Daily coronavirus updates: As Connecticut prepares to lift COVID-19 restrictions and expand vaccine eligibility, hospitalizations drop

Eliza Fawcett, Hartford Courant
·3 min read

The day before Connecticut significantly rolls back COVID-19 restrictions, the state’s coronavirus metrics continued to hold steady, highlighted by a notable single-day decline in hospitalizations.

There are currently 384 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, a decrease of 18 individuals since Wednesday — one of the largest single-day decreases in the past two weeks. Since Wednesday, an additional 15 people died of COVID-19 in the state.

In the year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut, 7,822 residents have died from the virus.

Connecticut Thursday also reported 1,156 COVID-19 cases out of 41,904 tests administered Thursday, for a 2.76% daily test positivity rate. The daily positivity rate, which spiked to a 5% rate Tuesday, has declined since then, remaining under 3% for the rest of the week.

Lamont said that Thursday’s metrics showed “relative stability” that “gives us some confidence.”

COVID-19 restrictions to be rolled back Friday

A wide range of COVID-19 restrictions will ease across Connecticut Friday, as restaurants, retail stores, houses of worship and other establishments open at 100% capacity. Sports practice and tournaments will also be permitted to resume.

Still, some restrictions will remain in place, including the state’s mask mandate, social distancing rules and cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Restaurants will still have an 11 p.m. curfew for on-site dining, an eight-person table capacity limit and patrons are still required to order food with alcohol.

“Tomorrow is a big day,” Lamont said. “Keep your caution, pop your head in, make sure that restaurant is maintaining their protocols so you feel comfortable going back indoors.”

Dr. Albert Ko, a Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist who joined Lamont’s Thursday press briefing, emphasized that cautiously reopening the state — and continuing to follow safety protocols, including wearing face masks and avoiding large gatherings — would be critical to avoiding a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“I wouldn’t call it a gamble, but there’s a risk involved,” he said.

COVID-19 variants, including the B117 variant, which is more transmissible than other variants, are a cause for concern, Ko said. But he added that Connecticut is making “really important progress” on vaccinating its population, which should help keep the state ahead of the spread of deadly variants.

As of Thursday, 62% of Connecticut residents aged 55 and older have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 78% of residents aged 75 and older, 74% of residents aged 65 to 74 and 46% of residents aged 55 to 64. Overall, about a third of all adults at least 16 years old have received a first dose of the vaccine.

Lamont said he was prepared to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions if absolutely necessary after Friday — but did not expect that the state would reach that point.

“If this variant ends up catching on fire or if people come back from Miami and they bring an infectious strain with them, we’ll do what it takes to put public health first,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Vaccine eligibility expands to ages 45+ Friday

As vaccine eligibility expands to residents aged 45 and older Friday, Lamont said that pharmacies and health centers were ready to handle a wave of appointments.

During the last expansion of eligibility, the state added additional bandwidth and increased capacity in call centers to handle a surge in vaccine appointments, he added. But residents should still expect that their appointments may be scheduled for two or three weeks away.

“At the beginning of every age cohort, as they come on, there tends to be a rush, and that’s why I always urge patience and I particularly urge patience for those who perhaps don’t have the same level of risk for other people,” he said.

On April 5, vaccine appointments will open to all residents at least 16 years old — and Lamont emphasized that there will be “plenty of vaccines for everybody” in less than a month.

Eliza Fawcett can be reached at elfawcett@courant.com.

Eliza Fawcett can be reached at elfawcett@courant.com.