Health care system ‘bending, but it is not breaking’

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont says moderating trends in the coronavirus outbreak in Connecticut are giving state hospitals more time to prepare for an expected surge in hospitalizations.

Lamont reported Monday that infection and hospitalization rates continue to rise, but social distancing precautions appear to be slowing the rates of increase.

Through mid-day Monday, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 topped 6,900, and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients exceeded 1,200.

“Our health care system is bending, but it is not breaking,” Lamont said during a daily briefing Monday.

The Lamont administration has estimated that Connecticut will need roughly 12,000 hospital beds and 4,000 ventilators at the peak of the outbreak. State officials have reported there are about 7,000 beds and 1,000 ventilators available.

Lamont continued to express confidence Monday that an additional 5,000 hospital beds can be arranged between the 27 acute care hospitals, field hospitals and nursing homes.

He also reported no infected patients are currently at risk because there are not enough ventilators.

Lamont said the state has not received any more of the 1,500 ventilators requested from the National Strategic Stockpile than the 50 breathing devices that the federal government previously delivered.

He also reported for the time being that there are sufficient supplies of masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment, or PPEs.

“Right now, we have the beds. Right now, we have the ventilators, and right now we have the PPE to take care of things,” Lamont said.

THE LATEST MODELING continues to show the peak of the viral outbreak is still a few weeks away for Fairfield County, where the coronavirus first spread into Connecticut from neighboring New York state.

There were 3,709 laboratory-confirmed cases in Fairfield County reported Monday and 572 COVID-19 patients in the region’s hospitals. Public health officials also reported 101 deceased patients who tested positive for COVID-19 around the time of their deaths.

There were 1,468 laboratory-confirmed cases and 384 hospitalized patients reported Monday in New Haven County, and 882 cases and 31 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Hartford County.

The Department of Public Health reported 6,906 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, 1,221 associated hospitalizations, and 206 related deaths. Public health officials said the statistics included additions since Sunday, plus other positive results, hospitalizations and deaths that were not reflected in earlier accounts.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District reported 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Naugatuck and 13 in Beacon Falls. The health district’s jurisdiction also includes Ansonia, Derby, Seymour and Shelton.

The health district reported 18 deaths associated with COVID-19 within its jurisdiction — 17 in Shelton and one in Seymour. Sixteen were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

The health district reported 95 of the 279 confirmed cases among residents in its jurisdiction are individuals who live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, group home or a similar setting.

There were 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Prospect, which is under the jurisdiction of the Chesprocott Health District, according to data released by the state Monday.

There have been some discrepancies between the number of confirmed cases reported by the state and local health districts. In a post on its Facebook page, Chesprocott Health District said in some cases a hospital or health care provider may learn of a laboratory-confirmed case and notify the local health department before the report is entered into the Department of Public Health’s online surveillance system.

THE DAILY UPDATES will soon include reports on the number of hospitalized patients that have been discharged after recovering from COVID-19.

Lamont said the reporting of resolved cases should commence Wednesday. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

State officials had been exploring how to compile the number of resolved cases so that figure could also be reported in addition to test results, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We’re going to have that I’m told by Wednesday because it is interesting who is being admitted, but it is also just as interesting who is being discharged,” Lamont said.

He cited a statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that 75% of the COVID-19 patients admitted to New York hospitals have been discharged after recovering.

State officials are also working on more precisely reporting the death toll from the outbreak.

The Department of Public Health reports deaths of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in its daily counts. This is not the same as the cause of death. Only the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determines causes of death.

Deaths reported to the health department or the medical examiner’s office are included in the daily reports of associated deaths.

In time, the Lamont administration is planning on reporting the number of deaths that the medical examiner’s office has determined were due to COVID-19, said Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.