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Lamont not planning further COVID-19 restrictions; asks returning college students to get tested, quarantine

Approaching a period of “great risk” as college students return to Connecticut for the Thanksgiving holiday, Gov. Ned Lamont is strongly advising students to get tested for COVID-19 before leaving their college campuses and again after arriving home. He is also urging them to quarantine for 14 days either before or after they return home.

Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and John Carney of Delaware are issuing similar guidance to college students returning to their states.

Public health officials have warned that the holidays, a time when families and friends usually gather together, sometimes in large numbers, could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases given the increased risk of transmitting the virus indoors.

Lamont acknowledged that there is no way for him to enforce the “strong declaration” being issued by himself and the other governors, who have worked throughout the pandemic to coordinate aspects of their states’ responses, and that he will have to rely on good judgement. 

Lamont reported Monday that the state’s positivity rate, which is based on a seven-day rolling average, is 5.4% — the highest it's been since late March. Since Friday, 98 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and there were another 22 fatalities associated with the disease.

In New London County, the number of confirmed cases increased by 239 over the weekend, and there was one additional probable case. Deaths remained unchanged at 120 confirmed and 35 probable. Hospitalizations have remained at 33 in New London County since Friday.

Despite the positivity rate, Lamont said he is not planning to institute a second lockdown in Connecticut or put in place new restrictions, as other states have done in recent days. On Nov. 6, tighter restrictions went into effect in the state following a weeks-long increase in cases. Lamont said he wants more time to see what effect those changes have before he considers additional restrictions.

The state’s hospitalization rate will remain a key factor as Lamont decides what level of enforcement is necessary, as will the fatality rate, he said. If those metrics worsen, he said, he would consider further restrictions at gyms, religious services and indoor dining, areas where public health data suggests COVID-19 is more likely to spread. He said data has shown that retail stores, schools and workplaces, where people are more spread out and consistently wearing masks, do not seem to be big contributors to the spread of the virus.

Also on Monday, Lamont requested that the federal government extend its authorization for the Connecticut National Guard to continue to support the state's response to the pandemic through June 30, 2021, and fully fund their efforts. Currently, the state is paying 25% of the cost of having 400 Guard members support its response on a full-time basis. At the height of the pandemic, nearly 1,000 Guard members were aiding the state.

Lamont delivered Monday’s coronavirus briefing from his home in Greenwich, where he has been quarantining since Friday night after his chief spokesman, Max Reiss, tested positive for COVID-19. Members of the governor’s inner circle are also self-quarantining.

“I’m here from my new quarantine bunker,” Lamont quipped during Monday’s briefing.

The governor said he’d been tested for COVID-19 last Thursday and on Monday and his results came back negative. To his knowledge, no other member of his staff has tested positive, he said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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