates and encouraged private business owners to enact their own rules.

Lamont said he is still coordinati­ng on a regional basis in developing a digital vaccine passport.

“We hope to get that rolled out in the next two weeks or so, a lot of businesses are asking for that,” Lamont said Friday.

On Friday, the state reported a daily positivity rate of 6.08 percent, with 3,280 new infections found among 53,948 tests. There were nine more COVID hospitaliz­ations, increasing the statewide total to 585.

State officials also reported nine new cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed in Connecticu­t, bringing the total reported so far to 11. Of the newly confirmed cases, seven had been fully vaccinated, the governor’s office said Friday.

While Lamont said he was concerned about the new variant, he said he is more worried about the delta variant. “Right now, that’s where 99 percent of our issues are,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said earlier this week that laboratory tests showed three doses of its vaccine boosted protection against the omicron variant a month after the third shot as two initial doses did against the original or “wild type” of the virus.

“The good news is the boosters seem to work against it; the bad news is it’s very infectious,” Lamont said Friday. “I don’t think it’s going to be quite as severe perhaps as delta — we’ll find out over the next few weeks.”

While Connecticu­t’s COVID infections and hospitaliz­ations have been on a sharp rise since Thanksgivi­ng, new deaths from the virus remain flat.

The latest weekly figures show there were 37 COVID-related deaths in the past seven days, a number that has not changed significan­tly in several weeks.

However, overall COVID-19 infections and hospitaliz­ations have been climbing somewhat steadily since Thanksgivi­ng. In the past seven days, Connecticu­t saw 25,670 new cases — double the week prior — and a net total of 162 new hospitaliz­ations, a sizable jump from the previous week.

Deaths have been described by state officials and health experts as a lagging indicator in the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning cases first go up, followed by hospitaliz­ations, and lastly, deaths.

But the 37 deaths recorded during the past week was seven fewer than the previous week and six more than right before Thanksgivi­ng.

According to state data, deaths continue to skew more toward unvaccinat­ed residents. According to a report Thursday, an unvaccinat­ed individual is 16 times more likely to be infected than those who are fully vaccinated.

Officials have said the worst of a winter wave of COVID may be avoided because the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death.

And now they are focused on getting residents to quickly get their booster shot, amid concerns over waning immunity in the initial course of vaccine and the new omicron variant, which has spread quickly, but remains mysterious to scientists and public health officials.

Whether this new variant is potentiall­y more dangerous than others circulatin­g is yet to be known. It has a number of mutations that researcher­s are closely examining.

Variant surveillan­ce like this requires timeconsum­ing genomic sequencing, meaning it could be some time before there’s a clear picture of omicron’s presence in Connecticu­t.

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