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COVID-19 cases continue to surge in New London

Ledge Light Health District reported Friday that it had confirmed 201 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, including 85 among New London residents.

The increase pushed New London’s cumulative total since the pandemic began to 635 cases, nearly a third of the 1,974 cases the district has confirmed in the nine towns it serves.

Statewide totals released Friday by Gov. Ned Lamont’s office show Connecticut had confirmed 761 new cases since the previous day. The cases were detected among 30,554 tests for the disease, yielding a positivity rate of 2.5%. On Thursday, the state had reported a rate of 6.1%.

Hospitalizations in the state totaled 329, up by eight from the previous day, and seven additional deaths pushed the cumulative toll to 4,616. On Friday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had 11 COVID-19 patients, while Westerly Hospital had three.

“Our contact tracers continue to report that they have observed many instances of family and social gathering connections,” Ledge Light said in a release accompanying its latest data. “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.”

Citing a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, New London Mayor Michael Passero’s office announced all city-owned athletic fields and venues will be closed to organized sports, effective Monday.

In addition, the Miles for Military road race scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14, has been canceled.

The mayor's office said state, local and federal health officials recommend residents limit trips outside the home and avoid gatherings with non-family members and that communities cancel public events and limit gatherings. Organized groups are asked to postpone all indoor activities as well as outdoor activities at which mask-wearing or social distancing cannot be maintained.

Like New London, Norwich, where the number of COVID-19 cases has declined over the past two weeks, remains among the towns in the state on “red alert” due to the prevalence of the disease. Norwich City Manager John Salomone said Friday that Norwich now has a COVID-19 case rate of 30.7 cases per 100,000 population, down from a high of about 50 on Oct. 1. The rate was in the 40s last week.

Salomone recommended the city remain in Phase 3 of Lamont’s reopening plan. Lamont is allowing cities and towns on red alert to revert to Phase 2, with lower capacity limits for restaurants and indoor private gatherings.

“Locally, we’re going down, not rapidly, but other towns are going up,” Salomone said in a teleconference call with city department heads, legislators and nonprofit agency leaders. “Preston is not in the red or orange anymore. The good news is we’re trending down. The bad news is everyone else in the state is going up.”

Preston now is in the state’s yellow alert zone, with 9.2 cases per 100,000 population as of Thursday.

Norwich Public Schools Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow sent a letter to staff and families Friday announcing that schools will remain in hybrid learning at least through Nov. 13. There will be no school, either in person or remotely, on Election Day, which is Tuesday, or Veterans’ Day, which is Wednesday, Nov. 11.

“At this point, the community rates need to lower before we can move into full in person learning,” Stringfellow wrote Friday. “I hope you are all safe and well.”

Norwich Free Academy, also in hybrid learning, closed its Allis House administrative building for 48 hours Wednesday and Thursday this week after a COVID-19 case. The building also houses the school medical center, which remained open all week.

Preschool students at the Bishop Early Learning Center returned to four days of in-person learning on Oct. 19.

The state Department of Public Health "maintains that schools are very well controlled environments,” Stringfellow wrote, “where multiple mitigation strategies are intentionally managed (frequent hand washing, mask use, monitoring symptoms, monitoring close contacts, cohorting, distancing, maximizing outdoor time, cleaning and disinfecting, etc.)”

Also Friday, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation of its annual holiday activities during Thanksgiving weekend due to COVID-19 concerns. It said the events — Santa Arrives by Tugboat, the Tree Lighting and the Mystic Lighted Boat Parade — will resume next year. A tree will be erected in Mystic River Park this year but without the usual festivities.

The chamber said those wishing to donate warm coats may do so at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

c.bessette@theday.com

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