Saturday Feb 04, 2023

With less fanfare than 2020, Lamont and neighboring governors still cooperate on coronavirus – CT Insider


In March 2020, the moment a new virus began to take hold, Gov. Ned Lamont joined with his counterparts in New York and New Jersey to announce a coordinated set of rules to protect residents in their respective states. The virus knows no borders, Lamont said at the time.

The governors set limits on the sizes of gatherings, shut down indoor dining and temporarily closed gyms, movie theaters and fitness centers. Pennsylvania soon joined the effort, then Rhode Island, Delaware and Massachusetts.

A few months later, thinking about how to safely reopen their economies, the Northeast governors directed their chiefs of staff and health officials to discuss a regional approach to gradually lifting stay-at-home-orders. In some cases they joined together to buy personal-protective equipment.

Now, nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, with the availability of vaccines and a much better understanding of how the virus spreads, the governors have largely moved forward with their own plans for how to respond. They’re indirectly competing for at-home tests, the latest coronavirus material in short supply.

And we’re not hearing Lamont talk as much these days about conversations with other governors, especially with two of the core 2020 group out of office.

Does that mean the much-ballyhooed cooperation among governors is a thing of the past?

Connecticut officials said there’s still a lot of coordination behind the scenes between the administrations — even as, once again, there’s a rush on supplies including N95 masks in addition to the rapid, at-home test kits.

“We still consistently talk,” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said in an interview last week. “We keep each other up to date on what we are doing, the statuses in our states, the thought processes each of us have individually and see if others are in alignment.”

It’s a regular part of the schedule, Mounds added.

“We still consistently do weekly regional calls where we go through the data compiled from the regional states, and across the country and even the world,” he said.

A recent example: Lamont announced last week that employees at long-term care facilities and state hospitals will be required to receive COVID-19 booster shots by Feb. 11. Mounds said he connected Dr. Deidre Gifford, the governor’s top adviser on health and human services, with an official in New York, which is “thinking of going in a similar direction.”

Connecticut’s development of a digital vaccination card was another recent point of cooperation, Mounds said, as officials here wanted to ensure the system was compatible with other states including New York.

There have also been notable differences in how Connecticut has responded compared with its neighboring states — but that was also true early on.

Lamont was more aggressive in reopening the state in the spring of 2020, doing so before New York, which along with New Jersey, reversed their reopenings after an explosion of COVID-19 cases across the country. In July, Govs. Lamont, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Phil Murphy of New Jersey imposed quarantine rules for travelers coming from states experiencing major spikes in new cases.

Connecticut’s vaccine rollout also differed from neighboring states as Lamont gave priority by age and not people with medical conditions or front-line workers, except for teachers, first responders and health care workers.

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