The state Department of Public Health issued a COVID-19 alert statewide for the Labor Day weekend with new concerns that infection of the virus could spread if the proper precautions and safety measures are not taken, according to a release from the department.
The alert comes after DPH has seen clusters among college students returning to school and with worries of large gatherings and cookouts. The concern is elevated among young adults, said DPH acting commissioner Deidre Gifford.
“We have a beautiful weekend coming up. But as we celebrate the holiday, DPH is reminding CT residents that small gatherings of family and friends are a major source of infection,” said Gifford said in a statement. “In the past several weeks in Connecticut, we are seeing small gatherings of friends and family leading to COVID-19 infection. If you are getting together with anyone who doesn’t live with you, please: wear your mask, maintain social distance, wash your hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer. In addition, our partners in local health departments will be monitoring restaurants and other public spaces to be sure our Re-Opening rules are adhered to.”
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In Friday's COVID-19 data report from DPH, the state's positivity rate remained low. Of the 19,431 tests administered since Thursday, 156 came back positive for a 0.8% positivity rate. Seven less patients are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 for a total of 58. There were no new COVID-19 related deaths reported since Thursday.
DPH reports 10 cases among Sacred Heart Students living off campus with more results pending. In addition, UConn is reporting 89 cumulative cases among residential students, according to DPH.
Infection Rate Continues to Climb for Residents Under the Age of 40
Of the 872 new COVID-19 cases in Connecticut during the week of August 23-29, 60% of those cases were among people between the ages of 10 and 40. Just under half of the cases (48%) were of people under the age of 30. The 20-29 age group was the most impacted with nearly 26% of all new coronavirus cases. Cases among the 20-29 age group have climbed in recent weeks with an infection rate now the highest its been since mid-June.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he understands there may be coronavirus or mask fatigue but is asking residents to avoid having large gatherings and to continue social distancing and being safe.
"Those things matter as much as ever," Bronin said. The mayor said he wants Hartford to avoid having any COVID-19 spikes like some regions around the country saw after Memorial Day and July 4.
Hartford is planning to continue to have police and inspectors deterring and breaking up large gatherings, Bronin said.
"We will take whatever enforcement actions are necessary," Bronin said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal said he's spoken with law enforcement agencies from around the state who plan to have a heightened vigilance over the weekend in stopping large gatherings.
Tips for a Safe and Healthy Labor Day Weekend
"We do need to be vigilant," Mary Day, a public health nurse practitioner for Ledge Light Health District, covering East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington & Waterford, warned.
She has noticed pandemic fatigue over the summer. With Labor Day being a precursor to the colder months, she stressed that it is crucial for people to fight back against any fatigue and follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines.
If you plan on going to a cookout this holiday weekend, Day suggests keeping all activities outside. It is also important to keep any gatherings small and with people who you have already been exposed to all summer, rather than introducing new people into your bubble.
Masks and social distancing, maintaining at least six feet of distance, will be key to having a safe weekend.
If you plan on serving food, Day said you should avoid buffets. If you have to share food, it is important that people sanitize before and after and that a lid is kept on dishes in between uses.
Additionally, it is best to designate a separate bathroom for guests if possible.
"You also want to make sure you are cleaning using EPA approved products," said Day.
The health district has received complaints of people using masks improperly.
Day stressed the importance of the mask covering your nose and mouth at all times. People are encouraged to wash their hands before putting a mask on and when taking the mask off.
Nationwide Concerns Over Labor Day Weekend
The fear nationwide is that backyard parties, crowded bars and other gatherings could cause the coronavirus to come surging back
“I look upon the Labor Day weekend really as a critical point," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert. "Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?”
The warnings came as a widely cited model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projected a worsening outbreak in the U.S. that will peak in early December at about 2,900 deaths per day, up from about 860 a day now, unless government officials take action.
Over the summer, the U.S. saw a rise in infections, deaths and hospitalizations, primarily in the South and West, that was blamed in part on Americans behaving heedlessly over Memorial Day and July Fourth.
More beaches will be open on Labor Day than on Memorial Day, but Fauci said that is not cause in itself for concern, as long as people keep their distance.
“I would rather see someone on a beach, being physically separated enough, than someone crowded in an indoor bar,” he said.
Americans, cooped up for months, appeared more than ready to venture out and socialize — though with some precautions.
governors throughout the Northeast discouraged people from traveling out of state this weekend. Visitors from 33 states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut.
The outbreak is blamed for about 187,000 deaths and almost 6.2 million confirmed infections in the U.S., by far the highest totals in the world. Cases of COVID-19, which spiked from about 20,000 per day to around 70,000 during the summertime surge in the South, are now down to about 40,000.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
Worldwide, the number of deaths has topped 870,000, with more than 26.4 million infections.
The IHME model Friday predicted that worsening outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere will lead to 1.9 million more COVID-19 deaths in the remaining months of 2020 unless governments take action.
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Mask mandates and social distancing could save hundreds of thousands of lives, but there is “a tremendous amount of COVID fatigue” among the world’s government leaders because of economic downturns, said IHME's Dr. Christopher Murray.
Dr. Albert Ko, a Yale University epidemiologist, said he is concerned about students heading back to school across the nation next week after coming back from holiday travel and a weekend of social gatherings.
“Any transmission events that happen here could be amplified unless we’re careful about it,” Ko said. “Whether it’s going to be a perfect storm, l don’t think so. People are aware of the risk, and people have been socially distancing. But this is certainly a concern.”