'You can count on that': Lamont expects outdoor graduations, parades this spring

Photo of Nicholas Rondinone
A nurse prepares the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during the grand opening of the COVID-19 vaccine

A nurse prepares the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during the grand opening of the COVID-19 vaccine "super site" at Silicon Harbor in Stamford, Conn. Monday, March 15, 2021.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

With more people getting vaccinated amid universal adult access, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he expects outdoor parades and graduations will be held this spring.

Details on easing restrictions for these events, swiftly canceled last year over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, are expected in the coming weeks as the state moves to vaccinate as many college and high school students through dedicated clinics in April and May.

“I think graduation, primarily outside, everyone wearing the mask, you can count on that,” Lamont said Monday.

Lamont said the decision to allow outdoor graduations and parades will likely hold unless “something changes dramatically.” He said indoor graduations may also be possible if there is inclement weather.

“I know that’s important to a lot of you as you want to plan ahead. So plan on it,” Lamont said.

With vaccine eligibility expanded to everyone 16 and older last week, state officials expect the number of people vaccinated to increase quickly in the coming weeks. As of Monday, 45 percent of all adults age 16 and older had received at least one dose, according to the state’s data.

The majority of those people graduating from high school and college are now eligible for the vaccine, and Lamont and other state officials said the number of people vaccinated will be much higher by the end of the month.

Lamont said state officials are hopeful that 40 percent of all people age 16 to 44, who became eligible last Thursday, will receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of the week. The hope is then to reach 60 percent within the next couple of weeks, he added.

“We feel that by the end of April, we will be in a much different position, and hopefully, a more confident position for what we can expect for the future,” Lamont said.

State officials said 288,000 first doses of the vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Connecticut this week, a number that includes a substantial bump in Johnson & Johnson doses.

“Get vaccinated now. There is capacity. And that will make our decision making a little easier,” Lamont said.

Since expanding eligibility last week, Lamont’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said the process has been going smoothly.

“There’s a ton of new appointments opening up every day,” Geballe said.

In order to further drive up vaccine numbers, Connecticut this week is launching its fleet of 35 mobile clinics, run by the state Department of Public Health.

Despite warmer weather and eased restrictions on businesses and personal gatherings, Lamont said it does not appear Connecticut will see another wave of COVID-19 infections.

After an uptick that stretched into late last week, it appears new infections and hospitalizations have leveled off. Connecticut reported a 3.28 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests administered through the weekend — the lowest in about 10 days. Hospitalizations dropped a net of 15 patients to 484 statewide. A total of 19 deaths were reported through the weekend.

“I feel like it’s steady as she goes here, we’re looking for any sharp breaks,” Lamont said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Connecticut resident and former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Monday he expects a tipping point of infections this month.

“I think that you’re going to see a situation ... where you really start to see cases decline, hospitalizations decline more dramatically,” Gottlieb said, noting the increasing number of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

Connecticut continues to rank among the worst in the nation for cases per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Over a seven-day average, Connecticut saw 245 cases per 100,000 residents. Despite ranking high in cases, Connecticut remains among the lowest for deaths per capita from COVID-19.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, said Monday the United States is entering its fourth week of increased trends in cases.

“I understand that people are tired and ready for this pandemic to be over, as am I,” Walensky said during a White House COVID briefing. “Please continue to hang in there and continue to do the things we know prevent the spread of the virus.”