Newtown COVID Cases On Track To Surpass 500 As National Death Toll Tops Quarter Million
If positive COVID cases continue at their present trajectory, the Newtown Health District could be tracking more than 500 positive cases by the weekend — at least 100 of which are currently active, according to Health District Director Donna Culbert. If any good news can be found in the latest reporting, it is the number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, which has remained static at 45 for weeks while the national death toll just surpassed 250,000.
With Thanksgiving week expected to see hundreds of college students returning home from campuses across the nation, and local families still expecting to entertain limited numbers of holiday visitors, the infection situation is not expected to hold steady.
“We are up to 489 total cases, dating back to March, and they are coming in at a much faster pace,” Culbert informed The Newtown Bee late on November 18.
The local health official said she is hearing from some folks wondering how many active cases there are.
“We have received more than 100 positive tests reports for Newtown residents in the past two weeks, and they are still coming,” she said. “Those who test positive are considered to be contagious and should isolate for ten days, and their contacts should self-quarantine for 14 days, as the virus has a 14 day incubation period.”
Culbert also expressed some concern over accessibility to testing and inconsistencies in returning test results.
Culbert said she was “not surprised” to learn one Newtown Bee employee seeking a test Wednesday was initially referred through state sources for immediate service at a walk-in clinic in Southbury, only to be told on arrival they did not qualify for immediate testing based on not having symptoms — and was given an appointment for a COVID test seven days later.
Attempts to get tested at two other locations in Newtown and Monroe resulted in appointments being offered on November 27 and December 1.
“As we stand here late Wednesday (November 18), it appears my latest positive case was confirmed on the 16th,” she said. “And we are [getting] reports that test results are being returned in as few as two, and as much as six days or more after testing.”
Culbert is pointing to people’s movement in the community and interactions, which have resulted in many additional people being asked to quarantine.
“I am learning many of our cases have had milder illness than in the spring, but not everyone,” she added. “Some have had more serious illness and some have been or are in the hospital. So I ask everyone, please wear your mask, watch your distance, wash your hands, stay home when unwell.
“Someone’s life depends on it.”
Reacting to the national death toll, US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said hearing the number surpassing 250,000 on Wednesday was “gut wrenching,” and “should mark a moral imperative and call to action for another pandemic relief package.”
“My deepest condolences are with the families and loved ones of those we have lost, including nearly 4,800 in Connecticut,” Blumenthal said. “As I grieve this grim news, I am also angry and exasperated, because their lives could have been saved.”
The senator called on top leaders, including the president, to divert their attention from continuing to contest national election outcomes, and to get busy working to expedite relief to Americans who are dealing with a tremendous resurgence of the virus.
“Instead of managing this pandemic to protect the public, President Trump and his administration are now working harder than ever to undermine the results of the election and sow distrust in our democracy,” Blumenthal said. “Nine months into this pandemic, solutions to address its fallout are still stalled in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. I remain ready to consider reasonable policies and plans to rebuild our country and help struggling Americans.
“We must pass real relief for the sake of the American people,” he added.
Sobering State Stats
According to Governor Ned Lamont’s latest report, as of November 17 at 8:30 pm, the total of COVID-19 cases reported among Connecticut residents is 97,028, including 90,529 laboratory-confirmed and 6,499 probable cases. Eight hundred sixteen patients were currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 at that time and there were 4,784 COVID-19-associated deaths recorded.
Fairfield County continues to lead the state in positive cases with 32,369, and 1,463 virus-related deaths. Hartford and New Haven counties are close behind in terms of case counts, and both are approaching the 25,000 mark.
Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds issued a statement late Wednesday indicating the governor will remain in self-quarantine since a member of his security team had tested positive.
“The member of the security detail has immediately entered self-isolation,” Mounds said. “Governor Lamont remains in self-quarantine at his private residence following exposure to a member of his senior staff last week. There are no other positive test results to report from the Governor’s Office.”
Also on Wednesday, Lamont joined Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, and Governor John Carney of Delaware announcing they will encourage residential colleges and universities in their respective states to provide testing for all students traveling home for Thanksgiving break to the maximum extent possible before they leave campus.
Any student who tests positive will be encouraged to isolate on campus before they can travel or detail arrangements of their safe travel home with the local department of health. Students who are already isolating or quarantining on campus must remain in place until completing their prescribed seclusion.
These efforts will help mitigate the threat of college students returning home for the holidays bringing COVID-19 into their communities.
In addition, colleges should inform students and their families of relevant quarantine policies in their home state.
“College students returning from highly infected states could accelerate the spread of COVID in Connecticut,” Lamont said. “I appreciate the joint effort of all our regional governors to clearly state the testing/quarantine rules for returning home from college.”
“As everyone predicted, cases are rising as temperatures drop, and New York is not immune,” Cuomo said. “With the holidays approaching, we are fighting ‘living room spread’ from small gatherings in private homes — and adding college students’ interstate travel will be like pouring gasoline on a fire. Colleges and universities have to do their part by testing all students before they leave, informing them about quarantine rules, and keeping classes online between Thanksgiving and winter break. We beat back the COVID beast in the spring, and by working together we can do it once again this winter.”
“With Thanksgiving and the broader holiday season fast approaching, we have to recognize that any large family gathering — particularly among different age groups — runs the risk of turning the dinner table into a COVID hotspot,” Murphy said. “If we collectively recommit ourselves to the common sense mitigation practices that got us through the first wave of this pandemic, we can save lives before a vaccine becomes broadly available.”
“There’s no sugarcoating it — this will be a difficult winter,” Carney said. “I’m thankful for the cooperation in our region, and will continue to urge Delawareans to do what works. Wear a mask. Don’t gather with anyone outside your household. Stay vigilant.”
The combination of rising cases across the country — including in the northeast — due to increased transmission of COVID in small, residential settings and Thanksgiving travel has created the perfect storm for viral spread. If people proceed with celebrations and small gatherings outside of their immediate families, they risk generating a dramatic spike in cases after Thanksgiving.
All governors are urging their residents to stay home and celebrate small this year in an effort to help eliminate the risk of unchecked COVID-19 spread in the coming weeks. The governors also emphasized the importance of in-person education.
Medical research as well as data from northeastern states, from across the country, and from around the world make clear that in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates. In-person learning is the best possible scenario for children, especially those with special needs and from low-income families.
There is also growing evidence that the more time students spend outside of school increases the risk of mental health harm and affects their ability to truly learn.
In addition, the governors are strongly recommending that colleges and universities finish their fall semesters by expanding remote instruction, enabling more students to learn from home for the few weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break rather than require students to travel back to campus and then back home again in December. Half of colleges and universities across the northeast have already indicated they will be fully remote between Thanksgiving and the end of their fall semester.
Colleges and universities are being asked to prioritize on-campus programs for students who did not travel or who need in-person exams or clinical and laboratory experiences.
If colleges and universities do reopen for in-person instruction during this period, the governors recommend all returning students should receive COVID-19 tests and comply with relevant isolation and quarantine protocols. These institutions should also double down on precautions including frequent health screenings and surveillance testing due the increased risk of COVID exposure from student travel.