At least for now, transmission of COVID-19 appears to be slowing in Connecticut

Transmission of COVID-19 in Connecticut appears to be slowing, state figures show, after several months of steady increases.

As of Thursday, the state had averaged 1,137 daily cases over the past week, up from nearly 1,600 at one point earlier this month, though it was still much higher than immediately before the current wave. The state’s seven-day positivity rate, meanwhile, fell to 11.8 percent on Thursday from 14.2 percent last week.

Although both the case numbers and the test positivity rate are likely skewed by the popularity of home testing, most of which are never reported to authorities, experts say the metrics can still be useful for assessing overall trends.

Additionally, traces of COVID-19 in New Haven sewage appear to have plateaued or even declined slightly, data from Yale researchers shows, another sign Connecticut transmission is peaking, at least for now has reached.

As of Thursday, Connecticut had hospitalized 379 patients with COVID-19, a slight decrease from Wednesday when hospitalizations hit their highest level since February. Hospital admissions have continued to increase in recent days, but not as sharply as earlier this month.

“In the last two weeks, we have seen at least some stabilization in terms of COVID hospitalizations, which we can track, and community transmission, which we can roughly estimate with the current data,” said Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health. “That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic for the coming weeks.”

Additionally, traces of COVID-19 in New Haven sewage appear to have plateaued or even declined slightly, according to Yale researchers.

Since March, Connecticut has been mired in a COVID-19 spike that experts have attributed to subvariant BA.2. What was originally expected to be a relatively small increase has instead resulted in a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations that lasted for more than two months.

Coronavirus-related deaths have not increased significantly during the recent wave, possibly because deaths are delaying cases and hospitalizations, but may also be a product of immunization protection, slightly less deadly strains of the virus and improved treatment protocols, including antiviral pills.

Connecticut on Thursday reported 19 COVID-19 deaths over the past week, bringing the total to 10,941 during the pandemic.

“Regarding the severity of the hospitalized patients, we see a lower number with intensive care illness,” Banach said. “I find that encouraging.”

Even though Connecticut’s case numbers and positivity rate have declined slightly over the past few days, transmission remains high in Connecticut, with likely tens of thousands of new infections (both reported and unreported) occurring each week.

dr Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare, said Thursday that he was not ready to celebrate an improvement in the state’s numbers.

“We’re in a place where we shouldn’t be at all,” Wu said. “Whether it’s 383 [hospitalizations] yesterday or 379 today, both numbers are equally bad.”

The recent COVID-19 spike in Connecticut, which came on its heels almost immediately after the state’s devastating omicron-induced winter surge, has caused some infectious disease experts to worry that the state will see high levels of transmission indefinitely, with new variants appearing one after the other.

The state has already identified multiple cases of BA.4 and BA.5, subvariants that have caused a dramatic surge in COVID-19 in South Africa.

Wu said recent trends in Connecticut’s numbers hadn’t changed his relatively pessimistic forecast for the coming months. In his view, Connecticut could return to lower virus levels by the end of June — but cases could spike again at any time.

“With a population that is apathetic and doesn’t care, we will see wave after wave,” Wu said. “Eventually we’re going to see a downturn, but it really depends on how long that downturn lasts and how deep that downturn is.”

Even if Connecticut’s cases fall, Wu said, they’re unlikely to return to the lows recorded last summer.

“It’s like descending from Everest to the Tibetan Plateau,” he said. “You’re still damn high up on the Tibetan Plateau.”

Banach was a little more optimistic, arguing that summer weather, which is facilitating outdoor activities, should help Connecticut keep its numbers lower than it has been so far.

In his view, the recent drop in Connecticut’s cases and positivity rate could be the start of a lower-risk period.

“We still need to be aware that COVID is all around us, but here in Connecticut with warmer weather, spending more time outdoors is beneficial to reduce the risk of spreading it,” he said. “So I think we can maintain cautious optimism for the next few weeks.”

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