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Transcript: Governor Ned Lamont on "Face the Nation," December 5, 2021

The following is a transcript of an interview with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont that aired Sunday, December 5, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Connecticut is now one of 16 states in the U.S. with a confirmed case of Omicron, plus they are seeing a spike in Delta cases, and we want to bring in now the governor of that state, Ned Lamont, who joins us from Stanford. Good morning to you, governor. 

GOV. NED LAMONT: Good morning, MARGARET. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this news that you released overnight that now Omicron is in your state. Is there any indication on exactly how widespread it is? I know in the release your office put out; it did indicate the individual was inoculated. Did he receive, or she receive a booster shot?

GOV. LAMONT: I'm not sure about the booster shot. I do know that the patient was immunized and over the age of 60. I think sometimes there's too much emphasis upon the infection. The good news is- on the vaccination. In this case, the patient is at home resting peacefully and no need to go to the hospital. And that's one of the key things that the vaccines we know are effective at.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So thus far, the indication is a mild type of infection. Is that right? 

GOV. LAMONT: Exactly. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you- you are situated between two major cities, Boston and New York. We know Omicron runs in both places. How concerned are you that this is a wider infection in your state right now?

GOV. LAMONT: I'm concerned. Look, Omicron is coming up from New York on the I-95 corridor, but Delta is coming down from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and no state is an island, and no country is an island. So, the good news is we have 95% of our folks over the age of 12 have had some vaccine, so I think we are prepared. And I'd like to think that we're not going to have the surge in hospitals you see in some less vaccinated states.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you are having some surge, as you mentioned there from Delta right now, given that you already have that, it's holiday season time and people gather. Are you going to issue new restrictions should people call off holiday parties? Are you going to mandate mask wearing?

GOV. LAMONT: I think right now the people of Connecticut have been through this for a year and a half, they're doing the right thing. Like I said, they're overwhelmingly getting vaccinated. They're more likely to wear a mask and do the right thing so they don't need me pushing. But there's no question about it, especially folks of a certain age. Stay out of contagious situations. We just don't know enough about this variant. Be careful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When it comes to the most vulnerable those living in assisted living facilities. Why don't you mandate a booster shot?

GOV. LAMONT: That's a- that's a good question. Look, we got hit hard at nursing homes, as did everybody else. I mean, the good news is that we brought the boosters back to all their nursing homes. Overwhelmingly, the residents have gotten their booster, but we don't have as many of the nurses getting their booster. You say, why don't you mandate that, MARGARET? The balancing act is we're having a hard time keeping nurses, getting nurses in the nursing homes. Some wings are closing down and they're turning back some patients. So, I've got to get the right balance. But the good news, I think, is that overwhelmingly well over 90% of those nurses at least got their first two shots.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why are they leaving? Is it exhaustion or is it something to do with the vaccine?

GOV. LAMONT: I- I think we're just having a hard time hiring in general, a lot of folks are hesitant. I think there's some hesitancy in terms of nurses at hospitals, nurses at- at the nursing homes as well. Look, we're at 95% capacity, but it's a balancing act. You want to make sure you keep people working, but you want them working safely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have given schools in your state the option of using a "Screen and Stay" system. It's like the "Test to Stay" system we heard President Biden say he would like the CDC to look at for parents who would be able to test their child and send them into the classroom, not automatically quarantine them if they have a direct exposure to someone else with COVID. What's your advice to nervous parents when they hear this kind of strategy being adopted? Why do you think it has worked in Connecticut?

GOV. LAMONT: We opened our schools almost universally a year ago, September. Our schools were some of the safest places to be. Now, a year and a half later, 90 plus percent of all of our teachers are vaccinated. We're getting five through 11 vaccinated. What I didn't want to have happen, MARGARET, was, uh oh, here was somebody exposed at home, let's quarantine the whole class or the whole grade for a period of time. So that's why we came up with, look, if you're not showing symptoms, come back into the classroom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we'll wait for the CDC to issue its guidelines. They haven't yet on how to implement that for other states. You were pretty critical of the CDC and its language when it came to booster shots. You said at one point, "the CDC speaks Latin. They're just hard to understand exactly what they're trying to tell you to do." Are you seeing much improvement in communication from them? Are you getting enough guidance from the White House itself? Are they briefing you?

GOV. LAMONT: I get plenty of briefings from the White House. I think they're really good. But I would say to the CDC, you've got to be consistent, and you've got to be clear and you've got to keep it simple. Early on, when it came to the boosters, early on, when it came to the vaccines, there were five pages of small print about who's an essential worker and what's an appropriate comorbidity. "If you smoked at high school," my God, that included two-thirds of the people I knew. So, you had to be a little stricter. You had to be a little clearer and simpler if you want people to get- get their booster. So early on, we said 18 and over, it was more than six months ago you got your last shot, get the booster. People are coming in. It's simple and easy for them to understand.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And have you seen an uptick in booster shots since news of Omicron first broke?

GOV. LAMONT:  Absolutely. Look, we've tried a lot of incentives to get people vaccinated. You know, you had drinks on us. Other people did lotteries. Nothing gets people vaccinated with a booster like a fear of another variant coming. And so that's a good thing in the sense that we have more and more of our people getting the booster. Every, you know, not everybody- a vast majority of people over the 65 have not only had their two shots, but also had their booster as well. That's a big plus, build some defenses for us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, governor, thank you very much for your time. And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.

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