Submitted by Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, DNP, RN, NHA, CPH, CCM, CDP, PUBLIC HEALTH PROMOTION SPECIALIST
The Greenwich Department of Health has tracked Connecticut’s COVID-19 data since SARS-CoV-2 hit our borders in March 2020 First Wave: Coronavirus In Connecticut).
The “19” refers to the new virus that was identified in Wuhan, China in 2019. We’ve had prior COVID viruses and pandemics, and this is not likely to be our last pandemic.
Our first Connecticut case was a post-travel Wilton resident on 3-8-20; our first death ensued 10 days later. Official COVID-19 data used to be posted daily by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT-DPH) (ct.gov/coronavirus). In June 2022 CT – DPH began weekly data-drops of positivity rates, cumulative case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths, and this showed the prior 7-day changes in those numbers. This rise or fall in the numbers from the prior week allowed us to trend case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths as a state. We could deep dive into the data to see how Connecticut compared to other states, and how Fairfield County compared to other Connecticut counties. New Haven, Hartford, and Fairfield County were the top three problem areas in Connecticut due to high rates.
The attached 3-2-23 updated chart uses ct.gov data and shows that our hospitalization rates are indeed falling. This is good, but in Connecticut alone in 2023 we are still losing between 30 and 75 residents to COVID-19 fatalities weekly. This averages out to 46 people dying/week as a result of a lethal COVID-19 infection. These positivity rates and hospitalization figures are prime indicators for government decisions around adjusting community restriction recommendations; however since home testing for COVID-19 emerged as an option to lab testing, many people no longer get lab tested. This has skewered the accuracy of positivity rates. Positivity rates are calculated by comparing the number of COVID-19 lab tests done to the number of lab tests that are COVID-19 positive. Positive home-tested cases are not reported to the State and they do not figure into that calculation. Accordingly, we know the actual numbers are higher than our positivity rate shows. To reduce community restrictions, a positivity rate should be below 5%. We have not seen that in a long time. It is now up to each person/family to make their own risk self-assessments and determine their own self-protective measures.
Contact Tracers who are in discussion with the COVID-positive people referred to them for follow-up and monitoring based on their positive lab test results regularly see how many others in a families/extended families have home tested positive but are not counted. We also see those who never test because, despite being ill, another family member is already known to be infected.
As the attached 3-2-23 chart shows, 12,187 Connecticut friends, neighbors, and loved ones have already succumbed to COVID-19. Of those COVID fatalities, 384 occurred since the beginning of January 2023. Nonetheless, this is a huge improvement over where we were when COVID-19 first impacted Connecticut in 2020. At that time we had no preventive vaccines, no antibody infusion treatments for COVID-19, no COVID-19-specific antiviral medications, and we had not yet learned the best ways to treat, care for, or support recovery in people with this new (novel) virus. People of all ages were dying in frightening numbers. Here in Connecticut, we watched as our case numbers, ICU admissions/hospitalizations, and death counts rose daily. We can all recall the daily horrors seen on TV as hospital and ICUs overflowed, and after-life care was overwhelmed. We have now overcome that, but make no mistake; as the attached chart shows, the COVID-19 virus remains active in Connecticut.
It is still mutating and still spreading to the tune of between 1,067 and 4,750 new cases per week just since January 2023; that is what viruses do, and this necessitates that we continue to be individually and as a community on guard in reasonable ways. Common-sense measures include making your own determination to get vaccinated and boosted, properly wearing a secure mask when in enclosed group settings, staying home and away from others when you are ill, and practicing good respiratory and hand hygiene. It calls for each of us to be considerate and conscious not only of our own risk factors but also of people around us who may be elderly, pregnant, immuno-compromised, un/undervaccinated, have underlying health conditions, or be at high risk for reasons we are not likely to know.
CDC Recommendations: The CDC (2023) has recommended one updated booster shot for everyone 5 years and older who has completed their primary series, and for children 6 months to 4 years who completed the Moderna primary series. There is no booster recommendation for children 6 months to 4 years who received the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine primary series (Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Including Boosters | CDC)
Look again now at the attached 2023 chart for the Percent of People 5 and Older in Connecticut Who Have Received Their Recommended Updated Bivalent Booster. This mRNA booster works to add protection against both the earlier versions of COVID-19 and the current multiple circulating strains of Omicron, which is more easily transmitted between people than were the earlier versions. Our Connecticut population’s bivalent booster vaccines figures across the age span are woefully inadequate, which may contribute to why we have, on average, 2,518 weekly new COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, as well as on average 46 weekly COVID fatalities in Connecticut. We have learned a great deal since COVID-19 first reared its ugly head, and we now have many tools in our box to improve the outcomes in people who become infected, and not least among them is getting vaccinated and boosted. Some, like me, have already had 5 vaccines and if there was another out tomorrow, I would rush to take it.