The City of Norwich is under a COVID-19 alert from the Department of Public Health, as cases in the city continue to climb. According to DPH, the city is now experiencing the highest daily case rate in the state.
In the last eight days, 119 Norwich residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID-19. For comparison, in early August about five Norwich residents were testing positive weekly.
Norwich Public Schools and Norwich Free Academy will be in a remote learning model for the next two weeks out of an abundance of caution, according to school leaders.
Under the COVID-19 alert, people living in Norwich are asked to limit travel within the city, wear a mask if leaving home and avoid gatherings with people who are not family.
"Refine your circle of friends and family. Limit it as we did at the beginning. We have to do that to get the numbers down," said Mayor Peter Nystrom.
Nystrom is joining public health leaders in emphasizing the need for increased testing in the city.
According to the Uncas Health District, which covers Bozrah, Franklin, Griswold, Lebanon, Lisbon, Montville, Norwich, Preston, Salem, Sprague, and Voluntown, the spike in cases in Norwich has not been traced back to one location or event. Instead, the city is experiencing "community spread," making testing even more important.
"It brings line of sight to to the problem and the issue," said Dr. William Horgan of Backus Hospital.
Dr. Horgan said that Backus Hospital is admitting COVID-19 patients at the same rate, if not higher, as when the pandemic first started.
"This is completely serious," said Dr. Horgan.
Because of the increase in cases, Hartford Healthcare introduced a pop-up testing site on Stott Avenue in the city Friday. They tested 130 people in four hours.
Backus Hospital is also extending hours at its testing site this weekend, operating from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Soon, the testing site at Backus will be moved to Dodd Stadium to increase capacity.
There are seven different free testing opportunities in the City of Norwich this weekend. No appointment is necessary.
- Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle School, 25 Mahan Drive, Norwich 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday October 3rd
- Backus Hospital, 326 Washington Street, Norwich 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday October 3rd and Sunday October 4th
- Three Rivers Community College, 574 New London Turnpike, Norwich 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday October 3rd and Sunday October 4th
- Uncas School, 290 Elizabeth Street Ext, Norwich 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday October 3rd
- Norwich Adult Education, 191 Hickory Street, Norwich 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday October 4th
"I think everyone should get tested," said Nystrom.
Dr. Horgan said that he also believes all Norwich residents should consider getting tested, even if they are not showing symptoms.
“Asymptomatic carriers, that we are calling the super spreaders, are so concerning because they have no symptoms and so they think they are not sick, but they actually might be positive and they might be spreading it to other individuals, family members or community members," said Dr. Horgan.
The city is working to make sure the message reaches all community members.
According to Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a member of the Norwich Board of Education, there are more than 30 languages spoken in Norwich schools. Khalsa made information fliers in 10 languages to hang up around the city.
“Of course they will pay more attention to the sign which is written in their language and they can understand the value of the message," said Khalsa.
Those resources will be paired with additional messaging from the state. The state also provides contact tracers translation tools.
Additionally, Nystrom said that the city is reaching out to area clergy to make sure religious communities are aware.
The breakdown of cases in Norwich for the last eight days is as follows:
- September 24: 4 new cases
- September 25: 10 new cases
- September 26: 13 new cases
- September 27: 12 new cases
- September 28: 15 new cases
- September 29: 26 new cases
- September 30: 12 new cases
- October 1: 27 new cases
The state has offered the city help. Nystrom said his office is now working with the state to bring those resources to the city, especially for contact tracing.
"With the numbers coming in, there is no way the Uncas Health District can do it alone. It is just impossible," said Nystrom. “We’ve got to work to beat this together."