The first round of COVID-19 vaccination clinics held at Connecticut's 210 nursing homes was completed on Friday, a milestone that comes as skilled nursing facilities continue to battle a second wave of infections.
LiveWell, a long-term care facility in Plantsville, was the last facility to hold its first clinic.
“The fact that by the end of today we’re going to have first doses for all of our nursing homes is an important big deal,” said Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. Connecticut is one of the first states in the country to reach this point. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced on Dec. 30 that his state was the first in the country to finish offering the first of two doses of the vaccine to its nursing homes.
Connecticut officials hope to have the second round of vaccinations at all nursing homes completed by the end of January.
Lamont said the nursing home vaccinations are especially important now as the state's overall infection rate is spiking. According to data through Jan. 7 from Johns Hopkins University, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 629.9, an increase of 34.9%, over the past two weeks. One in every 210 people in Connecticut tested positive in the past week.
As of Friday, there were more than 3,200 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 since Thursday. The number of hospitalizations increased by 22 to 1,109, while the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by 37 to 6,324.
More than 70% of the state's nursing homes had an outbreak in the last month, said Matt Barrett, president and CEO the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities/Connecticut Center for Assisted Living. He said the cases appear to be leveling off somewhat now.
While most nursing home residents across the state have agreed to get vaccinated, there continues to remain some hesitance among staff. The state of Connecticut released a public service announcement earlier this week that features a worker who got the shot, encouraging her colleagues to get one as well. Barrett said he expects many workers who didn't get vaccinated the first time will do so when the second round of clinics are held and they feel more confident the vaccine is safe and effective.
“The facts are going to go a long way," he said.
About 80-to-85% of the staff at Livewell got the first dose on Friday, said Maley Hunt, chief operating officer at the facility which specializes in dementia care.
Hunt said she believes her facility was able to get a relatively high vaccination rate by holding Zoom meetings with physicians, who answered questions about the vaccine and assured people about its efficacy and safety.
In other coronavirus-related news in Connecticut:
Another Connecticut inmate has died from COVID-19 complications. It marks the 15th since the pandemic began and the second in 2021.
The Department of Correction said the unnamed 65-year-old male died on Friday at an outside hospital, after being treated at the agency's MacDougall-Walker isolation unit in Suffield. The man had been serving a 60-year sentence for murder and his maximum release date was in 2075.
Inmates are expected to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in the next phase of vaccinations.
COVID tracing app
Lamont announced on Friday that the state's COVID-19 exposure notification app, COVID Alert CT, has been activated on more than one million mobile devices, reaching roughly one-third of the state's population.
The app was released in November. It allows users to receive anonymous notification on their mobile devices if they've been in close proximity of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. After receiving a notification, the users are urged to call the state's contact tracing team.
“This is an important milestone in the effort to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in Connecticut,” he said in a statement.
On Apple devices, such as iPhones, the feature is already installed. Users just need to activate it. For Android devices, the feature must be downloaded as a separate app. It is free for all users.