Unchecked Community Spread of Covid-19 Puts CT Back in “Red Zone”

Update: Greenwich Health Dept director Caroline Baisley shares the following information and link to the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) link used by all government and federally funded health centers conducting Covid-19 vaccination clinics: online VAMS enrollment

The Greenwich Dept of Health is conducting clinics by appointment through VAMS three days a week in town hall.

“We are carrying the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots, 28 days apart. Residents should look every day and look frequently on VAMS for open appointments in the Dept of Health clinics which run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as there are cancellations and added appointment,” Baisley said.

Baisley said she believed there were available appointments in their clinics this week.

Those who are in VAMS and are searching for an appointment can call the Health Dept.

Family Centers are also using the VAMS system and are operating Covid-19 vaccination clinics in Greenwich which do not use VAMS but do require appointments including Yale New Haven Health System/Greenwich Hospital at Brunswick School’s Field house on King Street, and at 500 West Putnam Ave. The mass vaccination clinic at Brunswick School field house operates 7 days a week by appointment. Current vaccination eligibility is for people 45+, however on April 1, 2021, eligibility for vaccination goes to people 16+.

The younger kids of 16 and 17 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is carried by most hospital clinics. Moderna Vaccine does accommodate people 18+. J&J vaccine which is also a one shot, accommodates people 18+ however this vaccine in CT is not plentiful, according to Baisley, who said her understanding is that Greenwich Hospital and Family Centers may have some of this vaccine.

Original story, Tuesday, March 30, 11:00am.

On Monday, during Greenwich’s Board of Health meeting, Stephanie Paulmeno, formerly worked in the Health Dept from 2002 to 2009 and is now back on a part time basis serving as Public Health Education Specialist, doing everything from contact tracing to administering vaccines at local Covid-19 health clinics.

Paulmeno, who has a doctorate in Nursing, said that back in 2008 she was tasked with creating the pandemic plan for the Avian Flu and a mass immunization plan and a SARS plan.

“Everything we studied then is now a reality,” she said.

Paulmeno said it was concerning that Connecticut was again in “the Red zone.”

She cited an NPR map track which shows the spread of Covid-9. Last week CT was in the orange zone, which was up to 10-24 daily new cases.

“Having 25 or more daily cases per 100,000 people has put us into this Red zone, where we sit with five other states in the nation,” she said. “What that indicates is unchecked community spread.”

“What I think we need to focus on is that all the people who have gotten their vaccinations – we would be hoping that the vaccines are going to do what they’re shown to do in research – which is that they not get so sick that they have to be hospitalized, and they will not be dying from coronavirus, even though the numbers may be up.”

Carolyn Baisley, the Director of Greenwich’s Health Dept said the town was fortunate to have the Medical Reserve Corps volunteers putting in a lot of volunteer hours.

She said the Town Health Dept administers about 165-175 doses in each clinic. The clinics run 3-1/2 hours, three times a week. To date they’ve given over 2,500 doses to the community. Not a drop is wasted.

She said the town had partnered with the Family Centers twice for vaccinations, one was earlier in the day on Monday at the Nathaniel Witherell, where concern was raised at their board meeting a week that just 38.8% of staff had been vaccinated and the number of vaccinated residents had dropped due to new patients and transfers.

“I think they did about 85 vaccinations at the Nathaniel Witherell,” Baisley said. “Kristin (Donlin) was there as part of a VAMS team. She was with another colleague from the Health Dept, along with a GEMS medic to do some vaccinations.

Baisley did not say of the 85 vaccines how many were to staff, and how many were to residents, or the current percentage of either group who were vaccinated.

A few weeks ago the Health Dept partnered with Family Centers to visit the Hill House for vaccinations.

The Family Centers has otherwise been operating out of the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center five days a week.

Baisley said she understood some people had a fear of vaccines.

“The fact that this vaccine or vaccines came so quickly – there is a little bit of a doubt about the vaccines. But, from what we read and have learned, they are very safe. All three of them protect for the most part against the variants that are circulating.”

Baisley said Greenwich had been receiving the Moderna vaccine since January, but that vaccine is not given to 16-17 year olds.

“Pfizer is the only vaccine right now that entertains the younger kids, 16-17 and up,” Baisley said.

The town will be able to entertain 18-year-olds with Moderna, and adequate doses of vaccine have been arriving to prepare the town for the next group of eligible people on April 1.

“We will not be able to entertain 16-17 year olds, but we will be able to entertain 18-year-olds with Moderna.”

