Daily coronavirus updates: Connecticut releases data showing racial disparities in vaccination; State logs positivity rate of 3.1%

Emily Brindley, Hartford Courant
·5 min read

The state Department of Public Health on Wednesday released data suggesting that Connecticut’s vaccination rollout has fallen along racial lines, with Black residents much less likely to have received a vaccine dose than white and Hispanic residents.

The data, which the department released with the caveat that there are reporting gaps, shows a similar theme in Connecticut as has been seen across the country.

In the release, the Department of Public Health acknowledged that the data clearly shows that “disparities exist,” and acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said that the state is committed to making vaccinations more equitable from here on out.

“As we open up the vaccine program to individuals 65 and over, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that vaccine is reaching the communities and populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Gifford said in the release.

But the data indicates that the state has a long way to go before reaching equality.

For instance, as of Feb. 3, the state had administered at least one dose of the vaccine to nearly a third of white residents aged 75 and older and just over a third of Hispanic residents aged 75 and older. But meanwhile, less than a fifth — 19.3% — of Black residents in that age group had received a dose.

And when looking at all of Connecticut’s residents who are 16 and older, as of Feb. 3, about 8% of Asian residents and 9% of White residents had received a dose. But among Hispanic residents, only 5.2% had received a dose. Among Black residents, the data is even more stark: only 4.4% had received a dose, which is less than half of the rate among white residents.

The vaccination disparities are a continuation of other disparities, which have led to the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately infecting and killing Black people across the country and in Connecticut.

The Courant reported over the summer that Black and Hispanic Connecticuters are more than three times as likely to have tested positive for COVID-19, compared with white Connecticuters. And Black residents are more than 2 1/2 times as likely to have died from the illness, while Hispanic residents are 1 1/2 times as likely to have died.

The ongoing pandemic disparities are fueled by systemic and sustained racism, which has led to inequities in income, employment status and access to health care, among other things.

State reports 3.1% positivity rate

Connecticut on Wednesday reported a daily positivity rate of 3.1%, dipping to one of the lowest rates seen in recent weeks and putting the state back on track with promising coronavirus numbers after a dicey report the prior day.

There were 888 newly identified cases out of a total of 28,662 tests administered.

The state’s hospitalizations also dropped on Wednesday, down 56 from the prior day for a total of 770 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s the lowest number of hospitalizations Connecticut has seen since mid-November.

Connecticut continues to report a significant number of coronavirus-linked deaths each day, although the weekly number of deaths has declined over the past few weeks.

On Wednesday, the state reported 28 additional deaths, for a total of 1,329 coronavirus-linked deaths since the year began. The weekly number of deaths peaked in early January at more than 300 — on Wednesday, it was down to about 170.

Wednesday’s report came one day after the state reported a hospitalization increase for the first time in about two weeks, along with a slightly elevated positivity rate. Because the numbers fluctuate from one day to the next, the single day of data was not enough to establish a trend and could still prove to be a blip.

Since the pandemic began, Connecticut has now seen a total of 265,496 coronavirus cases and 7,326 coronavirus-linked deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 27.2 million coronavirus cases and a total of 469,833 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Hartford HealthCare opening mass vaccination sites

Hartford HealthCare announced Wednesday that it plans to open a number of mass vaccination sites in the coming weeks and months, in addition to the existing mass vaccination site at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

“We’re opening a network of mega centers across the state of Connecticut,” said Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeff Flaks at a Wednesday press briefing. “We are in position to dramatically scale, we have the capabilities ... and we are completely committed to using all of our resources in this moment.”

Flaks gave specifics about a mass vaccination site planned for New Britain’s Liberty Square, which he said is slated to open between Feb. 22 and March 1.

He said Hartford HealthCare has also “secured rights” to open mass sites at the XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard and Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, among others. Flaks did not give specifics on when those sites might open.

Flaks said the health care system is currently capable of administering 35,000 vaccine doses per week, but has plans to expand to 75,000 per week.

UConn reports 20 new cases in Storrs

UConn on Wednesday reported that it had identified 20 new coronavirus cases among Storrs students, including eight among on-campus students and 12 among off-campus students.

In total, since the ongoing semester began, the university’s main campus has reported 164 student cases — 78 among on-campus students and 86 among off-campus students. Also this semester, the university has reported six cases among its on-campus Stamford students, and no cases among its Avery Point, Hartford or Waterbury students.

In comparison, throughout the entire fall semester, the university reported 887 cases among its Storrs students — 484 among on-campus students and 403 among off-campus students.

Courant staff writer Alex Putterman contributed to this report.

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