Though thousands of New Canaanites are being tested and vaccinated at clinics that are filling to capacity and receiving high praise for their efficiency and effectiveness, health officials are urging residents to be cautious amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even on the high side, some of the vaccines now being administered to town residents are perhaps 95% effective and “it’s still 5%” outside of that protection, according to Dr. Harrison Pierce, chair of the Health & Human Services Commission.
“We have had three or four people locally who have been vaccinated and have gotten the disease, or at least tested positive,” Pierce said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held Thursday via videoconference.
“And it’s happening in the community, too. So we have to take all the precautions that we were taking previously and reinstitute them if we are not continuing with them. The travel issue is big and you are going to have to, via the DPH [Connecticut Department of Public Health]/CDC, you are going to have to quarantine seven days coming back and then negative test before you re-enter society.”
The comments came following a general update from New Canaan Health Director Jenn Eielson.
Pierce relayed that health officials from Yale Children’s Hospital and Norwalk Hospital have voiced concerns about the prevalence of the “British variant” of COVID-19 virus as well as an upsurge in kids contracting a life-threatening multi-system illness that is similar to coronavirus disease. The health officials are “very concerned” that the state is opening too early, Pierce said. Norwalk Hospital has “had an upsurge in hospitalizations and also he [Dr. Jason Orlinick] said the youth is really being affected with it and they are very sick,” Pierce said.
“And for him to say ‘very sick’ it means very sick,” he said. “They are being admitted to the hospital. So we are in the throes of this and the little relaxation on the part of the state and everyone else, too— granted there is COVID fatigue. But we have to continue to act as we did early on with the initial outbreaks. And this goes for be it local or be it traveling. Travelers have to mask all time. They have to keep the distance. Hand sanitation.”
According to the most recent data released by the state, on Friday, New Canaan has had 1,238 cumulative confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, as well as 118 probable cases and 40 deaths. Connecticut residents 45-and-older became eligible to receive vaccine March 22 and Lamont said last week that the state was on track to allow those 16-and-older to get vaccinated starting this month.
Eielson said during her updated that the town had administered 4,000 first doses and 1,800 second doses to date. The state contacted Eielson on Wednesday she said, “and we are getting 100% of our allocation next week.”
“So we are getting 800 Moderna doses next week,” she said.
Open slots at vaccine clinics are being reserved very quickly, she said.
“So that’s great news,” she said. “And we are going to obviously continue as long as DPH gives us vaccine and as long as we have arms to put doses in.”
Asked by Commissioner Tom Ferguson whether there are groups of people in New Canaan who are hesitant to get vaccinated, Eielson said not in her experience.
“Everyone is beating down the door to get vaccinated as fast as possible,” she said. “I mean I have an extra dose list a mile long, of people we call when we have extra doses. And we are also doing homebound visits now on Mondays. We have kind of been doing the homebound all along, but now the state has a formal process. So every week I get emails from the state of doing homebound. So kind of covering every inch of the residents that we can. Also the doctors in town help with stuff like that. So no, we do not have an issue of people saying they do not want to be vaccinated.”
Pierce said there likely are “sporadic people out there who have issues with not being vaccinated,” including those with significant medical issues who have questions about what effect getting a shot may have on their overall health.
Eielson said is has helped to have Pierce on site at the clinics, as well as registered nurses and sometimes EMTs. Everyone with questions is given time to ask them and nobody is rushed through, she said.
In all, combined with Waveny LifeCare Network, the town has processed more than 10,000 tests in the past year, Eielson said.
“So it’s pretty impressive when you start looking at the numbers, of what our little itty-bitty health department has done in the past year,” she said. “And of course with the vaccinations we couldn’t do it without Human Services helping and all the other volunteers in town.” She mentioned Human Services Director Bethany Zaro, Program Coordinator Enza Albano and Adult and Senior Services Coordinator Marcie Rand specifically, in addition to Pierce.
“It’s been great,” Eielson said. “Doctors in town are volunteering. The outpouring of support has been tremendous. Everybody loves it. Everybody loves the small-town feel. And like you [Pierce] said, everybody greets them and everybody is friendly and it’s easy. When you make something easy, people tend to do it more. Like testing if you make it easy, they come and do it. If you make it difficult, where they have to go stand in line for four hours, they tend not to want to do it. They don’t want to deal with the hassle. So I think the convenience has helped with a lot of this.”