Lamont: ‘COVID cloud’ coming as CT eclipses 100K confirmed cases
Around the state, eight more patients were hospitalized for the illness, bringing the total to 848. There were 23 more deaths recorded, increasing the statewide death toll to 4,828.
Lamont’s office announced Friday that masks are now mandatory in gyms at all times. The governor’s office also provided more details on the suspension of all youth sports activities until Jan. 19. He has also granted oversight of sports to the state Department of Economic and Community Development through an executive order.
Lamont said all team “scrimmages, competitions, camps, clinics and tournaments, including all interscholastic, ‘pick-up’ games, and other informal athletic activities,” have been suspended. He defined teams as a gathering of more than four people on the same playing surface. These rules, however, do not apply to college or professional sports.
Dr. David Banach, head of infection prevention and an associate professor of medicine at UConn Health, said the state is not experiencing the same surge of cases as the spring, but noted how rapidly hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks.
“I’m concerned about what the weeks ahead may look like with the holidays, travel and the colder weather — there are a lot of factors that could facilitate spread,” he said.
Infections continue to surge nationwide with the U.S. single-day record broken again Thursday when more than 180,000 new cases were reported. Six days earlier, the previous record had been set at more than 170,000, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
But Lamont said Connecticut is at least in a better place than the early days of the pandemic, which he likened to “drinking from a hose.”
“Nobody had the PPE — there was no stockpile in Washington D.C.,” Lamont recalled during his Thursday press conference. “There was no testing. We had to do testing out of some place in Atlanta. Oh no, then it’s gotta go to some place in California. By then, it was five days later. A lot of bad things happen in five days.”
The state is expected to soon reach 3 million tests administered with a total of 2,922,017 as of Friday afternoon.
By comparison, Connecticut surpassed the 1 million test mark in late August, some five months into the pandemic.
The “good news,” Lamont said, is the state has had time to prepare for the latest resurgence. Experts have warned this surge could be the pandemic’s most dangerous, as people congregate indoors where the virus spreads more easily.
It’s a warning underscored by history.
During the 1918 flu epidemic, the event most commonly compared to the COVID-19 pandemic, infections began in March 1918, but subsided in the warmer months. Then the disease came roaring back during a second wave in the fall, which saw the peak of illnesses and deaths.
Nearly all of Connecticut’s 3.5 million residents now live in communities that are considered “red alert” COVID zones, a metric based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people in 14 days.
Lamont has reiterated that decisions on when to switch schools to remote learning should be made at the local level. The governor said he would consider closing indoor dining at restaurants, gyms and other venues before schools, prioritizing in-person instruction for the youngest students.
Earlier this month, Lamont reintroduced restrictions on indoor dining, reducing capacity and setting a 10 p.m. curfew for all dining areas.
On Friday, the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced they had submitted their vaccine candidate to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. The process is intended to speed the release of a vaccine in weeks rather than the months normally required for approval.
A similar vaccine developed by Moderna has also shown promise with high efficacy results.
Banach pointed to the developments around vaccines as well as antibody treatments as good news. But he cautioned it’s not a time to "let our guard up.”
“In a few weeks,” he said, “we could be quite critical.”