Caroline Baisley – Greenwich Director of Dept of Health

Lastly she said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine took off pretty strong back in February when it arrived and went to most of the hospitals.

“It’s estimated that some time in May that supply will outweigh demand,” she said. “That will be absolutely fabulous.”

Paulmeno shared data from NPR Click here.

Connecticut is a Red Zone
As a Red Zone, Connecticut has more than 25 daily new cases per 100,000 people, which indicates unchecked community spread.

As of March 29, there was an average of 1,217 new cases per day in CT, which is 34 new daily cases per 100,000 people. (Three weeks ago it was 769). There is an average of 5 new deaths a day in CT.

Paulmeno noted that “viruses are not alive,” and cannot be killed.

“They don’t reproduce; they replicate,” she said, adding that the predominant variant in Connecticut was the UK Variant.

“It’s really pretty scary,” she said.

She said antibiotics will not work against the virus, but they can work for secondary infections.

“We’ve seen a lot of people through contact tracing who have been extremely ill, many with secondary infections,” she said, adding that Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, was the first first medication approved for treating Covid-19, and Dexamethasone, a cortisone product, reduces Covid-19 inflammation.

Paulmeno said a large cause of concern were “long haulers,” who are people who develop symptoms that don’t go away.

“But we also have people who also have no symptoms. They come down with Covid and never know it,” she said. “From a public health perspective we should have been testing everybody. Because with Covid, those who don’t have any symptoms go about like Typhoid Mary spreading the virus, not even knowing they have it…And we have so many people, who for so many different reasons, will not wear a mask. I find that very alarming.”

“With this particular virus, the most contagious period of time is two to three days before you develop symptoms, if you ever get symptoms,” she said. “This is why it’s so important that everybody be wearing a mask and social distancing.”

The UK Variant, South African Variant and the Brazilian Variant are all moderately more resistant to the antibodies from the vaccine or the actual disease.

NPR’s simulation map shows how rapidly viruses spread and how progressively increased levels of vaccinated people can halt the disease spread.

“We need that to stay in place to develop herd immunity,” she said.

Paulmeno talked about droplets and aerosols and how the airborne nature of the virus means people working in health care and doing home visits must take multiple precautions.

Board of Health member Dr. Andy Bronin explained the difference between droplets and aerosol.

“A droplet is a projectile that drops. Aerosol hangs out there in the air, and if it’s an unventilated room will hang out in the air for hours. It will hang out there for as long as an aerosol in your bathroom or smoke in a bar. You don’t know who in a space is sharing air with you, in a space that is not ventilated.

Probably the worst place you could be is a bar or restaurant that is not ventilated and there is an adequate mass of people that some of them might have Covid, and one cough, and it’s not a cough at you, it’s the aerosol that hangs in the air literally for hours.

Aerosol is probably the one that’s going to get you.”

Dr. Andy Bronin

Paulmeno explained that since earlier in the pandemic, the definition of what is considered a “high risk” contact has changed.

“Now it is 15 minutes within a span of 24 hours,” Paulmeno said. “It’s not one person for 15 minutes, but the accumulation of every person you’ve been in contact with for 24 hours, unmasked, within 6 feet of an infected person or people. That’s now considered a high-risk contact.”

Paulmeno shared a slide that showed a smoker’s lung and a lung with Covid.

“With all that debris in your lungs, you can’t breathe,” she said. “For any of us who are healthcare professionals, one of the worst ways people can find themselves in a hospital or critically ill is when you can’t breathe.”

Other presentations of Covid are “Covid Toes,” but it could be any infected organ.

“Studies are showing that even people who don’t have symptoms, they’re finding damage in their organs,” she said. “They have scarring in their lungs and other things going on.”

She said she was concerned about people who are not covered by Worker’s Compensation.

“Everyone who has Covid is going to have a pre-existing condition for the rest of their life,” she said.

Paulmeno said the mRNA vaccines were synthetically engineered and very safe.

“You actually have no virus in either the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech. No virus enters your body,” she said. “The technology is probably going to be very helpful to us with all the variants.”

She urged people to get vaccinated. She said there had been minimal side effects from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

“These last a day or two,” she said. “I would take that any day of the week over being in the ICU, where you’re tied down, you may or may not be conscious, you have tubes down your throat, you can’t see people.”

“These vaccines are so safe,” she added. “How lucky can you be to have a vaccine that you are pretty much guaranteed that you will not be sick enough to get into a hospital where people all around you are dying, and you are virtually guaranteed not to die.”