Transcript: Governor Ned Lamont on "Face the Nation," January 31, 2021

Lamont urges Biden to "give us some transparency" on vaccines
Lamont urges Biden to "give us some transpare... 06:19

The following is a transcript of an interview with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont that aired Sunday, January 31, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Connecticut. Governor Ned Lamont joins us from Stamford good morning to you.

GOVERNOR NED LAMONT: Good morning, MARGARET.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, we've talked about your state being a- an outperformer in terms of actually getting vaccine supply out to constituents, and I wonder what your advice to the Biden administration would be. Should they continue prioritizing states based on population or reward good behavior by giving more vaccine to states that can actually put it in arms?

GOVERNOR NED LAMONT: Well, I can tell you they gave us- the previous administration gave us 50,000 additional doses because we are doing a good job of getting people vaccinated on a timely basis. But I think what's most important right now for the Biden administration is give us some transparency, let us know what we can expect next week, what we can expect next month so we know how much to expand our infrastructure. But we're ready to get people vaccinated. You just get us the vaccines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we know the White House said this week that they will boost supply about 16%, give you three weeks notice of what you're about to get instead of just the one week that you were getting under the prior administration. But then I saw that two health systems in your state have been canceling appointments for shots in arms for the coming week. So I'm wondering, is there still a problem with federal supply?

GOV. LAMONT: I don't think so. They've done a relatively good job of getting us the vaccines when we need it. Our hospital systems and federally qualified health centers, they do things by appointment. That clears up a lot of the confusion you see in some other states. But I do know that one or two of these systems maybe overpromised and, you know, had more people than they had vaccines. We're watching that very carefully. Do it by appointment. Clear up the confusion. Get people vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you have prioritized, as the federal government has suggested, based on age. And there is a correlation, of course, between mortality and age when it comes to COVID. But one of your local papers, The Connecticut Mirror, had analysis pointing out that the 65 and older group in Connecticut is about 84% white. Given how hard hit people of color are, should race be a factor?

GOV. LAMONT: What they also pointed out, MARGARET, is that people of color, Black and brown, 60, 65, 75, are much more likely to get infected, much more likely to suffer complications than a white person 10 years their elder. So, we are making a big effort to make sure we don't just get the worried well at our big drive through vaccination centers, but also get our mobile vans, go to the churches, go to those housing complexes where we can get people vaccinated who have to get vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you still will stick with age as the determining factor at this point?

GOV. LAMONT: At this point, it's 75 and above, just because, as you point out, you know, 80% of the fatalities are related to that narrow group. Then we'll probably go down to 65 and above. Most of those folks have comorbidities. And then we'll look at essential workers in a broader group from there. But we can expand quickly if we get more vaccines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let me ask you about those essential workers. You have about 50% of your schools already in person, face-to-face instruction. Should teachers be pushed to the front of the line as essential workers? I asked the- Cedric Richmond from the White House that he didn't want to stipulate that they should be prioritized. Will you prioritize teachers in your state?

GOV. LAMONT: Well, first of all, we have about 95% of our kids have the opportunity to go to school, to go to the classroom either full time or hybrid. Almost all of them are full time. Our teachers have been extraordinary heroes showing up, being at school, giving these kids an opportunity. I can't afford a lost year. So, yes, teachers are going to be in an early group when it comes to people getting vaccinated. And right now, they are a priority group in terms of testing. We're doing testing at the schools or nearby--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

GOV. LAMONT:  --to make sure every teacher has the confidence that they can continue to teach safely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But for example, in Chicago, the mayor has said there that putting teachers ahead of other essential workers wouldn't necessarily be fair. Will you put teachers ahead of those other essential workers in 1b?

GOV. LAMONT: Well, it's a little complicated. I've got police who are going out there on the front lines. We've got manufacturing folks and defense industries. I've got day care workers. So, I've got to be careful about how you prioritize. But I got to tell you, teachers are right near the top of that list because of what we're doing to keep our schools open and our kids in the game.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In Connecticut, you have detected some of this new mutant virus, the B117 that originated or was- excuse me, detected first in the UK. The prime minister, as you know, of the United Kingdom, shut down schools there. At what point will you reverse course or have to reverse course and shut down your schools if this particular strain becomes more of a problem?

GOV. LAMONT: Somebody I talked to a lot about this is one of your next guests, Scott Gottlieb, who's been advising us. And fortunately in Connecticut, compared to, say, a couple of the other states, our hit rate in terms of those particularly infectious variants is very, very low. So, I'm quite confident that if we keep the vaccinations going, we're going to be able to stay ahead of that curve. But we are watching it carefully. And if something changes so will we.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a benchmark infection rate where you'd shut down?

GOV. LAMONT: I don't do it that way. I mean, right now we're less than 5%. We're one of the lowest in the country right now, been that way for some time. And- and frankly, being in a classroom with a mask is probably a lot safer than being out with your buddies because you can't go to school.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, are you confident, bottom line, that you will have 100% of schools open by the spring?

GOV. LAMONT: Like I said, 95% of our kids right now are already have the option to go to school either full time or a hybrid--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

GOV. LAMONT: --and that we're going to keep that going. The only variant could be is if this UK variant takes off like wildfire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. Governor Lamont, thank you for your time today. We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.