COVID-related deaths top 5,000 in state

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Connecticut has passed another ghastly milestone in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as the death toll topped 5,000 over the weekend.

The 59 new coronavirus-linked deaths recorded between Friday and Sunday brought the number of fatalities to 5,020 since March 17 when an 88-year-old man from Ridgefield died due to severe complications from COVID-19.

“That is a big number of people who have died over the last eight months with COVID-related deaths,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

With slightly more than 400 deaths, the month of November ended Monday as the deadliest month since June when a little more than 350 deaths were recorded.

Hospitalizations and infections also continued to mount. There were nearly 1,100 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and roughly 4,700 new cases were reported over the weekend.

Lamont had no projections Monday on the number of expected infections and deaths, and he also had no estimate on when hospitalizations might be expected to crest in this second wave of the outbreak.

He only said modeling continues to indicate that this latest phase in the epidemic is likely to peak in the second half of January.

The governor also continued to resist calls to roll back the state’s economic reopening, including a recent letter from three dozen doctors and nurses urging gyms and restaurants be closed.

“I can shut down schools, shut down restaurants, lock everything up, and say let’s come back in the new year, but you have got to get the right balance going forward,” Lamont said.

THE HOSPITALIZATION RATE is being closely watched because COVID-19 patients require high levels of care that stress hospitals.

There were 81 more patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Friday and Sunday. The statewide total on Sunday was 1,098 patients.

After nearly six weeks in the 1,000 to 2,000 range, hospitalizations fell below 1,000 in mid-May, and the single-day high remains the 1,972 patients who were hospitalized on April 22.

At this time, the Lamont administration is more concerned about hospital staffing than hospital capacity despite this recent spike in hospitalizations.

While rates vary among hospitals, 71% of the state’s approximately 8,000 staffed hospital beds are currently occupied, and the occupancy rate for the nearly 1,000 beds in intensive care units is 59%, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

COVID-19 patients are taking up nearly 14% of all hospital beds and 33% of ICU beds

Geballe said hospitals are not currently short on doctors and nurses, but several hospitals have reported shortages of other medical workers, such as phlebotomists who collect blood for testing.

“Folks are working very hard. The level of hospitalizations we have in this state is much too high,” he said.

Lamont and Geballe observed hospitals are currently offering elective surgery, but hospitals could curtail these procedures to free up doctors, nurses and other medical workers to care for COVID-19 patients as happened in the first wave of the outbreak this spring.

If necessary, Geballe and Lamont said the Connecticut National Guard could quickly set up field hospitals if there is an acute shortage of hospital beds.

ANOTHER 4,712 COVID-19 CASES were reported out of 71,327 test results that were received between Friday and Sunday.

There now have been 112,581 cases out of more than 3.1 million molecular and antigen tests that have been performed in Connecticut.

In a bright spot, the percent of positive tests declined, Lamont said. The positive rate on Sunday was 4.4% based on tests results received in the previous 24 hours, down from the 4.8% reported Thursday. The governor said the seven-day average of positive tests was also trending down.

THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTRICT reported there were 214 new cases from Nov. 23 through Sunday in its jurisdiction, which covers Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour and Shelton. There have been 3,336 cases as of Sunday since March in the six towns, according to the health district.

There were 68 new cases in Naugatuck and 11 in Beacon Falls from Nov. 23 through Sunday. There have been 855 cases in Naugatuck and 121 in Beacon Falls since March, according to the health district.

The health district reported there have been 259 COVID-19 associated deaths in the six towns, an increase of four from Nov. 23 through Sunday. There have been 44 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck — an increase of two from Nov. 23 — and none in Beacon Falls, according to health officials.

According to data released by the state, there have been 299 cases in Prospect since March, and no coronavirus-related deaths. The 299 cases is 50 more than the Chesprocott Health District, which serves Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott, reported for the town in its latest update on Nov. 20.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.