The number of COVID-19 cases in southeastern Connecticut continues to rise. Norwich and New London are now under COVID-19 alerts from the Department of Public Health, experiencing the highest daily case rates in the state.
"The numbers we are experiencing today are higher than we have ever seen in this pandemic. Since the very beginning," said Stephen Mansfield, director of health for Ledge Light Health District. "All of those measures and cautions that people put in place back in March and April, they should be doing now."
The DPH issued a COVID alert for New London yesterday. The city recorded 84 new cases since last Friday. The overall health district is experiencing an uptick as well, with 181 new cases reported this week.
"We are trying to get the word out to the community that we can control the spread of the virus, but people have to be vigilant. They have to keep their guard up," said Michael Passero, mayor of New London.
The City of Norwich has been under a COVID alert since last week; 157 residents tested positive in the last week, with as many as 32 people testing positive on Thursday.
"We have to be more cautious," said Peter Nystrom, mayor of Norwich. "I want to see everyone wearing masks in town.”
The city's positivity rate is down after a weekend of increased testing.
"The numbers continue to be high in terms of the number of cases. So I don't want people to get a false sense of security because our test rate is down," said Patrick McCormack, director of health for the Uncas Health District.
McCormack also said that recent data from a wastewater treatment testing program has recorded a decrease of COVID-19 in the sewage system, showing a glimmer of hope for the city.
"It is just one indicator of where we may be with illness in the community. The fact that we are seeing a decrease in the amount of COVID in our sewage system hopefully is an indicator that there is less in our community," said McCormack.
Contact tracers in both cities say that the virus is spreading in the community and cannot be traced back to one institution or location. Instead, contact tracers are learning that the virus is spreading at small social and familial gatherings where people may be ignoring distancing requirements and not wearing masks.
“Some people are just very apologetic. Saying, 'I just thought it would be okay and I recognize that it is not and here I am having to isolate,'" said McCormack. "Please wash your hands. Please maintain that social distance and please wear a mask."
Both health districts are asking people to follow all guidelines and limit their social circles.
"Social distancing is very important. So is mask wearing, but that does not mean that you should invite all of the neighbors over for a barbecue. It is a pretty simple concept: the more human beings you come in contact with, the more likely you are to get COVID-19," said Mansfield.
The state is assisting Norwich and New London with resources for testing and contact tracing.
Public health leaders are asking people to get tested. There will be increased testing available in the region.
“So we can identify those individuals who may be transmitting in the community with out their knowledge," said Mansfield.