STAMFORD, Connecticut (WABC) -- Connecticut's COVID positivity rate soared to a new record at more then 21%, fueled by the omicron variant, and Governor Ned Lamont is urging residents to get vaccinated to curb the spread.
Lamont is trying to strike an optimistic tone about COVID in his state in the face of soaring numbers, anticipating that because omicron cases tend to be on the milder side, the surge will eventually lead a decline in numbers.
Right now, though, the statewide positivity is 21.5%, and Connecticut is seeing the increase in demand for testing with long lines of cars waiting for drive-thru swabs.
Health officials noted that if you do get a test kit to take home, the best time to take it is a few days after you've been exposed.
Kathleen Silard, CEO of Stamford Health, says lower Fairfield County is definitely seeing that holiday spike, and people are doing the right thing getting themselves tested.
"Last week, Stamford health administered 4,200 tests," she said. "The positivity rate was 40%, and that's up from 26% the previous week and 13% the week before that."
Still, she said there's a possible silver lining.
"Remember, in the history of viruses, viruses over time become far more contagious and far less virulent, and that is what we're hoping for with this virus," she said. "That we're seeing more, but that it's going to impact us a little less."
Several Connecticut school districts delayed the return to classes Monday following the holiday break, even after Lamont said that he does not support a return to remote learning.
"This is not 2020, and this is not 2021," he said. "We are in a very different position than we were before. We have all the tools to keep you safe. More importantly, you have all the tools to keep yourself safe, and that's how we keep our schools open, our business running, and that's how we are able to continue to live our lives."
Lamont said he is closely watching the numbers rising in New York and New Jersey.
"It also gives you an idea of what could be coming if we're not careful," he said. "The inverse of that, though, is you see South Africa, you see how fast omicron went up and back down, getting back to a new normal. We see some early indications of that in London as well."
One of those tools is vaccines, and officials said Monday that at least 75% of those hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.
"For the unvaccinated, this is still a very serious disease," Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said. "Throughout our state, 70% to 80% of people who are in the hospital are unvaccinated. The unvaccinated have reason to be scared."
Schools were closed Monday in districts including Westport, Enfield and Region 14 (Woodbury and Bethlehem). Schools in Stratford and Stonington said they would be closed both Monday and Tuesday.
"Our administrative team has worked diligently throughout the winter break in an effort to prepare for our return to school tomorrow," Stonington officials said in a statement Sunday. "However, at this point in time it is not safely feasible for us to open our schools tomorrow and Tuesday.
Lamont said the state is sending 500,000 rapid tests to Connecticut schools over the next few days to make sure that staff and students are safe.
"I'm really pleased that the overwhelming majority of our schools are open," he said.
Many colleges and universities in Connecticut, including Yale and UConn, have announced they will start their spring semesters online.
UConn and other schools, including Connecticut College, have also told students they will be required to have booster shots once they are eligible for them.
Submit a News Tip or Question