By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — The COVID-19 outbreak continued surging Wednesday as nearly 260 more infections and seven more deaths were reported in Connecticut.
The running count of laboratory-confirmed cases of 2019 coronavirus disease rose to 875 and the death toll climbed to 19 since the first infection involving a state patient was recorded on March 8.
The additional 257 positive tests reported Wednesday followed the 203 new cases of COVID-19 that were announced a day earlier. The seven deaths represented the largest day-to-day increase yet.
Public health officials remain uncertain when the current wave might peak headed into the third week of the viral outbreak in Connecticut, State Epidemiologist Matthew L. Cartter said Wednesday.
“We know that the number of the cases overall doubles every three to five days, and the number of cases that we see, the ones that are confirmed to be positive for COVID-19 are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more that are infected — at this point thousands more than what we have in terms of confirmed cases,” he said.
Carrter said one-tenth of Connecticut’s population typically gets sick during the traditional flu season between October and April every year.
“If we assume 10% of our population will get COVID-19 in the first wave, that is 350,000 people between now and the next eight to 10 weeks who will actually become sick with COVID-19,” he said.
“A small percentage of those people will require hospitalization, and another percentage of those will require treatment in an intensive care unit,” he continued. “So, it is impossible to predict exactly when the peak will occur.”
Cartter said the viral outbreak might be expected to peak in six to eight weeks without social distancing precautions that are being taken. If the preventive measures work, he estimated that could stretch out the apex to 10 to 12 weeks.
“This is really at this point uncharted territory for all of us, but that is the kind of thing we are looking at right now,” Cartter said.
LOCALLY, THERE HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED CASES of COVID-19 reported in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect.
The state and Naugatuck Valley Health District both reported one confirmed case in Beacon Falls as of Wednesday. The state reported three in Naugatuck while data released by the health district showed four cases in the borough. In a news release, the health district said its data is preliminary and subject to change.
The state reported one confirmed case in Prospect, which is under the jurisdiction of Chesprocott Health District.
Chesprocott Director of Health Maura Esposito said a Prospect woman in her 60s tested positive and she is adhering to self-isolation at home. Esposito urged people to be vigilant and practice social distancing, wash their hands and stay home if they are ill. She said people who start to show symptoms, including coughing, fever and shortness of breath, should call their doctor.
MOST OF THE 19 DEAD have been elderly men, and all have been males.
People age over 65 are more at risk for infection, severe illness and death. This age category represents slightly more than 17% of the state’s population of 3.5 million people.
“The people most likely to die from this are people 65 years of age and greater,” Cartter said, “and then if you add on to that what is called a comorbidity, other underlying illnesses, hypertension, for example, diabetes, the risk goes up, and so the risks really start increasing at age 65, and it is higher in the 70s, and higher in the 80s, and that is also reflected in deaths.”
The first fatality was an 88-year-old man who died of severe complications from COVID-19 on March 18. Fifteen of the 19 fatalities have been men aged 80 or older. Two of the deaths were men in their 70s, and two were men in their 50s.
THE PACE OF TESTING continued to pick up, but turnaround times for results vary.
The State Public Health Laboratory in Rocky Hill was only able to conduct 20 tests to start, and initial tests involved two specimens per patient.
Cartter said the public health lab can now run 130 to 150 tests a day, and it can turn around results in 24 hours. Currently, he said only the Virology Laboratory at Yale New Haven Hospital can match that time.
He said other private laboratories such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp can take four to six days to report back test results.
At this time, the public health lab and the Yale lab are handling the testing for the state’s 27 acute care hospitals, Cartter said.
“The drive-in clinics that you have seen are using the outpatient laboratories. So, that is four to six days. There are also smaller labs that are coming on, as well,” he said.
Nearly, 5,900 tests for COVID-19 have been completed, and the public health lab has done 1,265 tests to date.
THE NUMBER OF HOSPITALIZATIONS more than doubled in two days from the 54 reported on Monday to 113 on Wednesday.
The Lamont administration is continuing to work with the Connecticut Hospital Association to build capacity for an expected surge in hospitalizations.
Mobile hospitals have been set up at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford and Danbury Hospital.
Gov. Ned Lamont and Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said discussions include reopening closed hospital wings and making use of other available space.
Geballe said state officials are also inspecting a number of recently closed nursing homes that might be used to create overflow or step-down capacity to free hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. Now-closed dormitories at state universities are also getting a look, including for providing temporary housing for hospital workers and emergency responders.
“We’re meeting multiple times a day in very close coordination with all the key stakeholders, and we’ll be ready,” Geballe said.
The Department of Administrative Services continues to try to procure ventilators and other medical equipment and personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and respirators
“We now have $10.9 million worth of orders in as of today for PPE,” said Geballe, who is also the DAS commissioner.
The state is also receiving private donations.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.