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Connecticut to focus on incentivizing vaccinations among medium-sized, large employers

Supplies of COVID-19 vaccine are now outstripping demand in Connecticut, a situation Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday he intends to deal with by increasing demand rather than cutting back on the state’s request for weekly vaccine allocations from the federal government.

He said the state next week will make the vaccine available for on-site vaccinations at Electric Boat in Groton. He provided no details on the number of doses that would be administered or exactly when.

An EB spokeswoman said later the submarine builder had just learned of the news and was working with the state to finalize plans. EB has not mandated that its employees get vaccinated but has been urging them to do so while seeking an allocation of vaccine from the state.

“Up until today, we have held back on that,” Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said of providing employers with vaccine. “But now, with more supply than demand, we’re welcoming and inviting large employers and medium-size employers ... who think an on-site clinic could be helpful, to reach out to your local health department, a provider you’re familiar with or the state and we’ll be happy to broker those relationships.”

Geballe said the state will provide EB with as much vaccine as it thinks it can administer to employees.

David Roche, president of the Connecticut Building Trades, and Chris DiPentima, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, joined Lamont, Geballe and Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff, at a news briefing on the state’s response to COVID-19, largely focused on incentivizing residents to get vaccinated.

DiPentima said some businesses have been getting creative, offering their employees gifts, raffles, bonuses, paid time off for vaccination appointments and even an entire day off, if necessary, to recover from any side effects. He said he knew of one company prepared to host a companywide luncheon to celebrate when 80% of the workforce is vaccinated. If it gets to 100%, it will shut down for a day, he said.

The emphasis on vaccinations comes as the rate of those getting vaccinated has slowed.

Online appointments are now readily available in many cases, Lamont said, and mobile vaccination vans equipped to deliver 140 shots a day are sometimes only doing about 50 a day.

Still, he said, Connecticut administered about 40,000 doses of vaccine Wednesday and its rollout continues to be among the best in the country, ranking it second in the nation in terms of vaccinations per capita. He reported that 60% of Connecticut residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 51% have received two doses.

Lamont said he thinks about 70% of the state’s population should have received at least one dose by May 19, the target date for the lifting of remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, and that more than 70% should be fully vaccinated with up to two doses “in the near term.”

As for the daily update on COVID-19 cases, the governor reported that 737 new cases had emerged since the previous day, and that the results of 41,344 new tests had been collected. The numbers yielded a one-day positivity rate of 1.78%, driving the seven-day rolling average down to 2.5%, the lowest in about six weeks. Hospitalizations climbed by eight to 515, while 12 additional deaths brought the toll since the pandemic began in March 2020 to 8,039.

Lamont said it was exactly a year ago that Connecticut’s COVID-19 hospitalizations hit their peak of 1,972.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital reported Thursday it had 13 hospitalizations and Westerly Hospital two.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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