Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday the state is beginning to see a slowdown in demand for vaccinations, prompting his administration to look for new ways to encourage people to get the shot and move closer toward herd immunity in the state.
“Supply is now more than demand in many places. You can often go right online and get an appointment," Lamont said during his twice weekly COVID-19 briefing. "But we’re finding that many of our mobile vaccination vans that are out there, maybe they could do 140 doses in a day. Maybe they’re doing 15 doses in a day.”
Some 60% of the adult population in the state has received at least one dose. To help reach more people, requests for vaccine doses are now being accommodated for individual work sites that can put together a critical mass of people, including Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton. The submarine builder is scheduled to receive an allocation next week.
“Up until today, we’ve kind of held back on that. We really did try to focus our vaccines on the most efficient channels to get them distributed most equitably,” said Josh Geballe, Lamont's chief operating officer. “Now that we’re getting to a point where we do have more supply than demand, we’re welcoming and inviting large employers or medium-sized employers” to reach out to local health districts, health care providers or the state to get help setting up workplace clinics.
Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said his organization has been encouraging its 5,000 members with close to 400,000 employees to get their workers vaccinated. He said some are offering incentives to their staffs, including gift cards, raffles, bonuses and paid time off for getting the shot and possibly the day afterward if someone doesn't feel well.
“One company we’ve talked to has a paid company lunch when they get to 80%,” he said. “And then after that milestone, once the company gets to 100% vaccination, they’re going to shut down for the day. Everyone is going to get a day off, which we really applaud the company for doing.”
State officials have said previously that they expected demand to drop off by late April for vaccinations and supply would outstrip demand. But while there's easy availability for vaccinations compared to the early days of the rollout, Geballe said there continues to be “great momentum,” with more than 40,000 people vaccinated on Wednesday.
Also, Geballe said there's been a 96% success rate in people returning for their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Meanwhile, Connecticut continues to see more cases of COVID-19. The number of confirmed or probable cases climbed by more than 700 since Wednesday while the number of COVID-associated deaths grew by 12 to 8,039.
In other coronavirus-related news:
Gov. Ned Lamont is proposing spending $103 million in new federal pandemic relief money on job training, with the goal of getting people who lost employment during the pandemic back to work.
Connecticut currently has 140,000 unemployed workers, but also has industries, including health care, information technologies and manufacturing that have announced major hiring initiatives, he said.
Lamont, a Democrat, said under his plan, which still needs legislative approval, $95.5 million of the money from the American Rescue Plan Act will be used for things such as certificate programs in Connecticut's community colleges, which have been designed with the help of Connecticut employers to make sure they are meeting their immediate employment needs.
About $3.7 million would be used to extend the operating hours of ten Connecticut Technical Education and Career System programs. Another $2 million would be used to train 1,000 people who are currently or were previously in prison and other $2 million is earmarked to train “at-risk and disengaged” youth,
Money also would be used for wrap-around programs, such as free transportation to training classes and wifi hot-spot cards to ensure those being trained have internet access.
“We're providing free child care for each and every one of these people taking the opportunity to re-skill themselves in one of these certificate programs,” Lamont said.
The governor was joined by numerous business and education leaders Thursday in making the announcement. He is expected to reveal more details on Friday and Monday as to how he'd like to spend the $2.6 billion from the federal COVID relief act.
Andrew Bond, the vice president of human resources at Electric Boat said new government submarine contracts mean his company will hire 300 workers each year at its Groton shipyard as it looks to double operations over the next 10 years. He said they are partnering with the state to develop a pipeline to those jobs for Connecticut students, especially those in underrepresented communities.
“We're looking to introduce careers in shipbuilding to those that don't yet know they want to be shipbuilders,” he said.
Kelli Vallieres, executive director of the state Office of Workforce Strategy, said much of the American Rescue Plan money will build on the work done last year, when regional workforce development boards and the community colleges re-trained more than 850 workers displaced by the pandemic.
“Our focus in on those who have been most affected by COVID and the long-term unemployed and underserved populations," she said.