Connecticut has seen an “extremely worrying” rise in hospitalizations from COVID-19 in recent weeks, health officials said, as the number of cases also continues to rise.
The state health department reported at least 500 hospitalizations both Monday and Tuesday, an increase of about 80% in the past two weeks — and the highest number since April.
“To go from 300 hospital admissions to 500 hospital admissions in such a short time is extremely concerning,” said Dr. Connecticut Department of Public Health commissioner Manisha Juthani told ABC New Haven affiliate WTNH on Tuesday.
The state also reported a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 8.3% on Tuesday, up from 5.8% the day before, an increase that Connecticut government Ned Lamont called “disturbing.” Although the governor said he is not so much concerned about the infection rate, but about hospital admissions.
“We have over 500 people in the hospitals now, so that’s triple what we were a few weeks ago,” Lamont said Tuesday morning on the Connecticut Public Radio show “Where We Live.” “[It’s] a quarter of where we were a year and a half ago, but it’s still reason to be cautious.”
The state’s positivity rate for COVID-19, the highest in nearly a year, could be increased through the use of home testing, Juthani said. Negative tests cannot be reported, which means fewer tests are generally factored into the positivity rate. But there is still cause for concern, she said.
“What we can be explicit about is that this is a worrying trajectory that we are on in terms of the number of cases we have in our state,” Juthani told WTNH.
The health commissioner attributed several reasons to the recent increase in transmission in Connecticut — and the region in general — including colder weather, declining immunity among vaccinated residents and indoor gatherings, including holiday celebrations.
“You put all these factors together and it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in the number of cases,” she told WTNH. “This virus offers equal opportunities, and this virus primarily finds the unvaccinated, but we know that breakthrough cases can also occur.”
According to federal data, more than 85% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The “overwhelming majority” of those who become infected are not vaccinated, Lamont said. More severe cases also largely occur in those who have not been vaccinated; of those currently hospitalized, more than 76% have not been fully vaccinated, according to state data.
“We need to focus on those who haven’t been vaccinated,” Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital in New Haven County, told reporters Monday at a press event encouraging vaccination and boosters. “We need people who go out there to protect themselves because they protect the community, but they also preserve our ability to care for sick people.”
Amid concerns about the new omicron variant, which has been detected in at least two Connecticut residents, Charmel said the predominant delta variant has contributed to the current surge in hospitalizations in the state.
“What exactly we’re seeing, in the increase in hospitalizations over the past two weeks … that’s not because of omicron. That’s because of the delta variant that’s still with us,” he said.
Charmel said Monday that 91% of New Haven County hospital beds were full, leaving 200 available. Influenza cases are also starting to add a new “layer” of pressure to hospital admissions in the region, and he urged people to get the flu vaccine, too.
“There’s not the capacity to handle what could happen if we don’t do the responsible thing,” Charmel said.
As the number of cases has risen in recent weeks, Lamont said he is not considering implementing new COVID-19 health orders, such as a universal mandate for indoor masks. Currently, only unvaccinated people in the state are required to wear masks while indoors in public areas. The governor has urged people to avoid crowds, exercise caution, and get vaccinated or boosted. He told reporters on Tuesday that he is “hopeful” that residents “will continue to do the right thing.”
Juthani has also encouraged people to get their boosters to help reduce transmission. About a quarter of eligible residents have received their boosters so far, federal data shows.
“Don’t slack off,” she said. “This virus is not done with us, even though we are done with it.”