By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Despite low infection rates now, state officials and public health experts are bracing for a COVID-19 comeback in Connecticut as the weather turns colder.
The percentage of positive tests for coronavirus infection has hovered below, or just above, 1% on a rolling, seven-day average for most of the summer. The high was 41% back in mid-April during the height of the viral outbreak.
Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday described the next three months as a critical test for Connecticut during a COVID-19 forum at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Lamont said.
Yale Epidemiologist Albert Ko warned there could be a resurgence of COVID-19 as early as November because the coming cold weather will mean more people spending time indoors together in greater numbers.
“I think November will be a period of risk,” Lamont said. “So, my job is to make sure that we keep our discipline, something Connecticut has really led the country in, and make sure we realize this is a very crucial 60-90 days coming up.”
Ko said there is also an increased possibility of flare-ups between December and March, during the traditional season for influenza and respiratory illnesses.
“We are particularly concerned about what is going to happen in the winter season,” he said.
THE YALE EXPERT said a surge is not necessarily inevitable when he joined Lamont later Tuesday afternoon during a news briefing on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak and the state response.
“I think we have got the fundamentals down,” said Ko, who helped advise the Lamont administration on the state’s reopening plans.
He cited the state’s moves to contain outbreaks in Danbury and in a Norwich nursing home.
He also pointed to the travel advisory for visitors from states with high infection rates and other public health precautions that have been credited with keeping infection rates low in the state, including mandates for wearing face coverings and social distancing in public.
If all goes well, Ko said Connecticut could be in a containment phase in November.
Lamont observed how optimistic predictions in the spring that the coming warm weather would dramatically slow or even halt the spread of coronavirus in the United States were wrong.
“We’re continuing to learn on this every day. My instincts would be if we could get through the college reopenings, we see what happens in the flu season in November, if we can get through that, if we can get the fast testing, we’re in a new place, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
THE INFECTION RATE continued to tick up over Labor Day weekend.
The Department of Public Health reported 417 additional COVID-19 cases between Friday and Monday out of 49,185 test results that were received.
There now have been 53,782 cases since early March just before winter ended and nearly 1.3 million diagnostic tests have been done, though this figure includes multiple tests of some patients and specimens.
Public health officials also reported a net decline of eight hospitalizations over the holiday weekend between new admissions and discharges.
There were 50 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide Monday, including 16 in Hartford County, 14 in New Haven County, and eight in Fairfield County.
Six more coronavirus-associated deaths were recorded over the Labor Day weekend. This brought the death toll to 4,474 since the first fatality was announced in mid-March.
Locally, the Naugatuck Valley Health District reported Tuesday there have been 421 confirmed coronavirus cases in Naugatuck and 59 in Beacon Falls. There have been 37 confirmed deaths associated with coronavirus and four probable deaths in Naugatuck, according to the health district, and none in Beacon Falls.
The Chesprocott Health District reported Sept. 4 there have been 85 cases in Prospect and no coronavirus-related deaths in town.
Ko said it could be three to four weeks before the statistics indicated whether there was a surge of COVID-19 cases following the holiday weekend.
“I think the bottom line is that we should be vigilant now, and we’re going to have to be vigilant over the next several weeks to see what happened over Labor Day,” he said.
CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY added four more states to a tri-state travel advisory that requires residents of listed states to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of traveling.
The additions were Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. The territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were dropped this week. The watch list is updated every Tuesday.
There are now 35 states subject to the tri-state travel advisory. It also applies to Connecticut residents returning here from any of the listed states or territories.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.