Connecticut residents and workers who are 65 and older can now schedule COVID vaccination appointments.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s office announced that eligibility expanded this week to include this group. Some have already been vaccinated when empty slots had become available through the past several days.
The state’s Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout is expected include additional essential workers, those living or working in congregate settings, and people with medical conditions that put them at risk for COVID-19.
Other states, including New York, have begun vaccinating essential workers, including teachers.
So far, about 61 percent of the state’s population age 75 and older have received the vaccine, Lamont said Thursday. About 13 percent of those 65 and older have already received the shot — some of them in nursing homes.
Roughly 300,000 people remain eligible under the new category. “This is gonna take a little more patience,” the governor said during his afternoon press conference. The state has been receiving around 69,000 doses of vaccine a week.
As Connecticut expands its vaccine eligibility list, the state’s COVID-19 metrics continue a steady decline. On Thursday, the total number of people hospitalized for the disease declined by 39 patients, bringing the total to 731 — the lowest it’s been since the second week of November.
An additional 1,003 cases out of 43,240 tests resulted in a one-day positivity rate of 2.32 percent, the lowest in more than three months.
Deaths still continue to mount, with another 28 fatalities attributed to the illness, bringing the death toll to 7,354, according to state officials.
The state’s COVID-19 hot spot map now shows 155 out of 169 municipalities throughout the state are still considered red zones, the most severe designation based on the number of new cases per 100,000 over the last 14 days.
Barkhamsted, Deep River, Kent, Redding and Salisbury are now in the orange level alert, while Bridgewater, Canaan, Cornwall, Hartland, Lyme, Norfolk, Scotland, Union and Warren are in the gray, the least severe designation.
Asked what could be driving the downward trend in infections, Lamont said it could be the result of a number of factors, including people who contracted and recovered from the virus and the vaccination of the state’s most at-risk populations.
“And there seems to be a certain sine wave to this,” the governor said. “Maybe the northeast is all going through the same type of process, but it is on a downward trend not only in the northeast but most of the rest of the country, as well.”
As of Thursday, 580,432 doses of vaccine have been administered in the state with 417,644 receiving a first shot, while 162,788 have received their second dose.
But it’s unclear exactly what group will next receive the vaccine. The governor said the state will likely rely on doctors to find those who become eligible based on a preexisting medical condition. But whether those people, essential workers, or both will be vaccinated next after those age 65 and older is unclear.
Connecticut has also begun vaccinating those in prison, starting with the oldest inmates, and residents of some shelters falling under the congregate settings tier of Phase 1B.
Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said Connecticut is about halfway through vaccinating its correctional officers and about halfway through vaccinating inmates 65 and older.
Geballe said Angel Quiros, the commissioner of the state Department of Correction, told him all but four of the inmates age 65 or older accepted the vaccine.
Those in Phase 1A, a group that includes medical first responders and health care workers, have been receiving the two-dose vaccines for months. Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are in the same phase, but were vaccinated through on-site clinics run by CVS and Walgreens.
The vaccine is open to anyone eligible under the state’s guidelines who live or work in Connecticut.
In a letter Thursday to Lamont, restaurant and events groups implored the governor to lift restrictions and allow events of up to 150 people, considering the state’s metrics have been trending downward. The letter noted New York plans to allow indoor events up to 150 people starting March 15, while New Jersey already permits these gatherings.
Lamont said he is considering the request, and would give more information next week.
“We just figured we just had Super Bowl, we’re watching the variants, its been a week or two,” he said.