News was encouraging out of Yale New Haven Health System, who reported just 33 in-patients across their five hospitals as of Tuesday.
The health system is seeing a tremendous drop in the number of in-patients and the number of people testing positive. Also there is a decrease in demand for testing.
Of those, 19 were at Yale New Haven Hospital, 8 at Bridgeport, just one at Greenwich Hospital, five patients at Lawrence + Memorial, and none at Westerly Hospital.
“Go back to the days when we had 200, 300, or 400 at Yale New Haven Hospital, and when Greenwich Hospital had over 150 Covid patients, it’s hard to imagine where we are right now, said Marna Borgstrom, CEO, Yale New Haven Health System.
“That is 95% fewer patients than at the peak of the pandemic last spring,” Borgstrom said. “We are delighted to be able to share these kinds of numbers.”
Two weeks ago, there were 26 patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU) and 17 were on ventilators.
As of Tuesday there were 12 patients in ICUs across the health system, and only 6 were on ventilators.
“The spring of 2020 we were all figuratively running around the state trying to figure out where were were going to get enough mechanical ventilators,” she recalled.
Thomas Balcezak, Chief Clinical Officer at Yale New Haven Health, said both the number of tests and the positivity rate of those tests was decreasing.
He said the downward trend in hospitalizations was absolutely a testament of the efficacy of the vaccine.
“The disease has not changed,” he said. “How we treat it has evolved. We have changed our treatment protocol more than 20 times since March 2020.”
He said in Connecticut, the age group most likely to be vaccinated is age 75+. The health system is admitting a much younger demographic than a year ago, or even six months ago.
“That tells you the demographic is primarily folks who are unvaccinated,” Balcezak said. “They are less likely to be put in the ICU and much less likely to die.”
“We will go days now without a death from Covid-19 in our health system, which was very unusual in the first part of this pandemic,” Balcezak said.
“Our mass vaccination sites are now closed to first doses. We are doing second doses only. As we wind down over the next three weeks, we will be closing the mass vaccination sites,” Balcezak said.
Balcezak said his impression was the vaccine confers longer lasting and more durable immunity than having the infection does.
“We certainly have seen folks come in after an infection with Covid-19 with a second infection of Covid-19. Our experience with people who were vaccinated – there are very few who have been hospitalized and none have gone to the ICU.”
And while there is no large scale study to confirm it, Balcezak said there was empirical evidence that vaccination was more potent than natural immunity from infection.
The issue of Myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – particularly in young men after receiving the covid-19 vaccination has made headlines in recent weeks. The CDC is monitoring the situation.
Balcezak said Myocarditis is not unusual and that the health system treats cases of Myocarditis, particularly in young people related to viral infections.
“What got our attention across the US was we were seeing them show up within just a couple days – on average of about two days after a vaccination. It is presumed that these cases are happening because of the vaccination. Somehow the vaccine is triggering the immune system to attack the muscle cells of the heart.”
Dr. Balcezak said the health system had seen 13 cases of Myocarditis, usually happening within just a few days of either first, or more likely, second dose of the Covid vaccine. “It’s happened with all of the different vaccine types,” he said, adding that 12 of the 13 cases were male.
Of the 13, only one was currently admitted and the rest were at home doing well.
While the health system is looking for additional guidance, should it be issued from the CDC, Balcezak said the 13 cases represent a tiny fraction of patients the health system has vaccinated.
He said they had also seen some incidents of Pericarditis.
“The heart sits in a membrane called a pericardium. That membrane can become inflamed. We’ve seen a couple of those as well,” he said, adding that that is treated with a non steroidal drugs like Motrin or Aleve.
“It has gotten better in the majority of these cases,” he said. “We don’t think there’s going to be any long term consequences from the inflammation of the heart tissue here.”
As for wearing masks indoors, Balcezak said clear guidance was lacking. He noted the arbitrary nature of policies in different stores.
“It sort of becomes a guessing game about what is expected of you in different locations. You end up carrying your mask and asking folks, ‘Do you want me to wear it?'”
“Masking is never the wrong thing to do. You can’t go wrong wearing a mask,” he said. “It’s going to protect others around you if you are sick, and there is some protection conferred to you if you are wearing it and someone around you is sick.”
Update from Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones
On Tuesday morning Greenwich Schools Superintendent said in an interview that she could not be more pleased with how the district was ending the year.
She said she believed it was the fourth week in the row that the number of active cases in Greenwich Schools was zero.
“It’s wonderful to end the year this way and to have all of our high school students back in school,” she said. “It feels a little more normal.”
She said currently 12-16 year olds were being vaccinated if their families choose for them to do so, and about 37% are fully vaccinated, and people age 16+ were getting their second shots.
As for criticisms from some parents who claimed the district was encouraging students to get vaccinated, Jones said, “As a school system, we have tried extremely hard to be neutral. We have been asked, not only by the Governor, but also the CT Dept of Health and the CT Dept of Education to provide information – not to withhold it. We’ve reiterated that it is a family choice,” she said.
The Ct Dept of Health still requires face masks be worn in the schools.
“I think for a matter of safety, it worked so well this year, that they didn’t want to take a risk for the last couple weeks of school,” she said.
Jones said Greenwich High School graduation will be fully live on one day for the entire senior class. It will be held on fields 6 and 7, enabling families to spread out. If there is a rain date, it might require different arrangements.
She said if everything continues as is, she anticipated a normal school year for 2021-2022, though many factors remain in play.
“We have a reopening plan that we are anticipating normal in fall unless something should change,” she said.