Public health leaders in Southeastern Connecticut are tracking an increase in COVID-19 cases.
"People are fatigued. They are tired of COVID-19, like we all are, and they are letting their guards down," said Stephen Mansfield, director of health for Ledge Light Health District.
LLHD recorded 60 new cases during the week of Sept. 19-25 and another 43 new cases this weekend alone. Those numbers compare to a low point of five new cases a week in mid-August.
"We are experiencing higher numbers than we did in April of this year and we don't want to see that continue," said Mansfield.
Mansfield said that the virus is spreading within families and households. Cases are generally higher in more densely populated towns. He also said some people are gathering and not following COVID-19 protocols.
"Whenever you have people in a large gathering, it provides opportunity for person to person transmission," said Mansfield.
A return to school and work has also had an impact. Mansfield said that there have been eight cases so far in the schools within Ledge Light's district. With people going out more places, contact tracing has become increasingly more difficult.
"Our primary goal in public health in regard to COVID-19 is to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19. That is what we are doing. We have been doing it since the beginning of the pandemic," said Mansfield. "Unfortunately things are ramping up a bit and it is just becoming a little bit more difficult to do."
Higher case numbers are being tracked in Uncas Health District, covering the Norwich region, as well.
"It is definitely an uptick and the numbers are indicating that there is a slightly higher positivity rate in Norwich than in surrounding towns," said Patrick McCormack, Director of Health for Uncas Health District.
The health district recorded 68 new cases for the week of Sep 19-25. 45 of the new cases were in Norwich.
McCormack said that there are a number of theories as to why case numbers are rising. He said the numbers could be a result of the Labor Day holiday. People are also getting surgical procedures again, which require a COVID-19 test before. McCormack said with more people needing a test, the results could be revealing the virus in people who were asymptomatic and would not have gotten tested otherwise.
Uncas Health District is also still receiving reports of gatherings. McCormack said that contact tracing has become much more time-consuming.
"When we started with this, six months ago, contact tracing was relatively easy," said McCormack. "People were staying home."
Both public health leaders are stressing the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols including hand-washing, wearing a mask and maintaining six feet of distance.
"We don't want to see businesses close. We don't want to see schools close. All of the progress we have made could go backwards," said Mansfield.