Fairfield County, Newtown Now Under Virus 'Health Alert'
In the space of 48 hours, a lot can change when you have a fast moving virus that is twice as contagious and employs fully vaccinated people as possible carriers of COVID-19.
The Newtown Bee had just reported comparatively upbeat news about very limited recent transmissions of COVID-19 with its powerful and insidious delta variant, and less than two days later the community and all of Fairfield County were put under a State Department of Public Health alert.
On Friday, July 30, just after 4 pm, the state issued the following:
"The Connecticut Department of Public Health is issuing a health alert today in response to the Centers for Disease Control moving Fairfield, Tolland, and Windham counties into the 'substantial transmission' category."
Fairfield, Tolland, and Windham join Hartford, New Haven and New London counties which also are in the substantial transmission category per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classification system.
“Per guidance this week from the CDC, anyone over age two who lives, works or travels throughout these counties should wear a mask when in public indoor spaces,” said Deidre S. Gifford, MD, MPH, senior advisor to the Governor for Health and Human Services, and acting commissioner of DPH. “This alert applies to all residents in these areas whether they are vaccinated or not.”
Gifford added that all Connecticut residents who have underlying medical conditions who are at high risk for complications of COVID, or residents who live with high risk, or unvaccinated individuals, should also consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces. This includes vaccinated family members who live with young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order 12A remains in effect which requires all individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth when indoors and unable to maintain adequate distance from others.
Gifford noted that the dominant Delta variant can infect those who are vaccinated and that they can transmit the COVID infection to others.
"But I cannot stress enough that the vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID,” she adde.
COVID vaccines are readily available at hundreds of locations across Connecticut.
CLICK HERE for a complete list of vaccine sites.
'New Science Is Worrisome'
This week, the CDC said its investigations found that the amount of virus present in vaccinated people infected with Delta is similar to the levels found in unvaccinated people with Delta infections — an indication that vaccinated people can easily transmit the virus, beven though they may be less likely to get sick on the whole.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a July 27 press call that information on the Delta a variant from several states and other countries indicates that, "on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.
"This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations," she added.
In a July 30 update of a Yale School of Medicine web bulletin, F. Perry Wilson, MD, a Yale Medicine epidemiologist pointed out, “In a completely unmitigated environment — where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks — it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people. In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”
By the end of July, Delta was the cause of more than 80% of new US COVID-19 cases, according to CDC estimates. The Yale article by Kathy Katella pointed to new research showing people with breakthrough Delta cases carry tremendous amounts of virus in their nose and throat, and may be contagious whether or not they have symptoms.
Inci Yildirim, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and a vaccinologist, added, “A recent study from the United Kingdom showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta.”
In a July 28 interview, Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert said virtually all new COVID-19 cases across her service area of Newtown, Roxbury, and Bridgewater, were occurring among family members or cohabitants in the same household, or are tied to individuals who recently traveled out of state or country.
The latest CDC recommendations include:
*Added information reccomending fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission;
*Added information that fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated; and
*Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested three to five days after exposure and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
In addition, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
As of July 30, Connecticut had registered 354,355 positive coronavirus cases resulting in 8,293 deaths. In Newtown 2,162 positive cases and 66 deaths had been recorded.
Editor John Voket can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.