Nearly 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past three days in Connecticut prompting concern from Gov. Ned Lamont Monday not over hospital capacity, but for the health care professionals staffing them.
Lamont conducted his twice-weekly coronavirus briefing from his Greenwich home where he has been quarantined since Friday when his administration announced that the governor’s communications director, Max Reiss, had tested positive for the virus. Lamont and senior administration officials reported multiple negative test results throughout the weekend. The governor said he would remain quarantined at least through the end of the week.
During the past three days, Connecticut saw 4,689 new cases at an infection rate of 5.4%. The total number of cases now stand at 93,284. The governor said he expects that number to exceed 100,000 by the week’s end. Twenty-two people died as a result of the virus over the weekend, bringing the total number of fatalities to 4,759.
Hospitalizations continued to rise sharply as 98 patients were admitted since Friday. Currently, there are 757 coronavirus patients in hospital beds around the state. That’s more than at any time since the third week in May, according to the governor’s chief operating officer.
But while hospital capacity remains a concern, Lamont said capacity can be expanded if needed by delaying elective procedures or setting up field hospitals. He said the current surge will be less about available hospital beds and more about available staff.
Managing this spike in cases will be “more about making sure we can keep our doctors and nurses energized with enough backup and enough support to manage what could be the surge going forward,” the governor said.
While the first wave of the virus unfolded regionally, enabling some health care workers to fill in where they were needed, the current surge is taking place all over the country. Lamont read headlines from around the nation describing exhausted medical workers.
Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford sought to reinforce the relationship between adhering to public health guidelines and the welfare of health care workers who must deal with consequences of ignoring those guidelines.
“It can be a little bit hard to make the connection between attending a large wedding or a large party or an event and the overworked and potentially ill health care worker. But that is exactly the relationship we hope people will keep in mind as they think about maybe ignoring some of these rules,” she said.
Gifford said personal decisions like rejecting mask guidelines translate to more infections and more hospitalizations and ultimately put health care workers at risk.
“We have nursing assistants in nursing homes and nurses and doctors on the front lines in Connecticut who have been dealing with this pandemic for months now and they are exhausted. We really need to think about them as we go about our daily lives and think about helping them,” she said.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale School of Medicine associate professor, joined state officials for Monday’s remote press briefing. President-elect Joe Biden named Nunez-Smith last week as one of three co-chairs of a transition team panel on the incoming administration’s COVID-19 response.
Asked about projections presuming that COVID cases would continue to spike for the rest of the year, Nunez-Smith said the models were not inevitable.
“We each have the power to change that projection. It is through those, what I think of as simple acts that honor our health care workers and honor our neighbors by wearing a mask consistently, wearing them the appropriate way,” she said, adding that people also must distance socially. “That is how we disrupt those projections.”