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Daily COVID-19 positivity rate reaches record 24%

COVID collection specialist Robin Mullaney swabs Gabrielle Butler, 18, of Farmington while administering the test during Griffin Health's COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Tunxis Community College on Nov. 12, 2020.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
Gabrielle Butler, 18, of Farmington is swabbed by COVID collection specialist Robin Mullaney during Griffin Health's COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Tunxis Community College on Nov. 12, 2020.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday that the state reached a new record high of 24% for its daily coronavirus test positivity rate. The number outpaced a record 21.5% positivity rate set on Monday.

Data released by the state Department of Public Health on Tuesday showed the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations at 1,562, increasing by more than 100 since the day before.

That’s more hospitalizations than during a big winter surge in Connecticut a year ago.

“Twenty-four percent [positivity] rate is lousy, and it may get worse before it gets better,” Lamont said at a news conference regarding the COVID-19 mitigation plan for schools.

Lamont said the positivity rate is becoming more important because of the impact it can have on the number of available workers. If too many people get sick, it can cause a shortage of bus drivers, teachers, factory workers or restaurant servers.

“But we have the tools in place, provided you take advantage of the tools — the masks, the vaccinations and then the testing,” Lamont said.

The governor said helpful new developments since the start of the pandemic include vaccine booster shots and more widely available N95 masks.

“We have the tools to keep you safe and to keep going about our lives,” Lamont said.

The state’s seven-day average positivity rate stands above 20%, which Connecticut has not seen since the spring of 2020.

Hospitalizations of COVID-positive patients have also exceeded the winter peak from December 2020. The state says about 70% of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.

Hartford HealthCare officials said that in the next few days, they expect to surpass peak numbers from the onset of the pandemic.

“What’s really important to note is at that particular moment we had about 128 patients who were ICU-bound. They were in critical care. And right now, we have 55 patients in critical care,” said Hartford HealthCare’s Dr. Ajay Kumar said, adding that hospital capacity is not yet an issue.

Officials say the availability of vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments are likely why Hartford HealthCare hospitals are seeing fewer intensive care unit patients now than during the 2020 peak.

Low numbers in the ICU allow the hospital network to shift efforts elsewhere, to the emergency department and COVID testing.

Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s system director of infectious disease, said cases are likely high due to the holidays, but they are expected to level out.

"Over the next few days and weeks we’re going to see a clarity — a clarity that will discern what direction we will be heading with this current wave. I do think that it will be favorable,” Wu said.

Wu noted that the majority of COVID hospitalizations at the moment are due to the delta variant — not the recently arrived omicron variant.

Although omicron infects more people, he said early studies suggest it is less likely to make people sick enough to need hospitalization, especially among fully vaccinated patients.