COVID-19 Update July 16: Lamont Says Back-to-School Plan is Good, but his Expert Says Fall Epidemic May Force Closure Again

Gov. Ned Lamont‘s Thursday press briefing focused on the level of confidence about bringing students and teachers back to school in the fall despite the threat of COVID-19. Lamont acknowledged that teachers across the state are concerned about returning to the classroom but defended his plan as one that puts health and safety first.

“For the teachers, you’ve got to know I’ve got your back. Everything I’ve done to date, we’ve erred on the side of caution. We were slow to reopen, we waited for the metrics to be right. If any state can open safely I think it’s Connecticut. I’m going to do everything I can to give you the confidence you need when it comes to masks, disinfecting, social distancing, cohorting, to make sure you know you can get back safely,” he said.

Lamont added that he’s “less concerned” if safety protocols are followed.

He brought former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (and Westport resident) Scott Gottlieb to join him at the briefing to discuss the safety of reopening schools. Gottlieb said he had confidence in the plan put together by the governor to reopen schools–or at least get kids back to school for part of the fall–emphasis on ‘part’ as he does anticipate a surge that may require closing schools again.

“Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity, I think we will, to bring kids back at least for a period of time–we may have to wind up to close the schools at some point in the fall or winter as this epidemic takes its course. But even if we can bring them back for a period of time, that’s going to be exceedingly important. But it’s important we do that with precautions to prevent outbreaks in the school setting,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb added that while it’s hard to predict with certainty, he does think there will be a likely rise in cases nationwide.

“At some point, there’s a risk that we’re going to have a confluent epidemic across the US because we have a lot of infection and it’s going to collide with flu season. In the Northeast, we’ve brought levels down very low, we’ve bought ourselves a couple of months of low levels, but eventually, we’ll have a change of transmission,” he said.

That surge–what he again referred to as an ‘epidemic’–is what may force CT to close schools again.

“If we can get two months of school in, if we can get three months of school in, even one month of school in, that’s going to be important,” Gottlieb said. “We may end up having to close the schools again at some point in the fall or winter as the epidemic takes its course, but we’re going to have the opportunity to bring kids back.”

He cautioned that not enough is known about the virus and how it impacts children.

“We need to protect the teachers–while there’s evidence that children are less susceptible to contracting the virus, the data is less certain on their ability to transmit the virus,” he said, later adding, “While the data shows children may be at less risk for COVID than adults, less risk doesn’t mean no risk. We’ve sheltered the kids so the overall infection rate might be low. We need to be careful to take steps to try to control outbreaks, acknowledging that we don’t know everything about this virus or the risk to children in particular.”

Focus on Age in Recent New Cases

Also during the briefing, Lamont highlighted the ages of patients who were recently confirmed as COVID-19-positive cases over the last week (July 5-11)–particularly younger adults.

“I think you’ll be interested to see that 20-29 [years old] is the biggest cohort in terms of years, where people have tested positive for COVID. If you look over the extent of the last 90 days, 20-29 was only the fourth highest. If you look at over 80, before it was the second-highest. So it gives you an idea of how the world of COVID infection is changing. Those in the 20-29-year-old cohort, that’s where the surge in infection has been.”

He related his concern to the spikes in Arizona and Florida, which were led by a similar age cohort.

Lamont suggested that the 20-29-year-old age group is more casual about close contact socializing and mask-wearing.

“I know how frustrating it is, you haven’t seen your friends in quite some time and you are making up for lost time, but when you look at the numbers in ct and what’s going on around the country, especially the southern states that could be the canary in the coal mine so please, please be very careful.”

Wilton Update–Why Town Doesn’t Offer Testing

In her nightly update to residents, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice addressed the question of why Wilton doesn’t offer COVID-19 testing.

“Residents have asked why the Town doesn’t offer resident diagnostic or asymptomatic Coronavirus testing. There are few reasons:

  • “Testing is readily available, even without a doctor’s order.
  • “11.7% of Wilton residents have been tested. This rate is similar to neighboring towns performing regular or periodic resident testing, such as New Canaan at 10.3%, Darien at 11.3% and Ridgefield 12.2%.
  • “Testing requires town resources. With testing readily available, resources are better dedicated to other priorities, rather than replicating what is already privately available.
  • “Asymptomatic testing is only meaningful if performed on a regular basis, generally every 14 days. Within Connecticut and nationwide there isn’t lab capacity to support regular asymptomatic testing of the general population. With increased national demand for diagnostic testing, asymptomatic capacity has decreased.”

By the Numbers (July 16)

  • Wilton:  230 cases–no new cases reported
  • Hospitalized Patients:  Statewide, a 1-patient net increase. Fairfield County, a 2-patient net increase
  • Deaths: Statewide 9 new deaths.  Fairfield County 4 new deaths
  • Fairfield County cases pass 17,000

CT DPH reported the following for Fairfield County as of July 15:

  • Total Fairfield County Cases:   17,027 (+34 since July 15)
    • Confirmed:  16,385
    • Probable:  642
  • Total Fairfield County Deaths: 1,391 deaths  (+4 since July 15)
    • Confirmed:  1,083
    • Probable:  308
  • Total Current Fairfield County Hospitalized patients:  20 (+2 since July 15)

CT DPH reported the following for statewide as of July 15:

  • Total CT cases:  47,750  (+114 since July 15)
  • Total CT deaths:  4,389 (+9 since July 15)
  • Total Current State hospitalized patients:  66 (-1 since July 15)
  • Total tests performed in CT:  613,569 (+11,453 since July 15)

It is important to note that these newly reported updates include data that occurred over the last several days to a week. All data in this report are preliminary, and data for previous dates will be updated as new reports are received and data errors are corrected. Hospitalization data were collected by the Connecticut Hospital Association. Deaths* reported to either OCME or DPH are included in the daily COVID-19 update.

Visit the state’s coronavirus webpage for several additional charts and tables containing more data groups, including a town-by-town breakdown of positive cases in each municipality and a breakdown of cases and deaths among age groups.