HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A major push is happening to get people vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Capital City.
State leaders and health officials gathered Thursday in Hartford’s North End to urge more people to get vaccinated as the delta variant continues to spread.
This is a push for vaccines and the health department advising people to mask up. They say vaccines plus masking indoors are the best path forward amid this outbreak.
Governor Ned Lamont said there are mayors and first selectmen who want to be more strict when it comes to masks. Right now it’s a “strong recommendation from the state.”
But Governor Lamont is expected to issue an executive order that allows local government to “mandate masks” if they chose. Meantime, new state Department of Public Health data has put the delta variant in sharp focus.
The delta variant is more transmissible than other versions of COVID-19 and that’s what has health officials concerned.
Health officials in Connecticut cited multiple instances that resulted in documented COVID outbreaks. One of them was a birthday party with about 50 attendees ending with 16 cases of COVID the following week. Four of the cases were hospitalized.
Officials say it was a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in attendance there.
One instance was a summer camp with about 50 campers, 13 of which contracted COVID.
Another reported situation with 28 Connecticut residents contracting COVID stemming from an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
“The message here is really that the best weapon that we have is to be vaccinated, so even in these outbreak situations, we’re seeing that people who are vaccinated are less likely to be infected and get sick and certainly less likely to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Lynn Sosa, Deputy State Epidemiologist, Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and the health commissioner will be at a library in the north end later Thursday morning to urge people to get vaccinated and take this seriously. The state partnering with the city of Hartford is holding a mobile vaccine clinic at library branches.
Lt. Governor Susan Byscewicz says “You are 17 more times likely to get COVID if you are unvaccinated than if you are vaccinated.”
The state Department of Public Health’s Deputy Commissioner Heather Aaron explains. “The Delta variant has mutated. It’s very strong therefore your risk based on the numbers we have is 17 times higher than someone who is vaccinated.”
Aaron, who is African American, made a plea for her fellow citizen of color to get vaccinated: “People of color are getting vaccinated less. People of color are dying more.”
Liany Arroyo, the city’s Director of Health & Human Services in Hartford, says vaccine-hesitant people resist for several reasons. “For some, it’s an outright mistrust of the government and we address that. And for some, it’s not approved we hear that.”
About 50% of Hartford residents have been fully vaccinated. In the entire state, the number is near 70%. Still, officials are targetting the 13 to 32-year-old crowd. Giving ice cream, turning up the tunes in order to motivate and innoculate.
Deputy Commissioner Aaron says they will stay focused. “Keep engaging and talking.”
Even in the city’s own health department, not everyone is vaccinated. Some have health issues. The shots are not mandated. If it comes to that Arroyo says “a waiver may be an option.”
Statewide, for now, the governor is opting for flexibility telling News 8, “There are some mayors and for selectmen who want to be even stricter and we’re giving them that freedom. If that’s where they want to be to keep their people safe. It’s the opposite of Florida.”
The city of Hartford will continue with mobile clinics in the evenings and on weekends.