Fauci says state in ‘good place’

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Dr. Anthony Fauci stated Connecticut is well positioned with its low rate of coronavirus infection to stay ahead of the virus during a news briefing Monday with Gov. Ned Lamont.

The government’s top infectious disease expert also expressed support for fully reopening public schools to the state’s 530,000 students as Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona prefer.

Fauci also said he is cautiously optimistic that a vaccine against coronavirus disease could be available as early as the first quarter of 2021.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, accepted Lamont’s invitation to participate in Monday’s news briefing on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak in Connecticut and the state response. He appeared via video conference from the NIAD’s Maryland headquarters.

Lamont reported the number of COVID-19 cases here had topped 50,000 with approximately 250 additional cases since Friday. There have been more than 10,800 hospitalizations and roughly 4,430 coronavirus-associated deaths.

On a rolling seven-day average, there have been two new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, a positive test rate of 1%, and 0.4 new hospital admissions per 100,000 population, according to the state figures released Monday.

“Connecticut is in a good place,” Fauci said. “The numbers that the governor just showed are really indicative that you are in a situation that you now, in many respects, have the upper hand because you have such a low rate that when you do get new cases, you have the capability of containment as opposed to mitigation.”

He said he was also encouraged that Connecticut is continuing to observe public health protocols that are responsible for the state’s favorable COVID-19 numbers, including wearing masks, observing social distancing and hand hygiene, avoiding crowded places, and keeping bars closed.

THE LAMONT ADMINISTRATION released a color-coded guide of risk levels Monday for helping school districts decide on how and where students will receive instruction based on certain metrics for each of the state’s eight counties.

All public schools were required to develop operating plans for offering in-person instruction five days a week, a combination of in-person and remote instruction.

The leading indicator of risk level is the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population on a rolling seven-day average. Secondary indicators are the percentage of positive test results, new hospital admissions per 100,000, and the percentage of emergency room visits for COVID-like illness.

The lowest risk level is yellow, and this is where all eight counties stand now. The number of new COVID-19 cases is less than 10 per 100,000 people, and the three secondary indicators are trending down to flat.

There have been approximately 2,630 cases of COVID-19 among patients under the age of 20, including nearly 800 age 9 or younger.

There have been two coronavirus-associated deaths of people under the age of 20. One was a 6-week-old newborn who tested positive postmortem. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy.

Fauci lent his support to Lamont’s call to fully reopen school buildings to students based on the current trends in the state’s outbreak.

“You’re at a percentage that is really quite low that you should be able with care to open up for in-person learning,” Fauci said. “If the situation changes, you need to be flexible enough to make the kinds of changes that always keep in mind the health, safety and welfare of the children and the teachers. I hope the situation does not change in Connecticut because you’re in a very good place.”

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH reported an additional 252 cases of COVID-19 out of the 35,713 test results received since Friday for a three-day positivity rate of 0.7%.

There now have been 827,713 diagnostic tests done in Connecticut, though this figure includes multiple tests of some patients and specimens.

There was a net decrease of 13 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 between new admissions and discharges to 56 statewide.

Public health officials reported five more deaths since Friday to bring the death toll to 4,437 since the first coronavirus-associated death was reported in mid-March.

THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTRICT reported there had been 410 confirmed cases in Naugatuck and 56 in Beacon Falls since the outbreak started as of July 30, its latest update. There had been 37 confirmed deaths associated with coronavirus and three probable deaths in Naugatuck, according to the health district, and none in Beacon Falls.

The Chesprocott Health District reported as of July 31 there have been 78 cases in Prospect and no coronavirus-related deaths in town.

Fauci was hopeful that a vaccine against COVID-19 could become available next year as several pharmaceutical companies are embarking on Phase III clinical trials now.

If a vaccine is proven to be safe and effective by the end of 2020, Fauci said doses should be available into the first, second and third quarters of 2021.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.

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