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Connecticut expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to residents age 65 to 74 Monday, as the state continued a modest—though steady—decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“Positivity staying consistent and going down a little bit,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “We’re a little more than Massachusetts and less than New York, but the trend is going down.”
Connecticut reported a 3.58% COVID-19 test positivity rate Monday, with 4,367 positive COVID-19 test results out of 122,145 tests performed. The seven day rolling COVID-19 positivity rate is 3.6%, the lowest it has been since Nov. 5.
There are currently 815 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, a decrease of 12 individuals since Friday. Monday saw the fewest number of hospitalizations since Nov. 17. Sixty-eight people died of the virus since Friday.
“Hospitalizations continue down, lowest in a few months...It’s worth noting that even fatalities are about half where they were a month ago, so the trend lines are all positive,” Lamont said.
Deaths associated with COVID-19 reached 464,470 in the U.S. on Monday, according to the Coronavirus Research Center at Johns Hopkins University. There have been 27,064,922 confirmed cases of the virus in the country.
Vaccination eligibility expands to those 65 and older
Although the state has only vaccinated 56% of residents at least 75 years old, COVID-19 vaccination appointments for the roughly 350,000 residents aged 65 to 74 will officially open on Thursday.
“You may say, ‘What’s going on, I see you only had 56% of your 75 and above vaccinated so far,’ and that’s true,” Lamont said. “But we are finding that the first 20, 30, 40, 50% are much more likely to want to get vaccinated. Now there’s a little bit more hesitancy and I want to make sure that there are no vaccines left behind and that every vaccine is a shot in the arm.”
Providers with “excess vaccines” were able to start filling available slots with those aged at least 65 on Monday, on an “ad hoc” basis, Lamont said.
Lamont, who is 67, said that he expected to receive his first dose of the vaccine in the next week or so.
Expanding vaccination eligibility to those 65 to 74 years old made “good sense,” Lamont said, given that residents in that group are likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19 hospitalization or death, or have comorbidities.
But he cautioned that residents eager to get a shot will have to contend with a limited vaccine supply. It will likely take up to four weeks to provide those 65 to 74 years old with at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Residents in the next eligibility group, which includes essential workers and those with comorbidities, should be able to make vaccine appointments in March, Lamont said.
Nursing home immunity to expire
Most of Lamont’s executive orders will roll over through April 20th, but his executive order granting immunity to nursing homes will expire March 1.
Lamont’s executive order, issued in April, shielded facilities from lawsuits except in cases of crime, fraud, malice, gross negligence or willful misconduct. The immunity measure has been among the most controversial of Lamont’s executive orders.
Lamont said that immunity for nursing homes was instituted last spring, when COVID-19 first hit, because “at that point we thought it was unfair to hold people legally accountable for a situation that was so fast-evolving.”
But now, he said, “things have stabilized.” While immunity for individual healthcare workers will continue, it will end for facilities, he added.
Lamont’s decision was hailed by some advocates and lawmakers.
“Negligence and misconduct demand accountability — our seniors deserve nothing less,” State Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford) wrote on Twitter.
“I am very pleased Governor Lamont has decided it is time to put nursing home residents and their families first,” said Nora Duncan, State Director of AARP Connecticut. “AARP Connecticut applauds the State’s successful efforts to prioritize nursing home residents in its vaccine rollout and thanks Governor Lamont for his decision to repeal civil immunity for nursing homes.”
Lamont also said he expected visitation in nursing homes to resume again soon.
Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, noted that requirements surrounding nursing home visitation are dictated on a federal level, but that the state’s declining COVID-19 infection rate and the growing number of nursing homes without a new case among staff or residents in the past two weeks, were promising.
“Many nursing homes now are able to resume controlled visitation in a safe way,” Geballe said.
UConn Storrs: 35 new positive cases of COVID-19
UConn Storrs reported 13 new on-campus cases of COVID-19 and 22 new off-campus cases. Additionally, there were four new on-campus positive students at the Stamford campus and three new positive cases among employees working on campus.
The results reflect three days of COVID-19 testing, from Friday through Sunday.
Overall, there have been 65 positive cases of COVID-19 among the Storrs residential student population this semester. Another 61 students who were symptomatic or positive for the virus have recovered and left isolation following on-campus treatment. The current COVID-19 positive test rate among Storrs residential students is 0.76%.
UConn joins telehealth project
The Community Health Association of Connecticut, a nonprofit focused on community health centers, is partnering with UConn Health to study the impact of telehealth visits on patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
UConn Health will analyze clinical, operational and financial data to study the impact of telehealth on patients at federally qualified health centers.
Robert Rioux, chief operating officer of the Community Health Association of Connecticut, noted that at the onset of the pandemic, community health centers were able to provide telehealth care to vulnerable patients through the state’s temporary reimbursement for telehealth services.
“Telehealth has also increased access—patients who have historically had to take a day off from work to see a provider or missed appointments due to transportation issues are now receiving regular care because the care is more accessible,” Rioux said in a statement.
Eliza Fawcett can be reached at email@example.com.