A spike in positive coronavirus cases in Danbury is a warning to be heeded for all of Connecticut.
Danbury had the first coronavirus patient in the state March 6, and soon after the rest of Fairfield County and then New Haven and Hartford counties were enveloped. It’s not that the virus spread from this city, the seventh largest in the state — proximity to Westchester County was a factor — but Danbury’s experience became a bellwether of what was to come for the rest of Connecticut.
As it was then, so might it be now.
Last Friday Danbury had 44 new positive coronavirus cases — in one day more than the total for two weeks at the end of July. From Aug. 2 to 20, the city recorded at least 178 new cases, which the state Department of Health called a “sharp increase” and issued a COVID-19 alert .
With Connecticut’s positivity rate below 1 percent, Danbury’s suddenly jumped to 7 percent.
What is causing the spike? With contract tracing some patterns emerged: People sitting too close to each other, without masks, at youth sporting events; international travelers who might not have self-quarantined for 14 days; boaters who party on Candlewood Lake in clusters; and even the power outage of up to seven days after Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4 which can be pinpointed to downtown neighborhoods.
But perhaps the single overriding culprit is this: COVID fatigue.
After more than five months of lockdown, with hospitalizations and deaths relatively low and summer weather warm, people are letting down their guard against a virus they cannot see.
This is understandable. We all want it to be over.
But this is the danger — the virus remains highly contagious. This is is no time to pull back on social distancing or on wearing a mask.
Danbury has a narrow window, estimated at a week and a half, to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.
Mayor Mark Boughton took immediate — and some unpopular — measures to try to slow the spread. Youth sports were put on hold; a protest followed in front of City Hall. Free testing was ramped up, and residents are urged to get tested, even if they have no symptoms. The mayor asked live church services to scale back and families to limit the size of gatherings. State boat ramps on Candlewood Lake closed Wednesday.
Danbury Public Schools will start with distance learning until at least Oct. 1; Western Connecticut State University and Naugatuck Valley Community College, with a downtown campus, announced they’re moving classes online for a few weeks.
Gov. Ned Lamont came to Danbury Tuesday to underscore the urgency.
“If we hit this hard in Danbury and it doesn’t spread beyond, we can continue to make good progress across the state,” Lamont said.
The race is on and will take the efforts of everyone, not just Danbury residents.
Don’t wring your hands. Wash them.