By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — State health officials say the recent increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates among unvaccinated persons indicates the beginning of a fourth pandemic wave in Connecticut.
The state Department of Public Health said Thursday that the highly transmissible Delta variant is the cause of this unfolding outbreak. The latest weekly variant surveillance report estimated the Delta mutation represents 78% of coronavirus strains circulating in the state. It was first detected here in May.
This flare-up is occurring as state officials are growing increasingly concerned about a drop-off in the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.
According to the latest statistics, nearly 60% of the state’s 3.6 million population is fully vaccinated, and 64% of state residents have had at least one vaccine dose. The ranks of fully vaccinated increased by 18,345 people since last Thursday, and 21,017 more people received a first dose.
The alpha variant was the cause of a third pandemic wave that peaked in early April. It is now estimated to account for 17% of coronavirus strains in circulation now.
The DPH said the infection, hospitalization and death rates for unvaccinated persons rapidly declined from the April peak through mid-June, as the third wave of the pandemic waned. Corresponding rates for fully vaccinated persons remained low during this period.
“The recent increase in the case rate and hospitalization rate among unvaccinated persons suggests that we are seeing the beginning of the fourth pandemic wave in Connecticut. This wave is caused by the delta variant,” the DPH said.
The case rate among unvaccinated persons declined from roughly 1,100 cases per 100,000 population in March to 102 cases per 100,000 population in June, and it had more than doubled to nearly 240 per 100,000 through Wednesday.
In contrast, the case rate among vaccinated people dropped from 28 cases per 100,000 in March to 5 cases per 100,000 in June, and it had increased to nearly 14 cases per 100,000 through Wednesday.
State health officials on Thursday also reported 1,113 breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people in Connecticut, including 27 fatalities.
Currently, anyone age 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated. There were breakthrough cases in all age groups, but half of the infected individuals were over the age of 55. The number of infections ranged from three among the 12-to-15 age group to 235 among the 75-and-older age group.
DPH officials stressed that the 1,113 breakthrough cases represent 0.5% of the more than 2.1 million state residents who have been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received a shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a second shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Just 171 breakthrough cases resulted in hospitalization. Again, most of hospitalized patients were over age 55. There were 93 hospitalizations of patients 75 and older, and there were another 40 patients between ages 65 and 74, and 16 more patients ages 55 to 64.
Health officials reported 27 breakthrough cases resulted in deaths. There was no information provided on how many of the dead also had other diseases or medical conditions.
There were 24 deaths among people age 75 and older, one death among the 65 to 74 age group, and two deaths among the 55 to 64 age group.
The fatal breakthrough cases represent 3.2% of the 8,293 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the viral disease. Overall, seven more deaths were reported since last Thursday.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by nine Thursday to 102, including 41 patients in Fairfield County, 30 in New Haven County and 26 in Hartford County. There have been 36,828 hospital admissions since March 2020.
State health officials reported 339 new cases of COVID-19 since Wednesday out of 14,401 test results. The daily positive test rate was almost 2.4%.
There have been 3,606 COVID-19 cases in Naugatuck, 960 in Prospect and 584 in Beacon Falls since last March, according to health officials. There have been 93 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.