While Gov. Ned Lamont and other officials have expressed optimism that the state has turned the corner on the pandemic, they admit challenges remain to reach the “pockets” of Connecticut where COVID vaccinations are still lagging behind.
Chief among them are two of the state’s largest cities — Hartford and Bridgeport — where only around 30 percent of their residents are fully vaccinated, according to the latest data released Thursday.
Mansfield, a town of about 25,000 outside of Hartford, has the lowest full-vaccination coverage of any municipality in the state, at less than 29 percent. Similar low vaccination rates are reported in Sterling (31 percent) and North Canaan (under 32 percent). Waterbury, a city of some 107,000 residents, reports around 33 percent are fully vaccinated.
While other communities, particularly around the lower Connecticut River, are nearing or have exceeded 70 percent of residents fully vaccinated
In Lyme, more than 71 percent of the 2,300 residents are now fully vaccinated.
The contrast is striking. The data means that in a line of five people at a store in Lyme, there’s a good chance four people would be fully vaccinated. In Mansfield, chances are only one person would be fully vaccinated.
In New Haven, Connecticut’s second largest city at more than 130,000, about 40 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Danbury reports a little more than 42 percent of its roughly 85,000 residents are fully vaccinated.
Coronavirus in Connecticut
In Stamford, where the city partnered with Stamford Hospital to vaccinate residents, around 51 percent of the city’s nearly 130,000 residents are fully vaccinated. In Greenwich, the number is about 53 percent.
Across the state, nearly 53 percent of Connecticut residents have been fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while about 63 percent have received at least one shot.
About 40 percent of residents nationwide are considered fully vaccinated as of Friday, the CDC data shows, while 50 percent of the country has received at least one dose.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
There were 204 new COVID cases reported statewide on Friday with a daily positivity rate reaching 0.76 percent. Hospitalizations for the virus decreased by 13 overall, bringing the statewide total to 110. Eight more fatalities were also recorded, increasing the official death toll to 8,238.
The COVID metrics have been steadily falling heading into the Memorial Day weekend when many Connecticut communities are planning to hold in-person parades and events.
State leaders and public health advisors on Thursday pledged to continue efforts to get shots into arms, particularly in the communities where vaccination rates remain low.
Lamont said the effort is important given the potential for the virus to spread more easily in the fall and winter months, particularly with new variants of the virus circulating.
Dr. Albert Ko, a Yale epidemiologist who co-chaired Lamont’s reopening committee last spring, said herd immunity against the virus is still a “theoretical concept.”
“We may have pockets here in Connecticut where … vaccine coverage rates are lower,” he said during Lamont’s COVID press briefing on Thursday. “That’s why when we go back into the fall or winter, transmission may occur.”
Instead of trying to reach herd immunity, Ko said the state should focus on getting “good coverage” for all segments of the population.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration under the Trump administration, said the country is reaching a point where COVID-19 restrictions are made by policymakers.
During Lamont’s COVID press briefing on Thursday, Gottlieb said people now need to make personal decisions on how to protect themselves.
“I think there’s going to be situations where people even who don’t feel that they’re at risk still put on a mask because it’s etiquette in certain settings,” Gottlieb said.
Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said the state’s biggest focus “is getting everybody vaccinated.”
“We’re going to keep going and we’re not going to give up until everyone has their questions answered, everyone has the information that they need, everyone knows when and where they can get a vaccine,” she said.