Connecticut adopts tiered approach for virus vaccinations

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Without nearly enough COVID-19 vaccines arriving for everyone eligible to receive them, Connecticut will prioritize its oldest residents for the first shots, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday.

Under a new tiered approach, the governor said people over 75 can schedule vaccinations now, to be followed likely in early February by people between the ages of 65 and 74. It will likely be late February or early March before they can be scheduled for frontline essential workers and people with medical conditions that increase their risk of severe illness from the virus.

Some 1.4 million people in Connecticut are technically eligible for vaccines under Phase 1B but Lamont, a Democrat, said the state is scheduled to receive only about 45,000 doses of the vaccine weekly.

The Department of Public Health on Tuesday notified school districts, local health departments, and vaccine providers that vaccination appointments for Friday or later should be canceled unless they are for people over the age of 75 or who were eligible to receive the vaccine as part of Phase 1A.

“In order to vaccinate our 75 plus residents as quickly as possible so that we can move on to the other groups within 1b, it is critical that we focus on getting shots in the arms of those elderly and most vulnerable residents,” acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said.

In other virus developments:

Students on Tuesday attended school in-person for the first time since March in New Haven, Connecticut, a district that until now has resisted calls to bring children back as it worked to address safety concerns.

While many other districts around the state reopened classrooms, as encouraged by Gov. Ned Lamont, New Haven schools continued to stick with distance learning through the fall. The 21,000-student district delayed a November reopening because of the rising numbers of coronavirus infections.

For now, only students in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade have the option of going back to classrooms under the district's hybrid learning plan. Parents who have seen children deal with the challenges of remote learning were happy to see them attend in person.

“I think we are looking forward to them getting back to it (Tuesday), being with their classmates and their teachers,” Laura McGowan, a parent, told WFSB-TV. She said she was optimistic as her two children began in-person learning.

To prepare for the reopening, the district improved ventilation systems, secured personal protective equipment and ensured nurses were available in each building, officials said.

“New Haven Public Schools has taken great caution in setting up safeguards and protocols to ensure the safety of our staffs and students," Superintendent Iline Tracey said.

New Haven Federation of Teachers President David Cicarella said the union does not agree with the decision to return to classrooms. He said teachers are eager to be with their students but also are in line to receive vaccinations within weeks.

“We need to get back, but with the vaccinations just around the corner, it just doesn’t make sense to send everyone back now, so the teachers are overwhelmingly (saying) ‘Can’t we just wait for the vaccination?’ We know they’re coming, it’s not going to be that much longer,” Cicarella said.