Credit: Christine Stuart

Two days before families start gathering for the Christmas holiday, Connecticut’s COVID-19 test positivity rate remained near 9%.

The demand for testing has accelerated over the last week, possibly driven by news about the new omicron variant and the holidays. 

“We think we are still dealing with largely delta in the state of Connecticut,” Dr. Ajay Kumar, president of Hartford Hospital, said Wednesday. 

Kumar said that of the more than 270 COVID-19 patients in the Hartford Hospital network, only about 45 are in the ICU. 

About 30% of those patients had been vaccinated.

Health care systems are also seeing an increase in cases of influenza. 

Keith Grant, an APRN with Hartford Healthcare, said they have seen 1,000 cases of the flu, with 16 hospitalizations and one death.

Grant said they expect to see the highest number of flu cases arrive well after February.

“We’ve had an increase in other respiratory diseases such as RSV in certain populations, such as our pediatric group,” Grant said.

The doctors at Hartford Healthcare attributed the rise in respiratory diseases to lax mask wearing habits from a public fatigued by the pandemic.

Mask wearing has become an issue for high school athletes. 

The state announced that it is holding off on a plan to allow vaccinated student-athletes to compete without a mask, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office.

“Although a previous assessment was made by the Department of Public Health that would have allowed the choice for fully vaccinated participants to unmask during sports competitions, the rapid rise in COVID-19 community case rates and the emergence of this more contagious variant has forced us to reconsider that assessment,” DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani said in a statement. “Guidance that has been in place for winter sports throughout this season will remain in place.”

Student-athletes will be required to wear a mask over the nose and mouth during all indoor athletic activities.

Both the Ellington and Vernon school districts recently sent letters to the Department of Public Health asking the agency to rethink the policy.