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Rilling, Lamont, promote COVID-19 vaccinations

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling gets a COVID-19 shot from nurse Sarah Waters, Tuesday at the Norwalk Senior Center. (Claire Schoen)

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Health Department has vaccinated more than 2,700 Norwalk citizens against COVID-19, and none have had an adverse reaction, Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan said Tuesday.

Mayor Harry Rilling became one of those citizens Tuesday, getting vaccinated the same day as Gov. Ned Lamont staged his own inoculation. While Lamont’s event was timed to convey Lamont’s confidence in the vaccine yet a willingness to wait his turn, Rilling, 73, said he became eligible last week when the State expanded phase 1b of its vaccination program to include individuals between the ages of 65 and 74.

“I was able to get time today to get vaccinated. I had no idea that Governor Lamont was also being at vaccinated until I heard it this morning,” Rilling wrote.

He continued, “I too, want to convey confidence in the vaccine. We have administered more than 2500 doses and there has been no negative reaction at all. People have reported sore arms and perhaps a little fatigue but other than that there have been no adverse side effects.”

Connecticut has followed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state advisory group: The first doses went to health care workers and nursing home patients, followed by anyone 75 or older and, now, 65 or older.

More than 7,400 deaths in Connecticut since March are attributed to COVID-19, with the vast majority in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Vaccinations soon will be opened to essential workers and persons with health conditions making them vulnerable to COVID.

Norwalk reported 9,037 total positive cases Tuesday. The 203 Norwalk deaths include 98 people who were at least 80 years old and 50 people who were more than 70.

The infection rate here is dropping, the City states.

  • The test positivity rate from Jan. 17 to Jan. 30 was 8%, the Feb. 5 update said.
  • The test positivity rate from Jan. 24 to Feb. 6 was 7.7%, Friday’s update said.
  • The test positivity rate from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13 was 6.6%, Tuesday’s update said.

 

  • For the one-week period between Jan. 24 and Jan. 30, there were 55.8 cases per 100,000 population, the Feb. 5 update said.
  • For the one-week period between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, there were 45.9 cases per 100,000 population, Friday’s update said.
  • For the one-week period between Feb. 7 and 13, there were 29.8 cases per 100,000 population, Tuesday’s update said.

 

  • For the two-week period between Jan. 17 and 30, there were 59.8 cases per 100,000 population, the Feb. 5 update said.
  • For the two-week period between Jan. 24 and Feb. 6, there were 50.9 cases per 100,000 population, Friday’s update said.
  • For the two-week period between Jan. 31 and Feb. 13, there were 37.9 cases per 100,000 population, Tuesday’s update said.

 

That’s a pattern statewide as well, with the winter surge of cases has been waning in recent weeks. Lamont said he believes the more than 600,000 vaccinations administered so far have played a role.

“It is working,” Lamont said. “But it only works If you get the vaccine when you have that opportunity. We’re going to make sure we do everything you can to make sure you get that opportunity.”

“Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have shown to have at least a 95% efficacy rate,” Rilling wrote. “If more people decide to get the vaccine and people continue to do the other kinds of things we know that work, we will get through this pandemic much more quickly.”

While some governors were vaccinated as early as December, as were some members of Congress, the 67-year-old Lamont delayed his vaccination until it was opened to anyone 65 or older, a decision that ultimately rested with his administration.

A well-recorded vaccination: Patrice Marriott administers the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 to Gov. Ned Lamont. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

“I wanted to lead by example,” Lamont said. “There are some people who are hesitant, no question about it. I was ready to take the vaccine ready to do it in public and to tell people I feel better for it and you will, too.”

For two months, the governor’s staff mulled the right time and setting for his inoculation. He was vaccinated at First Cathedral church in Bloomfield, which has a predominantly African-American congregation of more than 7,000. The setting in a Black church was an effort to address the hesitancy among African Americans towards the vaccine and underscore the administration’s efforts to minimize racial disparities in its availability.

Non-white adults are more likely than white adults to be hesitant about the vaccines, according to most polling, and Black officials and physicians say the reluctance is most pronounced among African Americans.

“We have a concern about the most vulnerable population,” Rilling wrote. “People of color are not appropriately represented in those seeking the vaccine. We will be hosting a Townhall and working with various leaders throughout the community to try and encourage people of color to get the vaccine as quickly as they possibly can when they become eligible. We want to give them information so that they can make an informed decision.”

The State’s data was last updated Feb. 10. It shows that 6,885 Norwalkers have received a first dose, or 7.75% of the populace. It’s estimated that Norwalk has 5,198 citizens who are more than 75 years old and 2,770 of them, or 53.29%, have gotten the first dose.

Morgan said the Norwalk Health Department has administered “more than 2,700 vaccines” and “a few hundred second doses.”

“While the state data is a few days old, that is the best data, as they are compiling all clinics around the state. We only can track the clinics run by the Health Department, and is what the numbers are from above,” Morgan explained. “As you know Norwalk residents may get vaccinated in another community, so the state is the best source for the breakdown. There has not been any wasted doses at our clinics and there have fortunately been no adverse reactions. Again, I can’t speak for all residents at all clinics, this is just from the Health Department purview.”

 

South African strain; testing and food distribution

Some commentary from recent City COVID-19 updates:

  • The state Department of Public Health said Monday the first confirmed case of a highly transmissible ‘South African’ variant strain of coronavirus has been confirmed in a Connecticut resident. The South African strain — known as B.1.351 — is more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus. The person, a Fairfield County resident between the ages of 60 and 70, is currently hospitalized in New York.
  • The Norwalk Health Department and area providers are holding COVID-19 vaccine clinics this week for Phase 1A-eligible individuals and those 65 and older per Phase 1B guidelines. Appointments are being scheduled through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) system. Visit norwalkct.org/vaccine for more information about VAMS, including a step-by-step registration guide.
  • Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing is available daily 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Veteran’s Park and Norwalk Community College. Due to high demand, testing lines may be closed periodically during the day and there may be significant wait times. Cars should not park on neighboring streets as walk-up capacity is limited. Anyone seeking a COVID-19 test is advised to pre-register online at chc1.com.
  • Free COVID-19 testing by appointment only is available at the Norwalk Community Health Center at Smilow Life Center located at 55 Chestnut St. Appointments are available Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. No doctor’s note or symptoms are required to be tested. A person does not have to be a Norwalk Community Health Center patient to be tested. To make an appointment, call (203) 851-1065.”
  • Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare will be holding a food distribution event on Wednesday, February 17 at Calf Pasture Beach from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. The parking area at Calf Pasture Beach will remain closed to the public until 1 p.m. There will be a special walk-up area to accommodate those without a vehicle. Those who wish to use the beach can park at the Shady Beach parking area, entering from Canfield Avenue. The food distribution event will occur every Wednesday until further notice. To volunteer for this event, a future event, or to make a donation, visit ctfoodbank.org.
  • In an ongoing effort to support local small businesses, the City of Norwalk launched a $150,000 COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program. More than 225 local businesses applied for a grant. Due to the large number of applications, recipients will be selected via a random lottery system. Mayor Rilling will be selecting grant recipients this Thursday, February 18 at 6 p.m. live on Zoom.”

 

Connecticut Mirror reporter Mark Pazniokas contributed to this story.

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