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CONNECTICUT — Where do we stand with the COVID-19 pandemic, and when will it end? The World Health Organization released its assessment on Monday.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said "we have a long way to go," but saw a path where member nations could "end the acute phase of the pandemic this year."
By themselves, vaccines "are not the golden ticket out of the pandemic," but a high inoculation rate still remains a key component of the recovery, according to Ghebreyesus. The WHO has set a global 70 percent vaccination rate as its goal, with an emphasis on the most at-risk groups.
From our perch here in the Connecticut, that almost looks doable. In the U.S., a little over 63 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and over 76 percent have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Nutmeg State is third in U.S. vaccinations, behind Vermont and Massachusetts, with a little over 76 percent of its total population fully vaccinated.
But outside the U.S., the numbers are a little less encouraging, according to the world health chief.
"As it stands, 86 Member States across all regions have not been able to reach last year's target of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations – and 34 Member States, most of them in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region, have not been able to vaccinate even 10 percent of their populations," Ghebreyesus said. "85 percent of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine."
Global health officials have overcome last year's supply problems and are now focused on rollout and implementation, according to Ghebreyesus.
From the start of the pandemic, the top concern of health officials in Connecticut and throughout the country has been hospitalizations. The metric was a daily indicator of both the severity of the current wave of infections, and a snapshot of a vulnerable health care system pressure point.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Connecticut reached a high of 1,972 on April 22, 2020. After dropping to a trickle later that summer of 2020, hospitalization floodgates opened again in the fall and winter, to a high of 1,269 beds reported Dec. 14. Hospitalizations spiked a third time earlier this month, peaking just shy of the 2020 pandemic record. Over the weekend, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 plummeted by 218 beds, to 1,477. Of those, 43.5 percent are fully vaccinated.
According to Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, the rapid rise in hospitalizations in the winter of 2021-22 was due to the sheer number of infections from the highly transmissible omicron variant.
"This is in addition to a delta burden that has not entirely passed, and also to the high number of incidental admissions," Kluge said. On the upside, hospitalizations with omicron result much less frequently in intensive care unit admission, and the newer variant in fact "offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization."
But fortunate as we were to have the much milder omicron elbow delta out of the dominant variant spot, Ghebreyesus cautioned that "It is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame."
The spring of 2020 saw the daily coronavirus positivity rate fluctuate wildly, but all within 10 percentage points of the pandemic high to date, 26 percent on Jan. 7. The infection rate has dropped steadily over the past two weeks, but still has much progress to make to fall under the lows seen at the start of this past summer.
COVID-19 infections in the state dropped another 2-1/3 percentage points over the weekend, to 11.36 percent, according to the latest DPH data.
The daily coronavirus positivity rate is a function of the number of tests compared to the number of cases confirmed positive each day. Since Friday, 12,057 positive cases were logged, out of 106,153 tests taken. The numbers of tests and cases confirmed do not include those taken with at-home self-test kits.
The highest number of the hospitalized —454 — are in Hartford County.