The eastern half of Connecticut has seen a particularly sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, official numbers show, as the state continues to experience a higher positivity rate and more hospitalizations than it did over the summer.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced 192 positive results out of 10,372 tests Thursday, for a 1.9% rate — the state’s highest in a single day since mid-June. Connecticut has now recorded a 1.3% positivity rate over the past seven days, up from as low as 0.7% over the summer.
The state now has 107 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, up three from Wednesday and up 32 since Monday.
“We’ve got an uptick,” Lamont said Thursday. “Are we surprised by this? No. I think it was something that we anticipated.”
The state recorded another three coronavirus-linked deaths Thursday, bringing its total to 4,511 during the pandemic. The United States has seen 207,465 COVID-19 deaths in total, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
Connecticut’s recent uptick has been particularly noticeable in the eastern half of the state. According to state data released Thursday, the city of Norwich recorded 85 cases from September 20-26, most of any municipality. Lamont said the city, home to about 39,000 people, had experienced 23 daily cases per 100,000 residents, more than five times the state’s rate, along with a 6.7% positivity rate.
New London, with 42 cases. and Windham with 36 also ranked among the hardest hit towns and cities in the data released Thursday, joining Danbury (73 cases), Hartford (68), Bridgeport (60), New Britain (56), Waterbury (50) and West Hartford (38). An outbreak at a Colchester nursing home has led that town’s numbers to tick upward as well.
After recording relatively low levels of COVID-19 for much of the pandemic, New London County now has the highest rate of cases of any Connecticut county. Whereas the area had only two patients hospitalized with the disease on September 18, that number had increased to 15 as of Thursday.
Officials in Norwich, New London and elsewhere have said they can’t point to any particular factor driving the increase.
“We have not yet determined a common link," Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said Thursday, "and I don’t know that we’ll be able to get to that point.”
Mary Bylone, first selectman of Colchester, said the town’s number of COVID cases have doubled in recent weeks, partly due to the nursing home outbreak but also because, she believes, people aren’t wearing masks as much as they did earlier in the pandemic.
“People are more mobile now, but we have to remember why it was we had so few cases back in April and May," she said. "And that’s because everyone was wearing a mask and properly social distancing and need to remember that.”
Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting commissioner of public health, resisted the suggestion that the increase in New London County grew out of issues at Backus Hospital in Norwich, which experienced an outbreak among staff last month. Nursing home officials say the outbreak at the Colchester nursing home may have begun after a resident there returned from a procedure at Backus.
“I would really caution against an approach that identifies a particular entity as causing an outbreak,” Gifford said.
As numbers have risen in New London County, officials have begun to take action. In Norwich, state and local officials have arranged for increased testing this weekend. Meanwhile, Ledge Light health director Stephen Mansfield penned a letter to area superintendents this week, cautioning against full in-person instruction.
“We have seen a significant number of infected staff and students, which have resulted in school closures, extensive cleanings and modifications to scheduling,” Mansfield wrote. “The current hybrid model may reduce transmission by limiting the number of potential exposures.”
Courant staff writer Dave Altimari contributed to this report.
Alex Putterman can be reached at email@example.com.
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