By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer
To date, Hartford county has confirmed more than 9,000 cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The state collectively has reported 29, 973 confirmed cases and 2,556 deaths.
Those numbers are only expected to grow over the next month, with a peak in cases and deaths projected for late April and early May, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.
While those numbers indicate that infection and deaths have increased steadily, a continued drop in daily hospitalizations provided an encouraging sign that lockdown measures had been effective. Mayor Luke Bronin was cautiously optimistic in highlighting this at a tele-town hall meeting on Thursday, making sure to stress that the city was still not clear of danger.
“It’s something that should be encouraging to some extent,” he said of the drop in hospitalizations. “But if you think back to a month ago, the number of people getting this and being hospitalized [now] would have been really scary to us. We’re going to have to continue to do everything we can to make sure that that trend continues down rather than reverse.”
While Bronin stressed caution, Gov. Ned Lamont held a press conference the same day to outline his phased reopening strategy for Connecticut. The four-stage plan of cascading re-openings and lifting of lockdown measures follows on the heels of similar efforts in states across the country in recent days.
The plan, designed to be slow and methodical, will rely on a constant and close analysis of infection rates county by county. According to Lamont, it will begin on May 20 if the state has recorded a 14-day drop in hospitalizations by that time.
Source: DATA HAVEN
Those first unease steps forward will include the reopening of ‘personal service’ businesses, like hair and nail salons, outdoor museums and zoos, and outdoor recreational areas.
However, the momentum of reopening will be informed from start to finish by a long list of considerations. This includes the amount personal protective equipment available at any given time, the status of high-risk populations, and – perhaps most importantly – widespread access to testing.
Throughout the press conference, the governor was keen to highlight the necessity of high-volume testing in ensuring consumer safety and confidence.
“This is not something for me to take lightly,” the governor said. “This is not something for the business community to take lightly. It is absolutely vital.”
Looking to the successes and failures of governments across the world, Lamont stressed that testing is key to preventing a resurgence of cases. As infection numbers are likely to re-increase as more people emerge from their homes, testing gives officials the ability to identify and isolate potential hotspots before they flare up.
“Testing is on track,” he said of the state’s efforts. “We’re expanding that, and that’s a real priority for me and a real priority for our team.”
Additional testing facilities have opened across towns and counties statewide. In Hartford, a number of mobile test facilities, meant to fill gaps in the city’s current capabilities, have begun operating. Vans managed by Hartford HealthCare in coordination with the government have been ferrying doctors and testing equipment to neighborhoods that have little or no access to existing medical infrastructure.
As Connecticut cautiously moves forward in its plans to reopen, it does so in conjunction with a coalition of states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Delaware.
Officials believe that by coordinating reopening phases, they can avoid flare ups and cross-border infections surges across the Northeast.