Lamont: No new COVID restrictions as CT positivity rate surges

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For the first time since mid-May, Connecticut’s COVID daily positivity rate has topped 2 percent, but Gov. Ned Lamont said he does not believe new restrictions or mandates are needed to address the rising infections.

The state reported Tuesday that 218 people tested positive for COVID-19 out of 8,055 new tests for a positivity rate of 2.71 percent, which is the highest since May 11. The seven-day positivity rate climbed to 1.54 percent, the highest since May 12.

Hospitalizations increased again Tuesday by four for a total of 54 patients statewide, the highest since a steady drop in June.

Despite the increase in the positivity rate, Lamont said: “I don’t think we need a lot of new mandates right now ... I feel like we are in a different situation. But I will watch it, if I see a steep curve, especially with hospitalizations. That’s the metric I follow.

Though he had no plans for restrictions, Lamont continued to reminded residents to get vaccinated. Lamont said there is no time for “hesitancy.”

“Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to get vaccinated,” Lamont said during an unrelated bill signing on Tuesday. “This is how you make sure the delta [variant] doesn’t have anywhere to spread.”

The rise in the positivty rate comes amid increasing concerns nationwide over the delta variant, first detected in India and now the dominant strain in Connecticut. Researchers believe it is upwards of 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant, first found in the U.K. and previously the dominant strain in the state.

But the new infections also come when the vaccine efforts in the state have slowed dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that nearly 30 percent of eligible residents are still not vaccinated.

State statistics show the weekly administration of vaccines has dropped to about 30,000 doses, which is 10 percent of the peak in mid-April.

Still, top health officials are confident Connecticut remains in a good place for now, and has been spared some of the worst flare up of infections seen in other parts of the country.

In an interview Tuesday with Hearst Connecticut Media, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Connecticut residents should feel hopeful about the state’s progress in combating COVID-19, including its successful vaccination campaign. However, he said the most transmissible version of the virus to date presents an “unusual challenge” to that progress.

If the state started to see “significant increases” in new COVID cases, and if over time that impacted especially vulnerable populations like children who are not eligible for vaccinations, “those would be circumstances where I would consider whether or not we need to take some additional mitigation measures,” Murthy said in a brief interview with Hearst Connecticut Media.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, system director for infectious diseases at Hartford HealthCare, said he believes Connecticut, unlike other parts of the country, appears to be fairing well with the current level of the virus.

“I think as a state, we are good. There does need to be some sort of national rollback, but that is never going to happen,” Wu said. “We are now at a point of common sense. … What I always tell people: outdoors you are good unless you are in a huge crowd regardless if you have been vaccinated or not, indoors you should be wearing a mask if you don’t know if everyone around you is vaccinated.”

Dr. Rick Martinello, medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health, said the recent increase in the positivity rate was “disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.”

“I think for now Connecticut is in a pretty good position, but I think we would be better off if we got more people vaccinated. I think masks still play a very important role,” Martinello said about the current level of restrictions.

The latest figures from the Yale School of Public Health and its partnership with the state Department of Public Health and Jackson Laboratories shows the delta variant was found in 63 percent of new COVID-19 samples that were genetically sequenced last week.

“I think we are going to see an increased prevalence of the COVID delta in Connecticut and throughout the United States over the next months,” Martinello said.

Should the spread of the virus remain increased throughout communities in Connecticut, Martinello said some restrictions may need to return.

“I think if we do see the continued increase presence in our community, I wouldn’t be surprised if we went back to a place where masks are required for all when they are out. And it’s a simple thing to do. I think everyone would prefer we didn’t wear masks, but they are reasonably comfortable and it’s an action that is simple enough for us to take,” Martinello said.

Staff writers Julia Bergman and Ken Dixon contributed to this story.