Gov. New Lamont speaks Monday to the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s annual dinner, assuring the restaurateurs, “You’re staying open.” / Photo, CTMirror.org

By Jenna Carlesso / CTMirror.org

Connecticut’s single-day COVID-19 positivity rate reached 8.3 percent Tuesday, surging from 5.8 percent a day earlier — the highest rate in nearly a year.

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

A man in his 20s in Fairfield County developed mild COVID-19 symptoms Dec. 2, according to the announcement. Two days later, an at-home test and a PCR test returned positive results. 

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

Westport still one of a few towns in “orange” zone

Westport’s transmission rate for the virus, as of Tuesday, remained in the “orange” zone, according to the state Department of Public Health — the mid-range rate.

The specific transmission rate in Westport was 10.3 cases per 100,000, the same as reported late last week.

That makes Westport of the few state communities not in the “red” zone, with the highest rate of transmission — 15 or more cases per 100,000 people.

Lamont reports surge in positivity rate, hospitalizations

“You’ve seen over the last few weeks the infection rate go up. Today … the number is 8.33 percent. 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,” the governor said.

As of Tuesday, 525 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, up from 500 a day earlier. Four hundred of them, or 76 percent, 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 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 on Tuesday did not say whether the Fairfield County man was immunized.

The Fairfield County man “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. “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,” Grubaugh said.

Lamont and state 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 vaccine 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 rising 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 governor added.

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.”

Lamont: No return to COVID mandates

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.”

Doctors: Mandates may be needed, vaccine immunity not complete

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, such as 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.”

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