Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

On Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker and other top health city officials expressed optimism about falling COVID-19 case counts in New Haven.

Several officials communicated updates about the city’s pandemic response at a press conference outside City Hall. As of the latest city COVID-19 report from Jan. 17, New Haven is averaging 34 cases per day, according to Public Health Director Maritza Bond. 

“I just want to start, first of all, by saying that we’re in a much better place than we were even a week ago, with Omicron,” Elicker said.  “You look at the trends and they are very promising. Yesterday, the Governor reported a daily test positivity rate of 11 percent. So we are definitely on the downward trajectory, like many places in the country, which is great.”

Elicker added that between the tests provided by the state and tests acquired by the city, New Haven has provided 40,000 rapid tests to the community and 10,000 rapid tests to municipal employees.

Rick Fontana, emergency operations director, also shared that the city is hosting free PCR testing sites at 60 Sargent Dr. and on the New Haven Green, which are open every day but Friday. These sites reopened on Jan. 4 after staff shortages forced them to close in December. 

“The tests have made a big difference,” Fontana said at the press conference. “Keeping people in work, and it’s worked really well for the Board of Education. I also want to take a minute to thank the State of Connecticut. They took a beating when those tests weren’t available back almost a month ago, but they really responded and have done a great job. We’re in good shape.” 

He added that the PCR tests have had “no lines” and are “organized really well.” 

Elicker also announced on Friday that the requirement that all city employees be “fully vaccinated” will include receiving a booster shot, which is in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Elicker added that under the current definition of “fully vaccinated” — which consists of two shots — 81.1 percent of city employees, excluding NHPS staff, are vaccinated. He further specified that 66 percent of the police department, 79.2 percent of the fire department and 87.8 percent of non-public safety employees are vaccinated. The police vaccination rate was 65 percent in October which means the vaccination rate has increased one percent in three months. 

At the press conference, Bond added that the state had implemented a vaccination requirement at elderly homes, which the city would be working to implement. 

“I am actually elated that the Governor put in a mandate on protecting our vulnerable population and our marginalized groups, which is the elderly,” Bond said. “My grandmother is one of the elders that lives in a local nursing home, and so the fact that we will be there verifying vaccines, and/or testing is something that I want to just commend the Governor’s leadership.”

Bond added that she “encouraged all community members to continue to be vigilant and to continue to follow mitigation strategies.”

Elicker told residents that the Governor’s mask and vaccination or testing mandates are going to expire on Feb. 15, but he noted that Lamont has asked the legislature to renew the mask mandate but does not plan to ask for the renewal of the vaccination or testing mandate. 

New Haven Public Schools will keep its masking and vaccination or testing policy in place, according to Elicker. 

“The city of New Haven’s current mask mandate already covers the schools,” Elicker said. “Because the mandate covers all public indoor spaces, we will count the schools under that. The most important thing that folks need to understand is that students and school staff will continue to be required to wear masks, regardless of whether the state legislature decides to re-up the Governor’s mask mandate or not.”

Elicker also explained that since “school personnel are technically city employees,” they will continue to be covered under the municipal mandate. He added that “school employees should understand that nothing will change except who is requiring them to be vaccinated or get tested.” 

The city of New Haven employs 1,430 workers. 

YASH ROY
Yash Roy covers education & youth services in New Haven and is a P&D staffer. He is a first year in Timothy Dwight College and is from Princeton, NJ.