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What's driving the latest COVID surge? Local doctors weigh in

Even among the fully vaccinated, doctors say to get the booster shot.

HARTFORD, Conn — After reaching a 1 year high of 8.3% on Tuesday, the state's COVID positivity rate dropped back down below 5% Wednesday. But doctors told FOX61 they expect both infections and hospitalizations to continue to rise until at least mid-January.

So what’s driving the latest COVID surge? It’s the colder weather, holiday gatherings and the unvaccinated, according to local doctors. But even among the fully vaccinated, they say get boosted.

“Vaccinations and boosters, especially boosters, are the way out of this,” remarked Dr. Ulysses Wu of Hartford HealthCare.

David Banach, Infectious Disease Doctor and Epidemiologist for UConn Health, said the booster is effective relatively quickly.

“In the studies, they looked at antibody levels seven days after the booster and found that they were already quite elevated,” Dr. Banach said.

RELATED: East Hartford reinstates face mask requirements at town buildings

It’s a public health message you’ll even see on billboards as you drive on the highway.

“I’m not worried about it,” said Tom Clark of Farmington, who had COVID in October. He said he’s not sold on vaccines.

“Once that Pandora’s box opens up, how many shots are we going to get? How many are we going to need? It seems like it’s a big infomercial for pharmaceuticals in my opinion.”

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Others like Keith Englekey of West Hartford are vaccinated but don’t wear a mask indoors in public.

“I feel that it’s business as usual. If I’m shopping I don’t really use my mask unless it’s required by a business,” he explained.

This is why the 25,000-member social media army of VaccineAngel.com is calling on Gov. Lamont to re-implement a statewide mask mandate.

“We are all saying the same thing. We are asking kindly for a statewide mask mandate,” said Facebook group founder Joel Leyden. “You can’t give it to the town. The towns don’t have this invisible border that is going to protect the next town from Omicron or Delta.”

RELATED: Yale New Haven Hospital to temporarily expand emergency room to parking lot

But Gov. Lamont is taking a different approach. Instead, he is opting for a digital health card or vaccine passport.

“A lot of our businesses and a lot of our restaurants said that would be incredibly helpful. Show the QR code, I’ve been double vaccinated or I’ve been boostered. There’s a lot of folks like me who would probably prefer going into a store or restaurant where I see they are taking that seriously,” said Gov. Lamont.

Meanwhile, infections and hospitalizations are on the rise.

76.9 percent of patients in the hospital with COVID are not fully vaccinated, according to data from the state. As of the week of Nov. 21, unvaccinated individuals were 4.5 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people and 31.1 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

“If you haven’t gotten the initial vaccine, this is the time to do it. You still have the opportunity to protect yourself moving into winter,” Dr. Banach said.

In order to be fully vaccinated before holiday gatherings, you would need to get your second COVID shot two weeks before Christmas, which is this Saturday.

“Still, the majority is unvaccinated. A lot of the focus has been on masking and vaccination but what is really driving this is social behaviors,” explained Dr. Wu.

By that, Dr. Wu means unvaccinated and unmasked indoor social gatherings. Dr. Wu told FOX61 he understands people are feeling COVID fatigue but he says now it’s more important than ever not to let your guard down.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Elisha Machado is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at emachado@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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