On holidays, the state of Connecticut does not put out any new COVID-19 numbers to show where we stand in the pandemic. So, let's talk about why holidays, in general, raise red flags for health experts when it comes to COVID-19.
Holidays can be troublesome when it comes to the virus and COVID-19 variants. NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran spoke with Dr. Howard Forman, professor of public health and management at Yale University, about the issue.
Dan: "Thanks again for talking with us on this Labor Day. And speaking of Labor Day, holidays, they can play a big role in the numbers that we get from the state about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, even deaths. So how do you think that this Labor Day will actually play into that?"
Howard: "Yeah, so this is a problem for reporters, for the public, for public health directors. It's almost like you're flying into a fog when you get into these holiday seasons, because the natural impulse for people is to want to really carefully look at the numbers after the holiday because everybody wants to either prove or disprove somebody's hypothesis about what the holiday should do. But the reality is different from that in the first few days after the holiday, we see a real dip in reporting partly because fewer people are tested, partly because people get tested before the holiday, before they travel, they may get tested in higher numbers. So we find more cases before that. And then there's a lag in case finding and there's a lag in reporting. And that means that over this weekend and the ensuing days, we're going to see relatively lower numbers than we would expect to see. And then the following week, we're going to expect to see higher numbers than we expect to see as we get back to the new normal. And those numbers are going to be confusing to people and some people are going to misinterpret them."
Dan: "But something we've seen time and time again over the last 18 months or so... So looking ahead to the next several months - where do you think we'll be as a state when it comes to Thanksgiving? And of course, the winter holidays? Will travel be safe? And will it be safe to be with our loved ones this year?"
Howard: "Yeah, I continue to emphasize humility in this business of prediction. And I think that we have a lot of work still cut out for us. It would not surprise me for us to see a small outbreak and even some small growth and outbreak over the next few weeks, whether it's related to Labor Day or not. And my expectation is that we're going to have to keep watching this and that anybody that can tell you what it's going to look like in October, November, December is, I think, lying to you because we really have a lot of work yet to figure this out."
Dan: "Now, the people listening to this conversation that we're having right now, for the most part, they're in Connecticut, we're so hyper-focused on where our state stands in this pandemic. But you're paying attention to COVID case numbers and other places as well, most notably in Florida. Why is that?"
Howard: "Florida has been really worth watching. They're having the worst levels of deaths and hospitalizations at any time in the last 18 or 19 months. And while it's beginning to improve, it has really impacted the state a lot and it bears watching because it is possible that we can follow in Florida's footsteps if we're not careful. So we need to learn from what Florida has done right and what they've done wrong. And we need to also continue to do the things that seemingly have worked well for our state. And I'm very proud of our state. When I go out, I see a lot of people masking up indoors, I see people sort of obeying the rules, and I see a population that has been heavily vaccinated compared with a lot of our peer states and that's going to bode well for us but it doesn't mean it's going to be an easy road to hoe, as they say."