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Surge in COVID-19 cases causing rescheduling of events, return to protocols

Climbing COVID-19 numbers threatened the schedule of upcoming events and gatherings in the region Tuesday, with the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut calling off its annual holiday gala, which had been set for Friday at Mohegan Sun.

Statewide data showed coronavirus cases were surging, and Gov. Ned Lamont’s office reported that a second case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus had been confirmed in Connecticut.

“Numbers are going up and people are getting anxious,” said Tony Sheridan, the commerce chamber’s president and chief executive officer, who confirmed the gala had been indefinitely postponed. “The feeling is you don’t have to put people at risk. We’ll do it virtually at a later date. If the numbers go back down, we might still do something (in person).”

No new date for the gala, the chamber’s signature event, has been contemplated, he said.

This past Friday, Sheridan attended a forum on arts, culture and tourism at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, joining a gathering of about a hundred people, including Lamont, other state officials and legislators. Attendees were notified Monday night that someone at the event had since tested positive for COVID-19.

Also Monday, it was announced that an Earth, Wind & Fire concert scheduled for this coming Friday at Mohegan Sun was being postponed “out of an abundance of caution for health and safety.”

“The tour has strict COVID safety protocols and is closely following all CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” the casino said. The show has been rescheduled for Feb. 4.

Repeating previous guidance, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London issued a statement through a spokeswoman.

“We continue to recommend that if people choose to gather for meetings or celebrations they continue to practice social distancing as much as possible, wear their masks as much as possible in group settings, or celebrate and meet virtually,” it said. “Most importantly, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you are, get the booster."

L+M was treating 15 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, while Westerly Hospital had eight.

Lamont’s office reported that since the previous day, 1,919 new cases of the coronavirus disease had been detected among 23,047 tests, a one-day positivity rate of 8.33% — among the highest rates in the state in nearly a year. Twenty-five additional hospitalizations had pushed the number of patients hospitalized in the state to 525.

Of those hospitalized, 400, or 76.2%, were not fully vaccinated, according to the state.

For the week beginning Nov. 28, unvaccinated persons had a 4.5 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people, and a 31.1 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people.

Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said a “perfect storm” has contributed to the surge in cases.

“During the winter months, we typically see more viral respiratory infections,” she said in a statement. “There also has been a significant increase of cases in our surrounding states — Connecticut is not an island — and unfortunately our town-by-town map is almost completely red because of the community spread of this virus."

“Additionally,” she continued, “there is waning immunity which reinforces the need for everyone 18 or older to get a booster six months after their primary vaccination series. And of course, on the heels of Thanksgiving and now the holiday season, people are at indoor gatherings with friends and family. If you are indoors in public spaces, please wear a mask. We know that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19."

For information on where to get the vaccine or a booster, go to ct.gov/covidvaccine.

Omicron in Connecticut

The state Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that sequencing performed by the Yale School of Public Health had confirmed the second case of the omicron variant.

The case involves a fully vaccinated Fairfield County man in his 20s who developed mild symptoms last Thursday. Two days later, he tested positive by an at-home rapid antigen test and a molecular test. He did not report any links to the Anime NYC 2021 Convention but had traveled to New York City in the week before his symptoms began.

Lamont announced Saturday that Connecticut’s first confirmed omicron case had been detected in a Hartford County man in his 60s. He likely contracted the variant from a family member who had traveled to New York City between Nov. 17 and Nov. 22 to attend the anime convention.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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