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December 8, 2021

CT’s COVID positivity rate tops 8% as 2nd case of omicron variant is recorded

Photo | CT Mirror/CLOE POISSON Olga Clark of Hartford (right) gets instructions from a Hartford HealthCare worker before being tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up testing site.

Connecticut’s single-day positivity rate reached 8.3% on Tuesday, up from 5.8% a day earlier and the highest percentage in nearly a year.

The state also announced that it has recorded a second case of the omicron variant in Connecticut.

A man in his 20s in Fairfield County developed mild COVID-19 symptoms on Dec. 2. Two days later, an at-home test and a PCR test returned positive results. There were no apparent ties to the Anime NYC 2021 convention that a Missouri man attended before testing positive for the omicron variant, but the Fairfield County man did visit New York City the week before his symptoms began, state officials said.

The case was sequenced by the Yale School of Public Health.

“You’ve seen over the last few weeks the infection rate go up. Today … the number is 8.33%. That’s a big increase from where we were just a month ago. So it is ramping up,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday on WNPR’s Where We Live radio show. “We have over 500 folks in the hospitals now. That’s triple where we were a few weeks ago.”

As of Tuesday, 525 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 500 a day earlier. Four hundred of them, or 76%, are not fully vaccinated, state health officials said.

The first case of omicron in Connecticut was announced Saturday. A man in his 60s from Hartford County had mild symptoms on Nov. 27. An at-home test showed a positive COVID-19 result two days later and a molecular test came back positive on Dec. 1.

Officials noted that a family member of the man had traveled to New York City between Nov. 17 and 22 to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center. The family member had mild symptoms on Nov. 21 and took an at-home test two days later, with a positive result. That person’s symptoms have resolved.

The Hartford County man and his family member were both fully vaccinated. State health officials did not say whether the Fairfield man was immunized.

“The person reported recent travel to NYC (but not internationally) and the sequence clusters with other omicrons from New York and Massachusetts,” Nathan Grubaugh, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, tweeted Tuesday, referring to the Fairfield man. “This provides further evidence of domestic transmission and interstate spread.

“I think that there is more than enough evidence that omicron will compete with delta in the U.S. What that means for the pandemic is still unclear, but we shouldn’t wait around to fund out.”

Lamont and Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani have been urging residents to get vaccinated or to get a booster if more than six months have passed since their first two doses (people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster two months after their initial dose).

Demand for boosters has been up since omicron cases surfaced in the United States, Lamont said.

“Given omicron, more and more [people] are getting the booster shot,” he said on Where We Live. “When it comes to hesitancy, I think fear is a heck of a motivator. And I think that’s running across all demographics as people realize now’s not the time to play games. Now is the time to get the vaccine or get the booster.”

The Lamont administration has been firm, however, in not reviving some of the requirements that were in place throughout 2020, including an indoor mask mandate and limits on indoor and outdoor crowd sizes.

On Tuesday, he reiterated that he had no plans to resurrect those mandates.

“For every mandate, there’s enormous pushback, and you create some issues,” he said. “I do believe that fear is a great incentive. We have more people getting the booster today than we had two weeks ago without a mandate. They’re doing the right thing.”

On Monday, Lamont attended The Connecticut Restaurant Association’s annual dinner at the Foxwoods Resort Casino. In a speech to restaurant owners, he reassured them that this December’s surge, like the last one, will not close their doors.

“You’re staying open,” he said. “We’re keeping this open. We’re getting through this together. And I’m looking forward to going to each and every one of your restaurants as soon as I can.”

But some physicians have suggested it may be time to consider imposing requirements that help curb transmission.

“At the very least, have a vaccine verification requirement,” said Dr. Saad Omer, a Yale epidemiologist. “Vaccines do not completely prevent transmission, but they do reduce it.

“A lot of people are sick and tired of feeling vulnerable outside, and being able to celebrate the holidays, to go out for a movie, for example, to an indoor venue and feel safe is important.”

Dr. Keith Grant, Hartford HealthCare’s senior director of infection prevention, told The CT Mirror he may soon advocate for a revival of mandates like the indoor mask requirement.

“We all would love to live in a space where [people’s] personal responsibility leads them to an end goal that we all want. But if tomorrow Gov. Lamont made a decision that we’re going back to a mask mandate, I don’t think that would be the wrong thing,” Grant said. “I understand why the decision was made before to remove the mandate and to stick with the decision. I don’t know how far he is from changing that decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s changed very soon.”

“I think government still has a significant role to play,” he added. “Government intervention may not be … very welcome. But it worked.”

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