Newtown COVID-19 Cases Trending Up In Nursing, Assisted Living Centers As Statewide Hospitalizations Increase
Governor Ned Lamont may have downplayed it at the top of his May 5 press briefing, but the fact that state COVID-19 hospitalizations increased for the first time in almost two weeks was not surprising to Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert.
As of Tuesday, Culbert saw her number of coronavirus cases in Newtown top 124, which is the state's official number for the day.
"Since last Thursday we've got 24 new cases, and unfortunately 16 of them are in institutional settings - nursing homes and assisted living facilities," she told The Newtown Bee.
As positive COVID-19 cases across the state and nation continued to accelerate, particularly outside the metro New York region that includes Fairfield County, Culbert expressed a growing concern for families living together in close quarters, especially where there may already be one or more suspected or established members infected with the virus.
The local health official said she is monitoring more than a dozen Newtown households where two or more members of the family have tested positive.
"This is spreading in those homes, even in homes where they are already practicing social isolation," Culbert said. "I'm just concerned in these multi-generational settings, that the virus has greater potential to get spread to others outside of the house."
That is likely a concern for countless colleagues across the region and country.
While on Tuesday, Lamont announced that public schools K-12 would not resume classes until further notice as a public health precaution, other states that are reopening are contributing to a troubling surge in new coronavirus cases.
Taking the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation, numbers show the rest of the US is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday.
Many More Deaths Feared
New confirmed infections per day in the US exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.
When the still locked-down metropolitan area is included, new infections in the US appear to be declining, according to the AP analysis. It found that the five-day rolling average for new cases has decreased from 9.3 per 100,000 people three weeks ago on April 13 to 8.6 on Monday.
But subtracting the New York metropolitan area from the analysis changes the story. Without it, the rate of new cases in the US increased over the same period from 6.2 per 100,000 people to 7.5.
In Connecticut as of May 4 at 8:30 pm, a total of 30,621 cases of COVID-19 have been reported - an increase of 648 - with 1,500 patients currently hospitalized - up 36 since Sunday - and the state is now tallying 2,633 virus-related deaths, an increase of 77.
While Fairfield County, part of that New York metro region, is still leading the state with 12,360 positive cases and 935 deaths, Hartford County is displaying a concerning trend. While that mid-state metro area has logged around half of what Fairfield County has at 6,351, its COVID-related deaths hit 804 Monday evening.
Conversely, New Haven County registered about 2,000 more positive cases as of Monday (8,337), but has logged about 200 fewer deaths than Hartford County (610).
'Free To Be Dumb'
Lamont was blunt Tuesday when referring to demonstrators who circled the Governor's mansion the previous day honking horns and demanding the state take a more progressive stance on reopening.
Lamont said a number of protestors were shouting the slogan "Give me liberty or give me death." He reacted saying, "You're free to be dumb if you want to, but not if it endangers others."
The balance of his press briefing centered around his earlier order effectively ending the 2019-20 school year for thousands of state students and educators.
Lamont said it "breaks my heart" to have to end the school year, and that he had hoped to reopen schools briefly to provide some sense of closure to the year. But as COVID-19 case numbers and deaths continued to climb, Lamont said superintendents across the state grew more concerned.
It was an ironic coincidence that the governor's school closure announcement came on Teacher Appreciation Day.
In other related news, the governor reported May 1 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved another portion of his ongoing request for disaster assistance as part of the State of Connecticut’s Major Disaster Declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That approval includes funding for crisis counseling under the individual assistance category, which will help support mental health initiatives designed to benefit individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, FEMA approved Lamont’s request for public assistance for Connecticut, allowing impacted state agencies, municipalities, and tribal nations in all eight of the state’s counties to be reimbursed by the federal government for 75 percent of the costs associated with their response and emergency protective measures. A supplemental request from the governor to increase that reimbursement to 100 percent is still pending.
Other requests by Lamont for individual assistance remain under review by FEMA, including in the categories of disaster unemployment assistance, disaster case management, disaster legal services, child care assistance, and funeral assistance.
“This pandemic is having an impact on nearly every segment of our society and daily lives, and that includes mental health services,” Lamont said. “Approval in this category of aid will mean a lot to so many people living in our state, and I appreciate FEMA’s approval."
Anyone in crisis or facing issues making ends meet or experiencing stress or anxiety can also call the 211 infoline or consult its companion website 211ct.org.
For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ, other guidance and resources, and a way to ask questions, Newtown residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
The Newtown Bee is continuing to provide and mirror information and messages coming from local and state agencies on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Newtown residents can get more details by visiting Newtown’s own COVID-19 web page, here.
Please check in regularly, share, and follow the newspaper’s hyperlocal coverage at newtownbee.com through the remainder of this public health emergency.