MIDDLETOWN — The governor touted this week’s long-anticipated roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut and spoke about how the pandemic has hit the state budget during a virtual visit with an annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce gathering Wednesday.
“I think this is not the last pandemic most of us will see in our lifetimes,” Lamont said.
Locally, Dr. Jon Bankoff, Middlesex Health chairman of emergency medicine, was among the first 12 individuals to be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Middlesex Hospital Tuesday. Health care professionals are the first in line for doses during Phase I of distribution.
The governor, 66, said earlier this week he intended to consult with state health officials as to whether he would get the vaccine during Phase I or wait until the second phase, when anyone over 65 is eligible to get it.
He acknowledged those wary of taking the vaccine for various reasons. “What we need is a trusted friend, a trusted family member to tell you why it’s important for them,” he said.
Former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Lamont’s new commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, said during the meeting that the vaccine is safe and effective. He agreed that a collaborative effort is warranted to make sure enough people get the shots.
“This is the right thing to do, not only because you want to take care of yourself, but because you want to take care of the rest of the community. By you getting a vaccine, you’re helping other people,” Boughton said, adding it would be necessary for a certain percentage of the population to take it in order to reach herd immunity.
Medical workers are on track to receive a second and final COVID vaccine by the end of January, Lamont said. “There’s a sunrise out there and I can see it.”
The Connecticut Army National Guard, which has been sorting, inventorying and delivering “tens of millions” of PPE, are in the process of setting up field hospitals in Windham and Hartford through Thursday to help health care workers test patients for COVID, as well as dispense the vaccine. “If you were never sure of what the Guard did before, they’re sure as heck doing something now,” Lamont said.
He also addressed the state’s fiscal health. CARES Act money the state received about seven months ago was “helpful,” the governor said, paying for COVID-related expenses, which enabled the state to safely open schools, provide more testing, and give out small business grants.
“It won’t pay for lost revenue,” said Lamont, who added both income and sales taxes are down due to the pandemic — something he expects will continue until at least through a good portion of 2021.
He said he believes there are enough resources to get through the current fiscal year “without having to slash any social services and without having to raise taxes.”
The governor took office in January 2019. The chamber has hosted the sitting leader of Connecticut at its December member meetings since the visit from former governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, Lamont also spokes about the past year in the state.
“A year and a half ago, we were focusing on big things — economic growth and development and jobs,” which would be accomplished by working with state leaders across the tristate region, he said. That included working on speeding up railway lines to New York and cleaning up Long Island Sound.
Eventually, the focus will be on regional tourism, the governor said. He’s pleased to see people “rediscovering the beauty of the Connecticut shoreline and the hills. I have a hunch there will be a lot less travel across the country,” in the coming years.
Chamber President Larry McHugh praised the governor’s handling of the pandemic. “His leadership has been unparalleled during the toughest time I’ve seen our state face. No matter what happens, he always gives us a ray of sunshine.”
“We will win this. We will come up out on top. l am dedicated to make sure all of us are safe,” Lamont said.
Video of the meeting can be viewed at Facebook.com.