Thirty-seven state residents died of COVID-19 in the last week as the state’s positivity climbed back up to 6.48% Thursday. The state’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 8,946.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s office reported another 2,679 confirmed COVID-19 cases. One additional person was added to the state’s hospitals, which are now treating 576 patients with COVID-19.
Local doctors say social behavior, covid fatigue and a mutation that is 60% more contagious than the original has led to spikes in COVID-19 cases hospitalizations in the state and region.
“The way to look at COVID is it is a social disease. It is transmitted by our on social behaviors,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist & system director, infectious diseases, Hartford HealthCare.
“We have to be very cautious about how we approach things,” Wu said. “The best way to beat this is to try to figure out how to modify our own social behaviors to not put ourselves at risk,” Wu said. “We have to make sure we put ourselves in safer situations,” he said.
Despite concerns about the new omicron mutation “Delta is the demon we are dealing with right now,” Wu said. The state continues to report only two cases of the omicron mutation.
“People aren’t as vigilant as they were before,” said Keith Grant, Hartford HealthCare’s infectious disease specialist. “Delta is significantly more contagious than what we had before. The disease is still there. It’s still deadly.”
Current vaccines are slightly less effective against the delta variant but generally offer more protection against severe disease.
“We are seeing higher mortality in vaccinated individuals,” Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer, Hartford HealthCare said in an online press briefing.
Health officials stressed the importance of vaccination and boosters, particularly as winter holidays approach. Dr. Husnain Kermalli, chief medical officer, Saint Mary’s Hospital advised wearing masks indoors and especially in crowded situations. “The drier winter months do lend to increased air suspension of all virus particles – COVID-19, influenza, common cold – but wearing a mask is an easy, safe and reliable way to protect ourselves.”
Trinity Health Of New England, parent company of Saint Mary’s Hospital, is treating 97 patients, 24 of whom have been vaccinated. That is an increase of 12 patients in 24 hours.
Waterbury Hospital on Thursday reported treating 22 COVID-19 positive patients today, of whom 8 are vaccinated. Hartford HealthCare said it is treating 206 COVID-19 patients, 19 of whom are at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.
Dr. Ajay Kumar said that is the same number of patients the hospital system had in February 2021 during the winter surge.
Connecticut has seen a surge in infections that began at Halloween and picked up after Thanksgiving. Grant speculated that Christmas travel and celebration might drive cases higher. “There is going to be higher risk because of individuals being inside,” Hartford Hospital’s Grant said.
Waterbury Health Department’s vaccination and testing sites have been increasingly busy in the last few days “due to the surge in cases (and resulting number of close contacts who require testing as follow-up) and the number of people concerned about the omicron variant and encouragement from public health and national leaders to get a booster dose,” said Aisling McGuckin, Waterbury director of public health. She said the city was working with the state to see if it could open a second testing site.
Despite 200 million Americans being vaccinated, deaths from the virus are about 1,600 a day. The death toll from COVID-19 in 2021 has surpassed that of 2020, before vaccines were available for the general population. Health officials say unvaccinated individuals have allowed the virus to mutate, raising the possibility that the mutations may evade or reduce protection from vaccination.
However, on a statewide level, the number of hospitalizations is more than half of what it was last year, when it was treating 1,262 patients.
“The unvaccinated remain to be at highest risk of contracting severe COVID infection especially among the elderly, those with chronic diseases, and those with immune compromising conditions,” said Dr. Danyal Ibrahim, regional chief quality officer / chief of toxicology, Trinity Health Of New England. “We see this especially following indoor congregations during the holidays. Seeking medical attention early – if you think you have COVID – is important as there are now effective therapies that can prevent severe disease if started early in the course of illness.”