By Nick Sambides Jr.
A drop in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Meriden, Southington, Wallingford, Cheshire and North Haven last week appears to be sustained by this week's caseload, raising hopes that the downturns are not a mirage.
Statistics compiled by the state and released on Thursday show that even with numbers corrected for errors, the four towns' reported incidence of coronavirus ended with the week of Dec. 26 at about the same place it ended the week before.
Meriden had 318 cases for the week ending Dec. 19 and 317 cases for the week that followed. Wallingford had 141 cases reported by Dec. 19 and 139 for the week that ended the day after Christmas. Southington went 151/146; Cheshire, 83/68; and North Haven, 70/68.
Compare this to the numbers reported last week for earlier in the month. Meriden had 367 cases for the week ending Dec. 12, Wallingford had 192 cases that week, Southington had 190, Cheshire had 94 and North Haven had 85.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who has tracked the numbers almost daily on social media, cautioned against anyone getting too comfortable.
"We do anticipate another spike due to Christmas and New Year's gatherings, similar to the spike seen weeks after Thanksgiving," he said.
Health leaders including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, have said that they are concerned about travel between Christmas and New Year’s, and people ignoring pandemic safeguards, both causing a dramatic increase in infection rates and turning any hope of significant decrease of the disease into a mirage.
“We have a big problem,” Dr. Fauci told The Washington Post. “Look at the numbers — the numbers are really quite dramatic.”
The first and worst sign at hand is Connecticut's rising positivity rate. Lamont reported 2,045 new cases on 22,839 tests, for a positivity rate of 8.95 percent, on Thursday. He had reported a 9.1 percent positivity rate on Wednesday, despite state hopes that the numbers were beginning to nosedive, with 1,696 new cases on 18,548 tests.
Wednesday had the state’s highest single-day positivity rate since the spring, and the state’s seven-day positivity rate rose this week to 6.65 percent, up from 5.6 percent at the start of the week, officials said.
Yet paradoxically, as of Thursday the state had 1,136 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. That's 31 less since Wednesday and the fewest since late November.
Another omen: A Colorado man on Tuesday reportedly had the variant of the coronavirus from the United Kingdom that health officials say is more transmissible than other strains of the virus. It is the first known case of the British variant in theUnited States.
The virus has taken more than 327,000 lives in the U.S., with more than 3,000 deaths per day repeatedly recorded over the past two weeks.
In Connecticut, 185,708 cases have been reported with 4,309,664 tests since the pandemic began. Almost 6,000 people have died and 1,136 people are hospitalized.
A better test of the sustainability of any statistical drop in coronavirus cases, and the fledgling impact of the first issuances of a vaccine, will come starting on Saturday. That's when Gov. Ned Lamont will issue a pandemic report that contains combined data from the prior two days, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.
Given that it takes about two weeks for the virus to develop and display symptoms in cases where symptoms are noticeable, those numbers should begin to illuminate whether the feared spike in cases caused by the Christmas and New Year's holidays will actually occur.
Scarpati said that with the city's health department having administered nearly 250 vaccinations over the last week to medical personnel and first responders, the area can begin the new year with hope fore the future.
"There is potential for us to return to some sense of normalcy in 2021, but until then we all need to continue to do our part and protect ourselves and loved ones," he said.