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COVID-19 vaccine appointments to begin next Monday for people 75 and older

Advance registration to get the COVID-19 vaccine will begin Thursday for people ages 75 and older, with vaccination appointments for this group starting Jan. 18, Gov. Ned Lamont announced in his briefing Monday.

"There won't be room for everyone on day one, so you're going to have to be patient," Lamont said, with Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe later asking for everyone's patience as well.

Medical providers will conduct outreach to existing patients who are 75 and older, and Lamont said details will be coming out in the next few days on a telephone booking system.

"It'll be very clear for folks how they can book their appointments in the coming days," Geballe said. He and Lamont cautioned that if someone calls asking for your credit card number, Social Security number, passport, or cash, it's a scam.

Lamont thinks that over the next couple weeks, Connecticut residents will see more vaccine clinics available through CVS and Walgreens, in addition to hospitals and federally qualified health centers. There are currently more than 100 vaccination sites throughout the state.

Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Health in Derby, spoke about how this will work at his hospital. Since seniors use health care services at a higher rate than the rest of the population, he thinks Griffin Hospital can contact most through its medical records – but staff aren't stopping there.

Charmel said Griffin Health is working with the local anti-poverty agency to identify vulnerable individuals, and that its focus among those over 75 is on those who are low-income, participate in Meals on Wheels, or have multiple chronic conditions.

He said Hartford HealthCare, Yale New Haven Health and Community Health Center will follow a similar model in contacting people.

Connecticut is still in Phase 1a for vaccination, which includes health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. In addition to people over 75, Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers and people in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters and correctional facilities. The Lamont administration said those groups will be phased in during the "coming weeks."

People over 75 in correctional facilities will be vaccinated when the entire facility is vaccinated, not with their age group. Geballe said it's "much more operationally efficient, as you can imagine, to not go into a correctional facility to do 5 or 10% of the population and then go in to do the rest."

The allocation subcommittee of the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group is meeting from noon-2 p.m. Tuesday to continue discussing federal recommendations on Phase 1b and 1c.

Lamont said looking forward, the state will focus on implementing mass vaccination sites and mobile vaccination units.

An example of a mass vaccination site would be Rentschler Field in East Hartford, where people could get vaccinated if they have an appointment, get a COVID-19 test, and get food.

"This is going to be a reservation-based process. This is not first-come, first-served, people camping out overnight on sidewalks," Geballe said. Lamont was also adamant about doing this "carefully" by appointment, and Charmel agreed, saying first-come, first-served vaccination would mean "we wouldn't be able to manage the demand, and I think it would create a negative scenario that would discourage people from coming out."

Lamont is also against imposing fines when people are vaccinated before their group, saying he thinks "it's a slight concern. Much more important to me is getting that first tier of people vaccinated as quickly as we can."

The governor said that 140,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Connecticut to date, 42% just in the last week.

Since Friday, an additional 116,244 COVID-19 tests were reported and 7,364 tested positive, a positivity rate of 6.33%. An additional 33 people were hospitalized, bringing the total to 1,142, and 92 people died, bringing the total deaths from the coronavirus to 6,416.

On Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital had 35 COVID-19 patients and Westerly Hospital had four.

The Connecticut Department of Correction said in a press release Monday evening a 57-year-old federal inmate under state DOC supervision, whose name is not being released due to medical privacy laws, died from complications related to the coronavirus.

The department said the man was transferred from Bridgeport Correctional Center to a hospital on Jan. 2 and died Jan. 9.

e.moser@theday.com

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