Windham County

‘Don't Be Complacent:' Social Distancing Still a Priority in Lesser Hit Areas

The Northeast District Department of Health is urging everyone to stay home and social distance.

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As of Friday afternoon, the state reported that there have been a total of 27 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Windham County. Windham County is reporting the lowest number of cases in the state, but health district officials say there could be more undetected cases in the area and people need to be taking the Stay Safe, Stay Home order seriously.

"There are probably 100 cases for every 21 cases that are reported," said Sue Starkey, director of health for the Northeast District Department of Health. "Right now it looks like there are just a few cases in Windham County, but we know that they will double and double and double to the point where they blow up. Don't be complacent just because the numbers look low."

Starkey said that cases could be lower in Windham County for a variety of reasons. According to the most recent census data, Windham County is much less populated than other counties in Connecticut, like Hartford.

Starkey also said that a lack of testing could be behind a smaller amount of confirmed cases. There are no drive-through testing sites in Windham County, according to the NDDH.

"It probably has something to do with the lack of testing," said Starkey. "The availability of testing in this area has increased over time, especially since they have added more labs that can run the test, but there is still not enough in this area."

Starkey said that if someone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, shortness of breath or a cough, that person should call a doctor. If the person passes a screening for COVID-19 testing, their doctor will connect the patient to a testing site.

The closest drive-through testing site in the state is in Norwich at Backus Hospital. That can be a 45 minute to an hour drive for some people living in Windham County.

There are options to get tested at other sites in Windham County that are not drive-thru sites, but testing is prioritized for people who are considered high risk including healthcare workers, nursing home residents, first responders, etc.

For example, Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam is not testing unless there are symptoms. They are also not testing those with mild to moderate symptoms unless they are in the high risk population. The hospital would not tell NBC Connecticut how many people have been tested at the location.

According to the chief medical officer for Day Kimball Healthcare, the hospital never had plans for a community testing site and they do not have any plans in place right now, however they are exploring options to determine the need for a testing site.

Hartford Healthcare's Windham Hospital also has no drive-thru site and they do not plan on implementing one. However, they have tested 63 patients at the hospital since March 2. Windham patients are also referred to the testing site at Backus Hospital.

Starkey said that her team has been working in coordination with providers to monitor testing needs in the area and they will continue to monitor needs and respond accordingly.

The biggest challenge facing the NDDH, according to Starkey, is trying to convince people how important it is to stay home, especially now.

"We are trying to get the entire community to stay home and stay safe. Many people are ignoring the message," said Starkey. "Stay home, stay safe. Protect everybody that you care about and protect yourself."

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