Daily coronavirus updates: Connecticut’s hospitalizations drop for third straight day; Travel quarantine reduced to 10 days

Emily Brindley, Hartford Courant

Connecticut on Friday reported a third consecutive day of dropping coronavirus hospitalizations, even as the state’s positive test rate remained approximately steady and coronavirus-linked deaths continued to add up.

Hospitalizations dropped by 38 on Friday, the state reported, for a total of 1,167 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s the lowest number the state has seen since Dec. 1.

However, the state also reported 2,680 newly identified coronavirus cases out of a total of 39,128 total tests administered, for a daily positivity rate of 6.85%.

Over the past seven days, the state’s average positivity rate is 6.4% — notably higher than last summer, when the rates were below 1%, but lower than the single-day high of the second wave, which was 8.6% earlier this month.

Coronavirus-linked deaths continued to add up on Friday, with 29 new deaths reported that day. So far in December, the state has reported 561 deaths — already significantly more than in the entire months of October and November.

At a ceremony in West Hartford Friday morning, residents at The Reservoir nursing home were among the first in the country to be vaccinated.

“Over the past nine months our nursing home residents, families and staff have been devastated by this virus,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. “Sadly we lost over 3,000 residents to COVID-19, that’s 3,000 grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, friends and beloved colleagues.”

The death rate has been significantly lower in long-term care facilities during the second wave of coronavirus infections over the past few months. In the latest data released by the state, there were 224 deaths statewide from Dec. 9-15 — of which 84 were in long-term care facilities — or about 37% of the total. While the 84 deaths are the most in a week since April and May, it is still lower than in the spring when routinely well over 100 long-term residents were dying weekly.

Since the pandemic began, Connecticut has seen 162,782 coronavirus cases and a total of 5,581 deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 17.4 million coronavirus cases and a total of 312,524 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Also Friday Hartford the state Department of Public Health and the Connecticut National Guard, started rebuilding a field hospital at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The facility will be operated by Hartford Healthcare and has 600 beds. If needed, it will serve patients not well enough to go home but who do not require ventilators or more intensive care. The Hartford field hospital is the first to be added back since the spring, when the state had five field hospitals during the peak of the spring surge.

Lamont issues new travel guidelines

Lamont on Friday signed an executive order changing the state’s travel guidelines — effective Saturday, all out-of-state travelers will be required to self-quarantine for 10 days when they arrive in Connecticut, unless they’re arriving from New Jersey, New York or Rhode Island. Those three states are exempted after an agreement among the state leaders.

The new guidance is a change from the previous rules, which required a 14-day quarantine for travelers from nearly everywhere, but was based on infection metrics as opposed to a blanket rule.

Similarly to the previous rules, though, the new rules have some exceptions. Travelers can take a PCR test and truncate their quarantine when they send negative results to the state. The quarantine rule also does not apply to essential workers who are traveling for work and previous coronavirus patients who have recovered from the virus within the past 90 days and have been asymptomatic or negative for at least 10 days.

Petition to close indoor dining, gyms sent to governor

A group of physicians has sent a 1,000-signature petition to Lamont and Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford, urging the officials to close indoor dining and gyms.

The petition was a follow-up after a group of 35 physicians and one nurse sent a signed letter to Lamont just before Thanksgiving, requesting the same measures. The medical workers asked the state to intervene and tighten coronavirus-related restrictions to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Several days after sending the letter to Lamont, and having received no response from the governor, the physicians started the online petition. The petition, which was a modified version of the original letter to the governor, garnered 1,027 signatures before the organizers closed it.

After The Courant reported on the letter, when the petition had already begun, the governor met with a group of physicians who signed onto the original letter. However, Lamont did not act on their requests — his coronavirus-related restrictions on indoor dining, gyms and gatherings has remained unchanged.

Courant Staff Writer Dave Altimari contributed to this story.

Emily Brindley can be reached at ebrindley@courant.com.