Local and state leaders continue to monitor rising COVID-19 numbers in southeastern Connecticut.
Ledge Light Health District, covering East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington, and Waterford, recorded 154 new cases district-wide last week. That is up from an average of five new cases a week in mid-August.
Uncas Health District, covering Bozrah, Franklin, Griswold, Lebanon, Lisbon, Montville, Norwich, Preston, Salem, Sprague, and Voluntown, reported 236 new cases last week. The City of Norwich, now under a COVID-19 alert from the Department of Public Health, experienced the most significant spike with 164 new cases reported in one week.
Norwich Free Academy and Norwich Public Schools are in a remote learning model for two weeks out of an abundance of caution during the outbreak. Public health leaders are not able to track the Norwich cases to one event or location.
Ten free testing events were held in Norwich over the weekend. More than 800 people took advantage of free testing at Backus Hospital on Saturday and Sunday.
According to the health district, 92 more Norwich residents tested positive for the virus from Friday through Monday.
Local leaders across southeastern Connecticut are stressing safety protocols.
“Wear your mask and keep your distance from other people," Mayor Michael Passero, New London, said.
New London had 70 new cases last week, according to data from Ledge Light Health District. Passero said that the city's buildings will remain closed to the public. The city is also working with the Community Health Center to increase testing.
"We are working with the Community Health Center to bring testing locations to different communities around town," said Passero, adding that the center is expanding testing hours as well.
Waterford, under the Ledge Light Health District, is also feeling the impact of the regional spike.
Waterford Public Schools made the decision to move students at Clark Lane Middle School to remote learning for two weeks after three people connected to the school tested positive for the virus in the last eight days.
"For everybody's safety. Obviously three cases inside eight days in one building is certainly of concern to public health experts as well as myself," said Tom Giard, superintendent of Waterford Public Schools. "It also gave more time to contact trace and assess the situation."
Giard said other schools in the district will remain in the hybrid model of learning. They will continually monitor the testing data. Giard said that while the goal is to have all students back, safety comes first.
According to Stephen Mansfield, director of health for the LLHD, cases in the district are more concentrated n the urban centers, but cases are scattered through out towns and cities.
Contact tracers are tracing some cases back to small social and familial gatherings.
Karl Minges, a public health expert from University of New Haven, said that the uptick in cases serves as a reminder for people to follow social distancing protocols and to reevaluate their close circles.
“Your five people that you are randomly meeting up with on a Saturday in an enclosed space where you don’t have masks and you are not maintaining the distance, that is high risk because those five people could have hung out with five other people the day before," explained Minges. "You want to maintain the connection between family and friends who you may see on a frequent basis, but you know that you are only seeing each other."
Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London and Backus Hospital in Norwich are reintroducing more visitor restrictions due to the uptick.
The two tribal casinos in southeastern Connecticut are also reacting to the spike in cases.
Mohegan Sun will not be moving into a new phase of reopening. They will maintain current capacity.
Foxwoods Resort Casino will also stay at its current capacity, 25%. They announced that they will soon be providing regular testing for employees.