In the largest jump in Wilton’s reported COVID-19 cases since May 11, the town saw a sudden uptick of nine new cases on Monday, Oct. 26, according to the State Department of Public Health. Even though that number reflects an increase in cases over three weekend days, Wilton officials had grown accustomed to seeing lower numbers even for the three-day reporting periods over weekends, often seeing no increase in case numbers at all.
In her nightly update about the town’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice noted that Wilton has had 18 new cases in the last seven days for a seven-day average daily rate of 14 cases per 100,000 residents.
Vanderslice said there was not one single event responsible for Wilton’s new cases this weekend or the recent increase in cases. As they have been most recently, new cases were spread primarily among those aged 20 to 60.
She made a plea for Wilton residents to remain vigilant about following mitigation protocols as the best approach for reducing the spread of the virus.
“We recognize that COVID fatigue is real. My family is just like yours in that we are unable to do many of the things we love and were unable to properly honor a recently lost love one. But, we know wearing a mask, maintaining distance, avoiding high-risk activities, and avoiding travel to high-risk states are the most important things we can do to limit the spread of the virus,” Vanderslice wrote.
While neighboring New Canaan has mandated that masks must be worn outside in public in the municipality’s downtown, Vanderslice is holding back on similarly strict enforcement on mask-wearing in Wilton.
Instead, she said the town will begin increasing awareness about the requirement to wear a mask. “We recognize our ability to take similar punitive action [as New Canaan], but hope that we do not have to do so. We hope residents will voluntarily follow the requirement to wear a mask or maintain six feet of distance, especially in our more crowded areas, such as the NRVT and Wilton Center,” she wrote.
What’s happening statewide
Statewide, there were 2,045 new cases reported since Friday, Oct. 23. While the positivity rate hovered close to what it’s been for the past week, at 2.2%, the number of hospitalizations rose by 37 to 270–what Gov. Ned Lamont called a “concerning trend.” There were also 12 additional COVID-19-related deaths over the weekend.
Lamont continues to caution Connecticut residents about what lies ahead for the winter. He called Europe the “canary in a coal mine” for the U.S. “They tend to be two or three weeks ahead of us in the curve, a little more comparable to our situation than China. You can see how fast things have spiked in Europe in the last month or two,” he said, adding that restrictions are increasing there.
Back at home, Lamont pointed to an incident this past weekend at a pub in Fairfield that he said willfully violated state restrictions on gathering limits and alcohol service. Nor was it the only occurrence around the state.
Lamont reminded the public that strict restrictions are in place to help keep the economy open.
“If this keeps going you’re going to ruin it for all the restaurants and everybody who’s following all the protocols really seriously, just so we can stay open and do that as best we can,” Lamont said.
He added that there was swift enforcement action from Fairfield’s health department and fines were imposed.
“Let that serve as a warning, that we’re going to be serious about enforcing these protocols, especially at these bars masquerading as restaurants, because of the incredible risk there. What that does to jeopardize the infection rate throughout their community, a little like sports,” he said, asking families to be careful as well.
Hospitalization Trends and Lessons Learned
Lamont invited Dr. John Murphy, the president and CEO of Nuvance Health, to appear with him at his daily press briefing. Murphy explained that hospitalizations in October are very different from what the state saw in April and May.
He shared some observations that led him to the conclusion that while the winter will be tough, he does not believe hospitals will be overwhelmed. “We are hopeful that our capacity is sufficient to meet the needs of our state in the coming months.”
According to Murphy:
- In March, April and May, the percentage of individuals testing positive under age 18 was 4%; now it’s 25% of everyone who tests positive. “They’re healthier, there are fewer comorbidities, they’re less likely to get sick. And of those who do come into the E.R., we’re much more comfortable sending them home with home-care nurses looking after them.”
- Individuals hospitalized with COVID, on average they are 5-10 years younger than the spring. That means fewer comorbidities.
- More individuals are wearing masks, and the evidence shows that when people wear masks they likely get less severely ill due to reduced viral exposure.
- Vulnerable populations are much better protected than in the spring. (e.g. nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails, prisons, etc.)
- Hospitals are better prepared, staff is experienced, and therapies are much more effective.
- Mortality rate has fallen (for Nuvance) from 22-23% to around 8-9%.
- The average length of stay is down from a peak in June of just over 14 days, to now under one week (in the last two months). That “effectively doubles capacity.”
- Fewer patients end up in the ICU, because hospitals are better prepared to delay mechanical ventilation until absolutely necessary, oxygen is provided through multiple techniques, and patients are being anti-coagulated much earlier. The result is reduced mortality in ICU stays.
- Hospitals are more aggressive, launching trials of Remdesivir and convalescent plasma. “We are trying very hard to prevent illness.”
- Testing and data is better, and is being shared widely. The degree of cooperation and collaboration is light years ahead of the beginning of the pandemic.
Clarifying what he meant by “tough winter” Murphy explained that we are at the beginning of a wave, not the end. As the weather gets colder, people are less likely to stay outdoors, and the holidays bring a higher potential for people to gather together, including with out-of-state visitors, sharing meals indoors.
“We have not yet seen the peak of this surge,” Murphy said, adding that the consensus of the models he’s been examining suggest the peak won’t occur until mid-January.
Murphy joined state officials in echoing that behavior and compliance with following restrictions would be the best predictor of outcomes. He referred to a recent journal publication that said, “By late February, in the U.S., even if the worst model were to come true, if we could get 95% of the population to wear masks, we’d save 100,000 lives in this country.”
Josh Gebbale, the governor’s chief operating officer, said that whatever course the next wave does take, the state will be prepared–even though he conceded no one can foresee what the future holds.
“It’s our job to plan and be prepared, and to be prepared for the more severe scenarios. We have an incredibly robust testing infrastructure in place now; we’ve got a statewide modern contact tracing system in place; we’ve got a warehouse filled with PPE; we’ve got partnerships with the health care systems and the nursing homes that have a set of interventions in place that we didn’t have before in the last wave. We’re far better prepared today, in addition to all of the clinical improvements that Dr. Murphy described,” Gebbale said.