HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut is forming an advisory group to validate the safety of any coronavirus vaccines and how to distribute them to the public, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

Lamont said the goals are to make sure the vaccines are not harmful, the public can have confidence in them and they are distributed with priority going to certain populations such as nursing homes, first responders, schools and colleges while supplies are limited at first.

The co-chairs of the committee are acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford and Dr. Reginald Eadie, president and chief executive of Trinity Health of New England, who both joined Lamont at a news conference Monday. Members will include vaccine experts, state officials, labor representatives and advocates for communities highly affected by the virus.

“I'm trying to build people's confidence to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Democratic governor said. “That’s why I’ve got these two people sitting here right now to make sure you know we’re not going to let anything get out into our greater population until the smartest of the health care community in this state, not to mention in Washington D.C., says it’s the right thing to do.”

Lamont cited comments by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that a vaccine is expected to be widely available by April.

Lamont also said Monday that the positive test rate for the virus in the state has dipped back down to about 1.1%, down from 1.6% last week. The rate has been above 1% for nearly two weeks, after weeks of having been below 1%.

Officials reported 68 people were hospitalized in Connecticut with COVID-19 on Monday, down seven from Friday. Three more people died, bringing the total to 4,495. More than 56,000 state residents have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:



Spring break at Connecticut's four state universities was canceled and several public schools around the state were closed Monday because of the resurgence of the coronavirus.

Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system, said Monday that spring break, originally scheduled for March 15 to March 21, has been canceled at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.

The start date for the spring semester at the four universities has also been pushed back one week later to Jan. 26.

CCSU President Zulma Toro said in an announcement to students that the changes will “help ensure the health and safety of our campuses.”

“At this time, we are developing our plans for next semester and our intent is to continue the combination of on ground and remote classes and activities,” Toro said.

The state's community colleges and Charter Oak State College will follow the original schedule, Appleby said.



Several public kindergarten through Grade 12 schools were closed Monday and all classes moved to remote learning after positive coronavirus tests.

The schools include all Weston schools, Southington High School, Torringford Elementary School in Torrington, Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School and the Luis Muñoz Marin School in Bridgeport and the Noah Webster Micro Society Magnet School in Hartford.

Some schools will be closed for two days and others longer while contact tracing and cleaning are done, officials said.



U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes said Monday that she developed a fever after testing positive for the coronavirus over the weekend.

Hayes, a Democrat who represents the 5th Congressional District that comprises much of western Connecticut, posted a journal entry on Twitter that also said her breathing is labored.

“Spiked a fever yesterday. Tylenol helped,” Hayes wrote.

Hayes announced Saturday that she and all of her staff were going into quarantine and getting tested after one of her aides tested positive for the virus. Her test came back positive on Sunday.