Courtesy of CT-N

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s COVID-19 deaths increased by 204 and its positive cases jumped by nearly 2,000 Monday due to changes nationally in the definition of what constitutes a COVID-19 case.

The numbers will now include “both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.”

“A probable case or death is defined by i) meeting clinical criteria AND epidemiologic evidence with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19; or ii) meeting presumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence; or iii) meeting vital records criteria with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19,” the Centers for Disease Control stated on its website.

The change in what’s reported was made by the CDC last week to make sure states were reporting the same data.

The CDC “wanted to make sure we’re speaking the same language as New York and California,” Dr. Lynn Sosa, deputy state epidemiologist with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said Monday.

“The CDC changed their definition in the last few days on both a positive case and somebody who died from complications related to COVID or if somebody had COVID-like symptoms and passed away,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “We’re just truing this up so we keep with the CDC and federal definitions, so you know where we are on a nationwide basis.”

Lamont said he believes they have finally “hit the apex” in Fairfield County where Connecticut saw its first cases of the virus.

“We’re maybe 10 days behind New York City,” Lamont said.

However, the cases are now climbing in Hartford County.

“Hospitalizations are the lead metric for how we’re going,” Lamont said. But he said it was also a “blunt instrument,” which may not be adequate to inform decisions about reopening Connecticut by May 20.

Over the weekend, reporting requirements also were changed nationally for nursing homes, which continue to be a hotspot for infections in Connecticut.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now will require nursing homes to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the CDC.

Under the new requirements, nursing homes must inform residents and their representatives “within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or three or more residents or staff with new-onset of respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours.”

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19. Today’s action supports CMS’ longstanding commitment to providing transparent and timely information to residents and their families,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

In addition to increasing the payments to the two COVID-19 recovery homes run by Athena Health Care, the state is increasing payments to all nursing homes.

The state is providing a 10% increase in its reimbursement for non-COVID beds retroactive to March 1. It will also provide an across-the-board increase of 5% for all non-COVID beds from April 1 to June 30. The state will also reimburse nursing homes $400 per day for COVID-positive residents in non-COVID recovery facilities.

The 15% across-the-board financial relief will provide an additional $65 million in Medicaid payment increases to the state’s nursing homes, which care for approximately 22,000 residents.