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Newtown Adds 119 COVID Cases, Two More Deaths In One Week



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The surge in Newtown’s number of COVID-19 infections continues, with 119 new infections reported in just a week according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). The community has now lost 57 of its residents, adding two more to the number since January 13.

Nationally this week, COVID-related deaths have surpassed the 400,000 mark.

The local number of positive cases accumulated in town since the virus was first reported in the state ten-and-a-half months ago now stands at 1,250, a count that has nearly tripled since the week before Thanksgiving.

There is no sign of that rate slowing yet, despite the fact that vaccinations have been getting into the arms of front line workers and individuals in local congregate care facilities — some who have reported receiving their second dose of the two-dose course this week.

“A lot of those new numbers are from cases developing in the same homes,” said Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert. “I’ll look at the numbers and see three, four, occasionally even five or more members of the same household. It’s ripping through our households.”

On the positive side, Culbert said she is in the early process of planning the district’s first vaccine clinic exclusively for Newtown residents age 75 or over who have pre-registered through the Newtown Senior Center or the state’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) network.

At the same time, Culbert is concerned about homebound residents over age 75 who are either not getting timely information about pre-registering, or who may not be tech savvy, which hampers the ability for them to pre-register electronically.

“The hard part for us is getting the message out to those over 75 who don’t go on the internet, or who don’t do e-mail,” Culbert said. “We’re going to get to them, but I know this is a really frustrating time, especially for our seniors.”

She said anyone who has a neighbor, acquaintance, or family member in Newtown over 75 who has not pre-registered, they should do that by calling Newtown Social Services at 203-270-4330.

“It’s important for people to know that we will only be vaccinating residents who are pre-registered and are 75 or older,” Culbert said. “And we won’t know who we can serve until we receive a confirmation on how many vaccine doses we are getting. Hopefully we’ll know that number in the next day or two.”

The health director said individuals who are already pre-registered in the state’s VAMS network may get an appointment for a vaccine being distributed through other sources, like a local hospital, before Newtown confirms any details for its first public clinic.

More Vax Details

As of January 21, Connecticut has logged the following vaccination data:

• First doses administered: 226,930

• Second doses administered: 31,337

• Total doses administered: 258,267

Statewide, the total of COVID-19 cases reported is 234,134, including 220,121 laboratory-confirmed and 14,013 probable cases; 1,124 patients were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 on January 20, and there were 6,726 COVID-19-associated deaths reported at that time.

With nearly 1.4 million individuals included in Phase 1b of Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the state anticipating receipt of about 45,000 doses of vaccine per week from the federal government, Governor Ned Lamont announced January 19 that he is directing the DPH to proceed through the remaining groups in the phase with a tiered approach based on risk of adverse health outcomes from the virus.

The governor is directing the implementation be done in an equitable way, with vaccine distribution points focused in areas where residents and communities have barriers to access and care.

The tiered approach to Phase 1b will proceed as follows.

Scheduling now: Individuals over the age of 75.

Scheduling next (likely early February): Individuals between the ages of 65 and 74.

Scheduling soon (likely late February or early March): Frontline essential workers and individuals with underlying medical conditions who have an increased risk for severe illness.

The rollout of the vaccine to staff and residents of congregate living settings will be phased in throughout Phase 1b.

Tracing And Testing

State officials have recently amped up their public service messaging regarding contact tracing and the critical importance of residents’ participation and cooperation when tracers reach out.

Contact tracing is the process of contacting all people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have had contact with someone who tested positive. It is possible to be infected with COVID-19 and have no symptoms, so contact tracing is currently one of the best ways to identify and notify people who may be infected in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Contact tracers from the local and state health department will be in touch if a resident tests positive for COVID-19, and will also call people you were in close contact with — but will keep your information protected. You will see “CT COVID TRACE” or the number for your local health department on your caller ID if a tracing call is coming through.

It was announced January 21 that express COVID-19 testing is available for Newtown residents. As COVID-19 cases continue to climb and new variants of the coronavirus emerge, it is essential to continue testing efforts within the community, according to Dr Jeannie Kenkare, chief medical officer for PhysicianOne Urgent Care, with a location in Plaza South at 266 South Main Street.

“Because there may be people in our communities that could be transmitting COVID-19 without realizing it, PhysicianOne Urgent Care offers several testing options, including the new express-testing option for asymptomatic patients at select locations,” says Kenkare said. “Our location in Newtown is offering all types of testing and safe appointments for those with other injuries or ailments who need medical attention. We encourage everyone to continue to wear masks, social distance, and wash their hands to help us slow the spread as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out.”

PhysicianOne Urgent Care’s express testing for patients without symptoms and without a known exposure to COVID-19 can be useful for those who need testing for work or travel.

If a local resident is looking to be tested for COVID-19, Kenkare encourages them to review the following to ensure you fit the criteria for PhysicianOne Urgent Care’s express-testing:

*Who is the self-pay COVID-19 test option for? If you need to be tested for travel, to see a high-risk family member, or to return to school, this is a great option. Pre-registration and payment is expected prior to testing.

*When is the test available? The asymptomatic, self-pay COVID-19 test is available at PhysicianOne Urgent Care’s Newtown location Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday every week, with reservations from 1 to 4 pm. To minimize your time in the center, there is a dedicated clinician and exam room for express testing.

*What does the test cost? Both the PCR and rapid tests are self-pay COVID-19 test options. The cost of a single test is $160. If you would like both a PCR and a rapid test, the cost is $210.

*How do I register for the test? Pre-registration is required for all COVID-19 tests, including the self-pay test. Select the Newtown location, and click “Book COVID Test” after you CLICK HERE.

*If I have insurance, do I still have to pay out-of-pocket? If you wish to submit a claim to insurance, you are welcome to schedule a visit with a provider who will determine if it is medically necessary for you to be tested. Express testing is not the right option if you wish to submit a claim to your insurance carrier.

To schedule a provider visit for COVID-19 testing to be submitted to insurance, CLICK HERE.

*What is the turnaround time for test results with the self-pay test from PhysicianOne? Rapid test results are available the same day your test was conducted; PCR test results are currently returned within 4 to 6 business days.

Irene Caulfield stands behind the counter of Sabrina Style, the boutique she and husband Chris own in Sandy Hook Center. In front of her is a bin for clean and used pens and a large bottle of hand sanitizer, two tools to help employees and customers protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Avenue business also sells face masks, as seen on the right.—Bee Photo, Hicks
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