Greenwich Health Dept: Rising COVID Numbers and Their Significance

By Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, Public Health Promotion Specialist, Greenwich

Even though individual states are no longer required to report lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases to the CDC, which is how we used to track our changing numbers and our rising or falling positivity rates, other indicators are now used that show that COVID-19 has been steadily increasing again across the country since the end of June, 2023. (

Rising COVID-19 indicators are seen in COVID-19 hospitalizations, rising COVID-related deaths, and in increased wastewater lab-findings of COVID-19, which enters wastewater from infected people. Labs across the country test untreated wastewater samples for COVID-19 and other contagions. This is part of a CDC national Sentinel Monitoring Program called WastewaterSCAN. They report a steady rise in COVID-19 detected in these samples.

Untreated wastewater samples are collected and tested, and the findings are turned around within 48 hours (

This CDC surveillance program operates in 34 states, not including Connecticut, but monitoring was initiated here through a Yale/CDC collaboration. They began wastewater sampling in March 2020 as a cooperative arrangement between Yale, the State of Connecticut and the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station and have since expanded the program to include several large Connecticut cities; namely Bridgeport, Stamford, Hartford, New London, and Norwich (

In Connecticut, during the Spring of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, another innovative early wastewater testing program was begun by U-Conn/Storrs that earned them the designation, Center of Excellence (UConn Established as Center of Excellence for Wastewater-based COVID-19 Surveillance – UConn Today). Wastewater testing proved to be a valid and reliable means of monitoring communities for COVID-19; a fortuitous finding because on May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared ended. This didn’t mean the virus was conquered or that viral spread had ceased. We still see COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and contaminated wastewater; all continuing to rise steadily over the last 6 weeks; numbers are still rising as we head into fall.

COVID-19 is now considered to be an “ongoing health issue” as opposed to a “public health emergency”.

We are, however, in a far better place now than we had been in terms of preventive measures (if people choose to use them), and treatments, vaccines, and medications to lessen the impact if one becomes infected (again, if people choose to use them). We now know who is at high risk for becoming infected, as well as those who are at higher/highest risk for becoming more seriously ill or dying if they do become infected ( Each COVID-19 variant has presented somewhat differently and with different characteristics. The variant now circulating is a highly mutated version of COVID-19, called BA.2.86 (the Pirola variant), which was proceeded by EG.5 (the Eris variant). Both are Omicron mutations, and both are highly contagious, but fortunately they do not appear to make their victims more ill than prior Omicron versions. The rising hospitalizations, death rates, and wastewater contaminant levels are all a factor of the higher numbers of people becoming infected with BA.2.86 and EG.5. These variants, like the ones before them, take a heavier toll on those who are at higher risk, as well as on those who place less emphasis on their own self-protection. ( (
). The CDC’s advice on protecting yourself (and others) from COVID has remained unchanged. The variable is whether individuals and groups of people choose to follow the recommended guidance for self-protection as well as for the protection of those around them who may be at higher risk than are they.

As with many things, the significance of rising COVID-19 numbers depends on who you are and on your own risk factors. These include the personal risks any one of us may choose to take such as wearing or not properly wearing an effective type of mask (cloth masks have little value, a mask with your nose uncovered has no value at all) (; choosing vs. declining to get vaccinated and/or boosted (Safety & effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines: A narrative review – PMC (, and choosing (or not choosing) to stay socially separated if you are in indoor gatherings; along with opting to stay home if you (or your
children) are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (

Other risk factors include things over which we have no control such as our race, age, overall health status, whether we had prior COVID-19 infections, the effectiveness of our immune system, as well as whether one is pregnant.

What The Scientific Research Shows: Debunking the myths and misinformation:
WebMD reported that according to the CDC, the latest version of the COVID-19 vaccines are due to be available by the end of this month (, however we are still bombarded by individuals and groups who deliberately spread misinformation about vaccines in general, COVID-19 vaccines specifically, vaccine safety in general, and for some misguided reason continue to provide intentional misinterpretations of the VAERS reports on vaccine side effects despite scientific evidence to the contrary. A health professional who does not know how to understand the VAERS reports or the associated studies about them likely needs re-training. Knowledge can grow stale. Spreading disinformation has an adverse impact on our collective efforts to embrace public health and safety, thus I encourage you to look at the evidence for yourself. The CDC updated its findings on Reported Adverse Effects this July and concluded that current evidence “does not support the existence of a (vaccine) safety issue”. They noted that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh potential risks with very few significant reactions.

The CDC continues to recommend vaccines for people 6 months and older, emphasizing that millions of people in the U.S. have received their COVID-19 vaccines “under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.” (

The research showed that anaphylactic (severe allergic) reactions following a COVID-19 vaccine are extremely rare (about 5 per 1 million doses given) and they are readily treated on-site with mandatory protocols in place where vaccines are provided. Regarding COVID-19 vaccine-related death, in the largest safety study done to date, researchers found no increased risk of death in people who took any of our U.S.A. COVID-19 vaccines. The safety study that evaluated this found that death rates among people who took a COVID-19 vaccine were lower than those who went unvaccinated. The Mayo Clinic, as recently as August 2, 2023, addressed these on-going mis/disinformation campaigns and provided facts to dispute the false information that abounds; some of it sadly being dispersed by health professionals who know or should know better.


The dangerous spreading of false vaccine information in general has been long-standing despite an over 20-year effort by public health professionals, including physicians, to combat the misinformation that is spewed forth as fact (

Stay safe, know your own risk factors, learn the facts, and make the best choices for you and your families.