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Connecticut braces for Pfizer vaccine rollout to those ages 12-15

Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to rise, putting the state on track for its May 19 reopening date, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday. 

And with the FDA on Monday authorizing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old, vaccine rates are projected to continue to rise. 

More than 70% of all people 18-plus have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Lamont said during a Monday afternoon news conference. He highlighted two age groups in particular: 80% of those aged 45 or older have received at the least their first dose of a vaccine, and 92% of those 65 or older. 

The governor’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said about 45% of those aged 18-24 have received at least their first vaccine dose, compared to approximately 50% of 16- and 17-year-olds. He attributed this in part to the influence of parents on those younger than 18. 

Indoor masking will remain in place on May 19. Lamont said that last restriction may remain in place longer for younger people, as people 24 years and younger have lower total vaccination rates. 

About an hour before the FDA announced the new Pfizer approval for those ages 12-15, Lamont discussed plans to vaccinate the younger age group. 

“If we can do as well with that age group as we’re doing with the 16- and 17-year-olds, it’s going to be a very good summer,” he said.

Geballe said the state has found that parents are more likely to have their kids younger than 18 get vaccinated on weekends, and that there will be enough Pfizer vaccine for its potential availability to 12-15-year olds.  

“We’ll have a lot of expanded access this weekend and coming up, both at our mass vaccination sites but also pharmacies, and I know our local health departments are going to do clinics, so there will be a lot of options available for parents and their children who want to get vaccinated in the next week,” he said.

Summer programs, remote learning and unemployment 

Acting Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker detailed the state’s efforts to implement expanded educational programming this summer to close the learning gap students have faced because of virtual learning.

The Connecticut College Corps program also was launched Monday. It is seeking 500 students “interested in working at summer enrichment programs as part of the governor’s plan to provide K-12 students and families with engaging enrichment and learning experiences in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the governor’s office. Those chosen will receive $4,500 stipends. 

Russell-Tucker said the state has received more than 240 applications from YMCAs, park and recreation groups and community-based organizations looking for federal grant money for the enrichment programs. Monday was the deadline to submit applications and the grants will be awarded on May 24.

“The grant application asks for the programming that will be provided; it also asks for a budget,” she said. “What are you doing? What’s your staffing? It asks whether they need staffing support, which goes back to the College Corps. For the innovation grants, it’s really about what you’re planning to do that’s new and different for enrichment opportunities and activities for students.”

Russell-Tucker said the State Department of Education is in the process of determining how to handle remote learning next school year. Lamont said last week that students and parents who want to continue with remote learning will be accommodated, but the state has yet to figure out how exactly that will work. State guidance on this subject and others will be sent out to schools in a month or so, Russell-Tucker said. 

Lamont also weighed in on a current national debate regarding unemployment payments and whether an extra $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance is keeping people from going back to work. Several Republican governors have moved to cancel the federal payments. Lamont said he would not do that.

“I have had discussions with Washington about how we can give people incentives to get back to work, not just $300 while they’re not working,” he added.

Updated COVID-19 statistics 

Since Friday, 827 additional cases of COVID-19 were reported throughout the state, bringing the total to 343,545. More than 58,000 tests have been reported since Friday with a positivity rate of 1.41%. 

Hospitalizations decreased by 29 during the weekend, bringing the total number of people now hospitalized in the state to 280. There have been 17 more deaths in the three days, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to 8,154. 

New London County has 22 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The county has 22,208 total cases and 446 deaths. On Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital reported 13 hospitalizations, and Westerly Hospital reported none. 

s.spinella@theday.com

 

 

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