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COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, fatalities creep upward across the state

More than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Connecticut over the weekend, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

The 2,047 cases reported Friday, Saturday and Sunday came from among the results of 92,191 tests, yielding a daily positivity rate of 2.2% and slightly lowering the seven-day average rate to 2.4%. The rate is considered a leading indicator of where the state stands in its eight-month-long fight to contain the coronavirus disease.

Connecticut’s seven-day average rate is the sixth-lowest of any state, according to Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.

“We’re testing at an all-time high,” Lamont said during an online press briefing. “... Just really glad to see it didn’t spike up a lot over the weekend. But hospitalizations continue to go up — a concerning trend, and (also) fatalities.”

Hospitalization totaled 270, an increase of 37 since Friday. Twelve more Connecticut residents died of causes associated with the disease, raising the toll since March to 4,589.

New London County reported 204 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, according to the governor’s office, and the deaths of two more county residents were linked to the disease. Currently, nine towns in the county — Griswold, Groton, Lisbon, Montville, New London, Norwich, Salem, Sprague and Waterford — are on “red alert,” averaging at least 15 new cases a day per 100,000 residents. Three Windham County towns — Canterbury, Plainfield and Windham — have similar status.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital had 15 COVID-19 patients Monday. Westerly Hospital had three.

While it made no new data available Monday, Ledge Light Health District reported Friday that new cases in the nine southern New London County towns it serves had declined for the first time in three weeks. The district reported 188 new cases in the week that ended Friday, down from a peak of 206 the week before.

Nevertheless, the district said one week of data can be misleading and urged residents to continue taking steps to limit infections.

“Our contact tracers continue to report that they have observed many instances of family and social gathering connections,” the district said in a bulletin. “We are also seeing a significant number of cases associated with sporting events. Cases associated with institutions (schools, long-term care facilities, etc.) remain relatively low.”

Patrick McCormack, health director of the Uncas Health District, which serves northern New London County towns, said Monday that while the number of COVID-19 cases in the district remains high compared to the rest of the state, “We’re trending in the right direction in Norwich.”

He said additional testing and efforts to increase public awareness of the need to wear masks and practice social distancing and schools reverting to distance learning were helping.

Dr. John Murphy, president and chief executive officer of Nuvance Health, which includes Danbury and Norwalk hospitals, joined the governor’s briefing, cautioning that various models predict new cases of COVID-19 will continue to increase in the state through mid-January.

In recent months, hospitals have been seeing a far greater percentage of COVID-19 patients under the age of 18, Murphy said. They’re healthier and have fewer comorbidities than the older patients treated in earlier stages of the pandemic, are less likely to get seriously ill and require shorter hospital stays, effectively increasing hospital capacity.

“We’re more comfortable sending them home,” he said.

Physicians at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London have reported similar observations. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it was sending 1,070,000 Abbott BinaxNOW antigen tests to the state. It said the tests can diagnose coronavirus infection in as little as 15 minutes and will be distributed at the governor’s discretion “to support testing of K-12 students, teachers, nursing home patients and staff, higher education, critical infrastructure, first responders, and other priorities as he deems fit.”

Lamont said the state already has received more than 100,000 of the tests and is prioritizing their distribution.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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