By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
WEST HARTFORD — The positive test rate for COVID-19 has shot up to 4.1%, a level not seen since early June when Connecticut was emerging from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, state health officials reported Tuesday.
Gov. Ned Lamont disclosed the troubling development during a mid-day news conference Tuesday at West Hartford Town Hall that centered on public health protocols for polling places on Election Day.
“It is not unexpected, but it still wakes you up like a cold shower,” he said. “That is the highest number we have had since very early June.”
The 4.1% daily positive rate recorded Monday was almost double the combined 2.2% rate reported for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The daily COVID-19 statistics reflect newly reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths that date back several days to a week.
State health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 538 cases of COVID-19 out of 13,039 tests that were received on Monday. There now have been 68,367 cases in Connecticut and more than 2.2 million diagnostic tests performed.
Also, there was a net increase of 22 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday between new admissions and discharges to 292 statewide. This is also the highest number of hospitalizations since early June.
Another half dozen coronavirus-associated deaths raised the death toll to 4,595. There have been fatalities recorded in every age group, but the 80 and older age group accounts for 60% of the overall deaths attributed to the disease.
The Naugatuck Valley Health District didn’t issue an update Tuesday. As of Monday, there had been 515 cases in Naugatuck and 67 in Beacon Falls, according to the health district. There had been 41 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck and none in Beacon Falls, according to health officials.
The Chesprocott Health District’s weekly update reported Friday showed there have been 119 coronavirus cases in Prospect — an additional 10 cases since Oct. 16. There have been no coronavirus-associated deaths in Prospect, according to the health district.
Lamont said the resurgence of COVID-19 in Connecticut is underscoring the continued need for people to wear masks, practice social distancing and take other precautions to limit the spread of the viral disease.
He said nationwide states are seeing outbreaks.
“We have seen our numbers around the country trending up over the last couple of months. I think we had an all-time high in the United States of America yesterday in terms of infections, and it is also the positivity rate. So, it is not simply, don’t let them say we are doing more tests. It is also the positivity rate that is impactful.”
The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases hit a record high on Sunday of 68,767, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. recorded more than 80,000 new cases on both Friday and Saturday — the highest marks ever.
Lamont again warned restaurant and bar owners against ignoring the state’s closure order on bars and flouting other coronavirus-related mandates. He called on the industry to police itself.
“If you get it right, then we can stay open. If you can’t get it right, then we can’t keep everybody open,” Lamont said.
He appealed to patrons to follow the rules, too.
“I’d say you’re not only endangering yourselves, you’re endangering your family,” Lamont said. “You’re going to make it more likely that your community would have to close schools and close down the reopening. We’re doing everything we can to allow people to get back to a normal life as safely as we can, but with that type of behavior going on it is going to be impossible.”
The governor said he is inclined to leave enforcement of the reopening rules to local officials, but he also cautioned this approach could change if infection rates continue to increase across the state.
“We have gone from about 2% to 4% in the last couple of weeks,” Lamont said.
Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre S. Gifford said none of the nine additional towns and cities that were placed on the highest COVID-19 alert status last Thursday decided to roll back looser limits on businesses and gatherings that took effect on Oct. 8, including Prospect and Waterbury.
Lamont issued an executive order recently that gave discretion to municipal chief executives to take that step if a municipality averages 15 daily COVID-19 cases or more per 100,000 population over a two-week period.
Of the initial 11 towns and cities that met that state threshold, only the town of Windham opted to re-impose stricter rules.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.