Daily coronavirus updates: COVID-19 positivity rate, hospitalizations in Connecticut remain stable, but still too soon to see full impact of holiday gatherings

Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant

Connecticut’s key COVID-19 metrics remain stable, official numbers show, as the state waits to see whether the holiday season will lead to more coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday reported 767 new COVID-19 cases out of 13,603 tests, for a rate of 5.6%. Connecticut’s seven-day positivity rate now stands at 5.9%, lower than earlier this month but still much higher than during the summer and early fall.

The state had 1,226 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, up seven from Monday and up about 70 from a week prior, though down slightly from mid-December, the apex to date of the current coronavirus wave. Overall, hospitalizations have remained relatively flat since the start of December, a positive sign at a time when hospitals in other states are stretched past capacity.

Dr. Phillip Roland, chief medical officer at Saint Francis Hospital, said his hospital is busy but still has sufficient capacity both overall and in its intensive care units. He noted that the recent surge of COVID-19 patients has been partially offset by a decrease in flu patients relative to a typical year.

Roland said Saint Francis’s numbers, like those of the state as a whole, have leveled off recently but that he considers it “premature” to assume hospitalizations will now begin receding.

“Day to day the numbers that I’m seeing here are stable,” Roland said. “But there’s no doubt that these major holidays that we all are missing — Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s — it brings people together.”

State officials and medical experts have warned of a potential increase in cases and hospitalizations as residents travel and gather for Christmas and New Year’s, similar to the spike recorded after Thanksgiving.

So far, that increase hasn’t materialized. In fact, the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Connecticut has declined substantially over the past week (along with the number of tests reported), as hospitalizations have remained fairly steady.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the spike won’t soon become apparent. Experts say patients infected on or around Christmas likely wouldn’t show up in state data for at least a week, due to the disease’s incubation period as well as the time it takes for test results to come back.

Keith Grant, senior system director for infection prevention at Hartford HealthCare, has said he’d expect an increase in COVID-19 patients to begin about eight days after Christmas and intensify after that.

The state announced 20 additional coronavirus-linked deaths Tuesday, slightly fewer than has become typical, after reporting more than 100 over the holiday weekend. Connecticut has now recorded 904 COVID-19 deaths in December and 5,924 total during the pandemic.

The United States has seen 336,947 COVID-19 deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Alex Putterman can be reached at aputterman@courant.com.