Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday defended his plans to ease Covid restrictions in the state starting next week, telling CNBC he believes a decline in new infections and the distribution of vaccines support such a move.
“We have the vast majority of our population most at risk has now been vaccinated. That’s 65 and above, and the majority of the people 55 and above,” Lamont said on “Squawk on the Street.” “That’s where all the fatalities, that’s where 98% of the hospitalizations were taking place, so we feel pretty confident that March 19 is a good date that we can continue reopening.”
Half of Connecticut residents ages 55 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, including three-quarters of people in the state who are 75 years old and above, according to data made available Monday. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two shots, while Johnson & Johnson’s is a single-shot vaccine.
Connecticut has recorded 7,725 deaths associated with Covid since the pandemic began, according to the latest state data. Of those deaths, 7,555 have been people ages 50 and up, with the majority being at least 80 years old.
Lamont, a Democrat, announced last week his intentions to roll back a range of pandemic-era restrictions in Connecticut beginning March 19, including eliminating capacity limits for restaurants, hair salons and churches. A statewide mask mandate will remain in place, and Lamont is still limiting capacity for some businesses, such as 50% for movie theaters and performing arts venues.
Nonetheless, Lamont’s decision represents a significant step in the pandemic for the state, which along with New York and New Jersey was among the hardest hit during the first Covid wave last spring.
Some leaders in other states have gone further than Lamont. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week declared on Twitter that his state is “OPEN 100%” after he lifted business restrictions and a mask mandate.
Public health experts have urged Americans to not get complacent around mitigation measures, despite daily case counts falling sharply from their peak in January. Especially with the presence of emerging virus variants, they warn, easing up too significantly could lead to a surge in cases yet again.
In a CNN interview Thursday, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said rolling back all public-health guidelines right now is “inexplicable,” that the country’s new infection count is still too high.
Lamont said the goal of his move to ease capacity restrictions was to “emphasize that which works.”
“Masks work. Six feet of distancing works,” Lamont said. “The difference between 75% and 100% in a restaurant is very difficult to enforce anyway, and we thought, frankly, we have a very low infection rate right now, plenty of capacity in our hospitals. This was the time to make the change.”