WALLINGFORD — Two positive test results on Wednesday increased the number of infected patients and residents to 22 in what has been a surprisingly mild coronavirus outbreak at the town’s largest health care facility.
Tests of 16 patients and six workers on the third floor of Masonicare Health Center’s Ramage building first began detecting the latest outbreak on July 14. That’s when a worker on that floor reported that she had been feeling unusually fatigued. Besides Wednesday’s positives, a staff worker tested positive on Tuesday night, said Ann Collette, Masonicare’s vice president for strategy and business development.
Unlike previous strains, this “breakthrough” version of the virus — so-called because it infected people already vaccinated — caused just a mild cough and some fatigue. Several reported no symptoms. The 16 patients had been injected with Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine, which Masonicare had issued to the 52 patients on that floor, Collette said.
The workers were also vaccinated but it was unclear with which medication. Masonicare offered the Pfizer vaccine to its workers but some might have gotten different vaccines on their own, Collette said.
“This is what we are seeing: People who have no symptoms or mild symptoms, and we have nobody with respiratory distress which was a hallmark of the virus last year,” Collette said Wednesday. “The No. 1 symptom was fatigue.”
The facility has maintained a 96% vaccination rate overall, with some patients or staff being granted exemptions due to other health issues, Collette said.
“The vaccine is working because it will either protect you from getting the virus or it will significantly reduce your symptoms. We are seeing this stark contrast in how the virus is working due to the vaccine so it is giving us a weapon we did not have last year,” she added.
The new cases come as Connecticut’s COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to its highest rate, 2.96%, since May — up 0.29 percent from Tuesday, as 391 of the 13,223 tests administered were positives. The majority of them are the virus’ Delta variant.
It is unknown to Masonicare whether its cases are also Delta variant cases, Collette said.
At 63%, Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, Gov. Ned Lamont has said. Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, and New London counties are the sources for most of the state’s newest cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lamont is considering a federal CDC recommendation to reinstitute indoor mask-wearing, given that the rate of community-based transmission is nearing the federal threshold of 3 percent. He added that local infection rates could also help decide whether Connecticut requires everyone to once again wear a mask indoors.
“I’ve had towns with 99% of the people vaccinated with virtually zero community spread, and I have other communities that are very different,” said Lamont, shortly before the CDC recommended a return to indoor mask-wearing in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
The infected patients have been grouped together in quarantine and the infected workers told to stay home. One has already returned from quarantine, Collette said.
Masonicare had stopped its mandatory weekly testing of all patients and staff on June 2. It restarted testing in July 14 and will cease testing two weeks after the most recent quarantine is complete, Collette said.
Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.