After months of low infection rates, Connecticut is seeing an uptick in new COVID-19 cases, something state officials say they’re monitoring closely
On Thursday, the state identified 220 new infections out of just under 14,000 tests performed, a positivity rate of just under 1.6 percent.
Gov. Ned Lamont called those numbers “concerning” during his daily afternoon news conference.
“That’s still one of the lowest in the country, but it still is a trend,” he said.
About a month ago, the state was averaging an positivity rate of less than 1 percent.
“This is something we’re watching carefully to see what degree it’s seasonal, to what degree it is people coming back, to what degree it is Labor Day weekend ... but to all those folks who think we’re out of the woods and it’s time just to let it rip, this reminds you why we continue to be very cautious.”
One more death was reported among someone who had the disease, bringing the state’s death toll to 4,488.
Thursday’s additional 220 cases bring the state’s cumulative total of coronavirus cases to 55,386.
Five more people were hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the last 24 hours, with a total of 75 people hospitalized for the illness across the state.
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the state has recorded 48 cases among students and 27 among school staff members as schools have reopened.
He said the timing did not line up for K-12 schools to be driving the uptick of cases in Connecticut.
The state is planning to launch a website to report data on COVID-19 infections at schools, Geballe said. The governor’s office did something similar in the spring when the virus began surging at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, publishing data on those cases in a weekly report.
“In regards to higher ed, I think it’s been pretty well documented at this point — there’s been a couple of cases at UConn, some at Central (Connecticut State University), but overall those are contained at this point I think. The administrations have taken all the right actions, but those do drive case numbers,” Geballe said.
On Thursday, UConn reported 21 new cases among students attending the Storrs campus, four among residential students and 17 among students living off campus. Of the off-campus residents, four live in an apartment complex the school has quarantined in coordination with local health officials.
Looking at the state’s financial picture in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamont said the state is projecting a $2.1 billion deficit in fiscal year 2021 amid uncertain revenue caused by the pandemic.
“We’re going to have a much better idea what our 2021 budget looks like when we get a little more direction from the federal government,” Lamont said during Thursday’s news conference.
Asked repeatedly about plans for trick-or-treating around Halloween, the governor indicated he would put out safety guidance, but appeared optimistic the holiday could go forward outdoors.
“I guess we’re going to have issue some kind of guidance on that, but tell your 5-year-old she’s going to be able to get her candy,” Lamont told one reporter.
The governor’s office provided scant details on they believe is driving the uptick in cases.
“I think there’s some areas where we’ve documented very clearly that there’s been some clusters of cases,” Geballe said. “Danbury is one that we’ve talked about extensively. Danbury’s actually ticked back up over the past week so we’re keeping a close eye on that.”
The state is also monitoring the area around Central Connecticut State University’s campus in New Britain and UConn’s campus in Storrs.
Geballe said the numbers in Danbury are still below what they were when the city saw a spike in cases there late last month.
“We’re looking at additional actions we can take, flooding in a lot of additional testing and bringing in a rapid response team and making sure the community’s taking all the right actions to try to keep that cluster contained,” he added.