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Lamont visits mobile vaccine clinic in Norwich

Norwich — Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday afternoon visited a mobile clinic at a senior center here, where over 100 people were set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lamont visited Rose City Senior Center at 8 Mahan Drive, where Connecticut residents were lined up to receive their dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The doses were provided by Griffin Health, which is working with the state to provide inoculations by driving mobile vaccine vehicles around the state and hosting one-day clinics.

Lamont said mobile vaccination clinics help bring the shots to people who need them, without requiring them to travel far from home.

“Sometimes if we don’t bring the vaccine to them, they don’t get the vaccine, and it’s so important that everybody get vaccinated,” Lamont said after a brief tour of the clinic.

He spoke with people who were waiting in line for their shot and urged them to tell their friends to get theirs, too. He told his constituents that he felt “liberated” after receiving his own vaccine. He said he was excited to be able to safely go to restaurants again and thanked those in line for choosing to get vaccinated.

Christine Evans, 47, of Norwich went to the senior center Wednesday to get vaccinated and said she was excited to feel that same relief. “I’m mostly looking forward to taking this mask off,” she said. “And getting back to normal and seeing everybody smile again, I miss that.”

Evans said she didn’t have any hesitations about getting the vaccine and found that it was easy to book an appointment that was right in her hometown. “There were a lot of resources, I found it quite easy,” she said.

The governor told senior center staff members that he hopes walk-in vaccination services will be available statewide soon, meaning everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. “We’re going to have all the vaccines we need in about 10 days,” he said.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said the city made a decision early on to use the senior center as a vaccination site, adding it has been a place that many Norwich residents have come to to get their shots through the Uncas Health District. “Our senior center is really a beacon of hope, it represents something very, very important to our most vulnerable population, the elderly.”

He said Wednesday's clinic only made vaccines even more accessible in the city. “Today’s vaccination opportunity from Griffin Health has been a big plus for us,” he said. “This allows us to reach other people who might still have been waiting for an appointment.”

Mike Wolak, director of Rose City Senior Center, said that before the pandemic, the center served about 180 seniors every day, providing recreational activities, health services and educational opportunities to them.

As many seniors in Connecticut have gotten their full COVID-19 vaccinations, Wolak told the governor seniors have been calling the center in droves to find out when their favorite services will return. Wolak said he hopes the center will be able to open up fully soon, and plans are in motion for hair styling services, massage therapy and appointments with a clinical nurse to return shortly.

“As people get vaccinated, we want to get them out of isolation and back here around other people,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, nearly half of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. were reported in just five states, including New York and New Jersey.

Lamont said that it’s important to keep an eye on rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey and New York, but the governor said he’s confident that Connecticut residents are getting vaccinated steadily and keeping the number of new cases low.

The governor's office reported Wednesday that the state had seen an additional 1,038 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases reported as of Wednesday, bringing the state's total so far to 318,767. Five additional deaths associated with the disease brought the state's total to 7,935. An additional 27,019 tests for the coronavirus were reported, for a total of 7,906,531 so far; the daily positivity rate stood at 3.84%, which was unchanged from Tuesday.

Nine additional patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, for a total of 514 on Wednesday. Locally, 15 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 in New London County on Wednesday. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London reported that it had nine COVID-19 patients; Westerly Hospital said it had one.

Day Staff Writer Brian Hallenbeck contributed to this report.

t.hartz@theday.com

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