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COVID Rate Climbs; UConn Quarantines Five Dorms

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Cars wait in line at a CVS drive-thru in Hartford, Conn., on July 16, 2020.

The state’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to trend upward, hitting 6.74% in the latest released figures.

New data from the office of Gov. Ned Lamont showed more than 1,500 new cases, nine more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and an additional 52 patients hospitalized with the virus. The highest number of hospitalizations is in New Haven County, at nearly 200. 

Yale New Haven Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Hartford became the two latest medical facilities to say they’ll limit visitors because of rising numbers of COVID patients.

Meanwhile, the state’s travel advisory now includes Maine and New Hampshire, leaving only six states or territories unaffected by travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

The University of Connecticut at Storrs announced it will place five residence halls under quarantine starting Wednesday at 7 a.m. after discovering 34 new COVID cases, the highest number reported in a single day since testing began.

The university hopes the preventive quarantine will help contain the outbreak, but the move places over 500 students on lockdown, many of whom don’t have symptoms.  

Peter Fenteany, a senior at UConn and the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, said he’s not surprised by the outbreak. 

“Halloween was telegraphed as the last terrible chance for arriving cases, and I almost think it’s assured that this is the result of small or large groups gathering to celebrate Halloween with each other,” Fenteany told Connecticut Public Radio.

Fenteany said quarantining buildings has proved to be an effective strategy, but the university is falling short in other ways in handling the pandemic.

“I commend UConn on a statistics and public health level for that,” he said. “However, I do think it’s important for UConn to make sure to support quarantined students, especially those who might work or have in-person classes and whose lives are thrown into disarray.”

UConn students are expected to break for Thanksgiving starting Nov. 22 and will not return to campus for in-person learning for the rest of the semester. However, the university will make accommodations for those under quarantine if needed. 

Closures and accommodations also continued in the state’s public school districts. School bus company First Student is expected to submit a corrective plan to the state Department of Public Health after a group of bus drivers in New Haven contracted the coronavirus. 

A student death at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury has temporarily shut down in-person learning there. No medical history or cause of death has been revealed by Waterbury Public Schools, but officials said they made the move “out of an abundance of caution.”

Meanwhile, Shelton Public Schools became the first to announce they’ll go remote for the rest of this calendar year. 

According to figures from the state Department of Education, there were 427 student cases of coronavirus in the first six weeks of school. In the next month, that figure more than doubled. The state argues that despite the uptick, the number still represents less than 1% of Connecticut’s total student population.

State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has emphasized the governor’s guidance to state residents to limit the size of gatherings outside of school to mitigate the spread of the virus so that students have the best chance of continuing in-person classes.

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