The state recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 rate in four months on Monday, with nearly 2.5 percent of all tests coming back positive, said Gov. Ned Lamont during his Tuesday briefing.
And while the infection rate for the past week stood Tuesday at 1.5 percent — also above the sub-1 percent rate Connecticut enjoyed for much of the summer — the governor insisted the state still has the pandemic largely under control.
The administration reported 320 of the 13,398 tests completed Monday were positive, an infection rate of 2.4 percent. One more resident died from the coronavirus, making 4,533 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Another 17 people were hospitalized Monday with COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 172 — also a high mark since June.
“Keep a little perspective,” Lamont said during a televised late-afternoon briefing. While a one-day rate of 2.4 percent is concerning, he added, it’s something “you focus on, but you don’t dwell on.”
Single-day rate spikes, moving up or down, can be anomalies, the governor said, noting that last week Connecticut enjoyed one single-day rate as low as 0.7 percent.
Connecticut’s weekly average infection rate — a much more important COVID-19 metric for many health care experts — is still one of the lowest in the nation, he said, while other key benchmarks also remain favorable.
Among Connecticut residents hospitalized with the coronavirus in October, 20 percent went into intensive care, 17.5 percent needed to be placed on ventilators, and 6.6 percent died. Those October numbers not only are more favorable than their counterparts in April and May, when the virus was tearing through the state, but have improved even since August.
Just two months ago, according to the administration, 24 percent of those hospitalized went into intensive care, 22.3 percent were placed on ventilators and 8.1 percent died.
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said just 2 percent of Connecticut’s hospital beds currently are being used by COVID patients. And the governor added that hospitals overall are only half full, leaving significant capacity should the pandemic worsen again.
Dr. Albert Ko, professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the Yale School of Public Health and a regular adviser to the Lamont administration during the pandemic, said the improvement is due largely to most Connecticut residents accepting the hygiene, social distancing and other precautions needed to mitigate community spread.
“It got imprinted on our behavior” over the past spring and summer, Ko said. “People are much more careful about their social contact.”
Seniors represented a disproportionate share of the coronavirus cases early in the pandemic, when testing was limited. But the state and its private partners routinely now administer between 10,000 and 15,000 tests per day.
Ko said that means more children and young adults with the virus — who are less likely than seniors to have serious cases — now are being identified. And the expanded testing also means infected patients of all age groups likely are being discovered and treated earlier.
Still, both Ko and Lamont acknowledged some limited outbreaks were anticipated this fall due to multiple factors. Many communities reopened schools to in-person learning, and the colder weather marks the start of the flu season.
Lamont also ordered a third easing of restrictions on business activities that was effective last week.
Connecticut has seen recent coronavirus outbreaks in the Norwich and New London areas in the southeast corner. Ko said there could be additional upticks in various regions this winter, but “I expect them to be more brushfires than they are going to be wildfires.”
The governor again said he would consider tightening restrictions if weekly infection rates approached 5 percent, and were part of a larger trend of aggressive COVID-19 spread.