Some Downward Trends — Until Wilton’s Record One-Day 71 COVID Cases; Schools Shorten Isolation for Positive Students from 10 to 5 Days

State-wide media have reported the possibility that Connecticut has experienced the peak of the Omicron variant wave and statistics are now trending downward. One-day COVID case numbers have started to drop and hospitalizations are on the decline as well. But yesterday, Thursday, Jan. 14, Wilton recorded its highest one-day new case number ever since the start of the pandemic.

New One-Day Cases and Hospitalizations/Statewide

Statewide statistics reflect the following:

  • After a one-day new case high of 10,602 new cases on Jan. 4, 2022, the numbers of new cases diagnosed each day have slowly begun to decrease.
  • A gradual decrease is also seen on the statewide test positivity rate, after a peak of 24.55% on Jan. 7, 2022.
  • Hospitalizations have slowed markedly since the one day high of 301 new patients hospitalized with COVID on Jan. 3, 2022 — even beginning to drop on Jan. 13.

Wilton Statistics

Tracking Wilton’s one-day case counts in the last month, it’s evident when the Omicron surge picked up speed here. (Green indicates 2-day weekends; red indicates the long 3-day holiday weekends; and yellow indicates the 2- or 3-day combined case counts.)

Aside from the one-day high of 62 cases on Jan. 6, 2022, Wilton’s cases seemed to be slowing — until yesterday, Jan. 13, when the CT Department of Public Health reported a one-day case count of 71 new cases, which is a new record for Wilton.

Locally Wilton Schools are reporting that the surge in COVID cases in the district is trending downward as well (see below for more on that story).

Wilton’s test positivity rate peaked on Jan. 5, 2022, at 22.4%.

So far, there have been 437 total COVID-positive cases reported in Wilton in January 2022 — the most for any one month since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Wilton Schools Shorten Isolation Period for COVID-Positive Students to 5 Days

On the heels of last week’s Board of Education (BOE) discussion (Thursday, Jan. 6) about the length of isolation period for students who test positive for COVID, Superintendent Kevin Smith announced Thursday, Jan. 13, that the district was changing its student isolation guideline, shortening it from 10 days to five.

The district had issued return to school protocols when students returned to school after winter break on Jan. 3. According to Smith, those protocols were developed after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the CT Department of Public Health (CT-DPH) revised their guidance, and in consultation with the district’s medical advisor, Dr. Christine Macken.

The protocol which the district opted for was a 5-day isolation period for COVID-positive teachers and a 10-day isolation period for COVID-positive students, “as a measure to help us manage a critical period in the pandemic, to work through the post-holiday surge that was predicted, and to provide us time to consult more with our medical advisor, epidemiologists, and the DPH, among others,” Smith explained to the community in an email.

Wilton’s 10-day student isolation diverged from the current CDC and CT-DPH guidance of a 5-day isolation — something several of the BOE members questioned and members of the public emailed about.

One major factor administrators had cited in keeping different policies for staff and students was mask wearing and compliance, a decision made in consultation with Macken.

“There is a requirement that they wear a mask around others at all times. That was one of the primary reasons why we have a different approach with students,” Maria Coleman, Director of Human Resources and General Administration, told BOE members. “Thinking about the school day, it wouldn’t be possible for a student to wear a mask around others because they have snack and lunch during the school day. There wouldn’t be a place for all of the students returning to eat privately.”

She also noted that mask compliance, both with younger students and with older students experiencing “mask-fatigue,” had been a concern, as well as the lack of boosters for most of the school-age population.

Also at last week’s BOE meeting, Smith described what impact COVID has had on the first week back from school.

“It’s no surprise to anyone on this call, it’s been a tough, tough week here for Wilton Public Schools. Our teachers and administrators have been scrambling. Hats off to our teachers and building staff who have been working to patch together coverage for all of the absences and launch remote learning for the kids who need it.”

He described the statistics as “unprecedented numbers, by a long shot,” citing daily case counts at the time for Fairfield County at 240.7 cases/100,000 and Wilton at 138.6/100,000. Within Wilton schools at the time, Smith said there were 236 students and 38 staff who were COVID-positive; 66 students and four staff members who were quarantining; 258 student and 79 staff absences; and students enrolled in remote learning at the time numbered 75 at Miller-Driscoll, 64 at Cider Mill, 68 at Middlebrook, and 120 at Wilton High School.

Just one week later, in his email on Thursday, Jan. 13, Smith wrote that there was a noticeable downward trend in case rates, with only 15 new cases reported that day in the school district. “While still high compared to the first half of the year, we are definitely moving in the right direction,” he wrote.

Then he announced the policy change to a “5-day (or more) isolation period” for all students as well as staff, provided that they meet certain criteria:

  • fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing aids
  • symptoms are significantly improving
  • they must wear a mask around others after the isolation period

He added that administrators based the decision on a number of other factors in addition to the downward trend of positivity rates, including guidance from the CT-DPH specifying that students returning from a 5-day isolation period are not required to wear masks during snack and lunch breaks.

He also said he consulted with an epidemiologist in the area “who advised that mitigation measures in place in schools make a return after five days for those who meet the criteria recommended at this time.”

Smith noted that the district’s medical advisor Dr. Macken supported the shift.

Now, in counting the five days, students and staff should isolate for five days or more from start of symptoms (counted as day 0) or, if asymptomatic, from a positive test (counted as day 0). They should continue to remain in isolation if they do not meet the criteria listed above.