Meriden reported 100 new COVID-19 cases in one day this week, bringing the total number of infections to more than 750 for the month of December so far, according to public health officials.
“Yes, Meriden — and Connecticut as a whole — has seen a tremendous uptick in COVID-19 cases,” said Lea Crown, the city’s director of Health and Human Services. “Our contact tracers and public health educator are trying to keep up with the cases, but we may not be able to reach everyone.”
The state has seen its positivity rate move over 5 percent for several weeks.
“We think (the numbers) are going to continue to rise at the moment and hopefully settle down sometime in early January with a plateau and then see a decline,” said Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer for Hartford HealthCare. “But we need to take a deep breath. We know how to manage. We are fortunate to be in Connecticut where we have a high vaccination rate. It’s going to be challenging over the next several weeks but we are in a position to manage.”
The increase in cases and higher demand for COVID-19 testing has prompted the state to open seven more testing locations. No new restrictions or mandates are being considered, Gov. Ned Lamont said earlier this week.
Hospitalizations for COVID statewide increased by 101 to 837 over this past weekend. Hartford HealthCare reported Wednesday there were 272 COVID-infected patients in its seven-hospital network. MidState Medical Center in Meriden had 38 patients and 44 patients were at the Hospital of Central Connecticut. Of its 272 total patients, 45 were in intensive care units.
Health experts are watching the omicron variant closely as it spreads across the United States. Early data suggests it’s more contagious than even the delta variant, but doctors said they want more data about its severity.
In some good news, the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s at-home COVID-19 treatment. The drug, known as Paxlovid, is authorized for COVID patients age 12 and older who are vulnerable to becoming severely ill because of their age or existing medical conditions.
Local hospital officials called Paxlovid a possible game-changer.
“We’re excited to learn about it,” said Eric Arlia, vice president of pharmacy services for Hartford HealthCare. “We had a call a few weeks ago with the Connecticut Hospital Association and are expecting a limited supply in the first few weeks.”
The drug is designed to reduce severe illness if taken as soon as possible, Arlia said.
Like Meriden, Wallingford is also reporting more infections and maintaining its vaccination clinic schedule.
“The town has had a proportionate rise in cases as the northeast contends with the increased community spread,” said Public Health Director Stephen Civitelli. “We are continuing to conduct homebound vaccinations every Tuesday and will have walk-in clinics every Thursday through January.”
Health officials want people to gather with family, but do so carefully. Families should consider who is the most vulnerable and take safeguards, such as masks and social distancing. Also, know the vaccine status of invited guests.
The holiday demand for testing has created shortages throughout the area and drug stores have exhausted their supplies of at-home testing kits.
“If people are going to be gathering for the holidays, especially in crowds where they may not know everyone, it is recommended to wear your mask and watch your distance,” Crown said. “If you are not feeling well please stay home. We are seeing symptoms as mild as headache, runny nose, or congestion. Follow the CDC guidance for travel if you are unvaccinated. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of our community being a key public health partner and following recommendations to keep everyone safe.”
Meriden has a state sponsored testing site at 13 Orange St. A complete schedule for testing and vaccination is available on Meriden’s website.
In Wallingford, vaccine information can be found at https://www.wallingford.ct.us/news/covid-19-town-information/