Connecticut's winter COVID-19 spike has officially arrived – CT Insider

COVID-19 cases in Connecticut have spiked since Thanksgiving, state numbers show.
COVID-19 cases in Connecticut have spiked since Thanksgiving, state numbers show, the apparent arrival of a long-feared winter surge.
As of this weekend, Connecticut had recorded 3,804 positive tests over the past seven days (up from about 2,200 during the week leading up to the holiday) with a positivity rate of 10.5 percent. Meanwhile, the state had 467 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, up 54 from the week prior and the most at a time since mid-February.
“We have been seeing some increase in COVID transmission here in Connecticut, as well as other respiratory viruses like the flu,” said Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health. “It’s difficult to project what the trajectory is going to look like, but we always anticipate seeing more respiratory viruses in the winter season.”
Dr. Paul Anthony, an infectious disease specialist at Hartford HealthCare, called the recent uptick “totally expected,” following Thanksgiving, a time when people generally gather together indoors.
“We were all expecting to see this shortly after Thanksgiving, and it’s happening,” Anthony said. “There was a lot of traveling, because folks are getting together with friends, families they maybe haven’t seen the last two Thanksgivings.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” map, all but one Connecticut county (New London) currently has “medium” levels of COVID-19. Based on the agency’s stricter “community transmission” map, all eight counties currently have “high” or “substantial” transmission levels.

With this winter so far following a similar pattern to the previous two, with cases rising sharply as temperatures fall, the question now is whether things will get as bad this time around. During the state’s first pandemic winter, Connecticut saw more than 1,000 patients at a time hospitalized with COVID-19, and as many as 300 coronavirus-linked deaths a week. Last year was even worse by some measures, with record case counts and nearly 2,000 hospitalizations at one point, though also fewer deaths.
Due to vaccines and improved treatment protocols, COVID-19 is not as deadly as it once was. Still, the state continues to see fatalities related to the disease, including 16 last week, bringing the state’s total to 11,603 during the pandemic.
Experts say it’s difficult to predict whether this winter will be as bad as the last two, noting that, unlike last year, there is no particularly threatening new variant to worry about. Connecticut could see another major spike, leading to thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths — or a more moderate uptick such as the one the state experienced this summer.
Complicating the situation is the prevalence of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, both of which have spread in large quantities this fall and winter. While RSV appears to have slowed slightly after overwhelming children’s hospitals in October and November, the flu continues to circulate in large quantities.
Anthony said the region has seen “probably the worst flu year, at least so far, in the last decade.”
“You have, across the United States, almost four times the amount of hospitalization we would usually see at this time of the year,” he said. “Because it’s still early in the flu season.”
Given the so-called “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV, officials at the CDC are again encouraging Americans to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces. Anthony said he wears a mask when he goes out in public, while Banach said he does not, unless it’s a particularly high-risk setting (including the hospital, where all staff continue to mask).
Experts also encourage vaccination against both flu and COVID-19. According to state numbers, 657,929 Connecticut residents have so far received a new bivalent COVID booster, out of about 2.8 million who are eligible.
“Vaccination is critical, and that’s for both flu and for COVID,” Banach said.
Alex Putterman is a statewide reporter with CT Insider. Previously, he spent four years at The Hartford Courant, covering a variety of subjects, including sports, climate and the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex grew up in West Hartford and lives with his fiancée in East Hartford. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching baseball and doing crossword puzzles.