Health Department Recommends Three Counties Mask Up Again

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's Health Department issued a recommendation Thursday that residents go back to wearing masks indoors when in Hartford, New Haven or New London Counties and said evidence suggests the state is entering into another wave of the pandemic.

The department said all three counties have been downgraded into the category of “substantial transmission” areas under the classification system set up by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The department said the mask-wearing recommendation holds for everyone in those counties, regardless of vaccination status.

The state also reported that four towns — Bozrah, Hartland, Salem, and Sprague — are now in the state’s “red zone,” indicating they have case rates over the last two weeks of greater than 15 per 100,000 people. There were two towns in the “red zone” last week.

“The recent increase in the case rate and hospitalization rate among unvaccinated persons suggests that we are seeing the beginning of the fourth pandemic wave in Connecticut," the department said in its weekly report. “This wave is caused by the delta variant.”

There is already an executive order in place that requires all individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear a cloth face covering when indoors and unable to maintain an adequate distance from others.

The department also is recommending that all state residents who have underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for COVID-19 complications, or who live with high-risk or unvaccinated individuals, wears masks in indoor public spaces.

The state reported that seven more people died over the past week from causes related to COVID-19, bringing the state total to 8,293 during the pandemic.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus rose by nine on Thursday to 112.

The department also reported that it has now recorded 1,133 so-called “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 and a total of 27 deaths among fully vaccinated people during the pandemic. But they said that represents just .06% of those who have been vaccinated. Of the 1,133 cases, there were 171 hospitalizations.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Connecticut has increased by just over 190 or 207.1%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

There were 87.3 new cases per 100,000 people in Connecticut over the past two weeks, which ranks 41st in the country for new cases per capita. One in every 1,809 people in Connecticut tested positive in the past week.

Health officials say the spike in cases is directly related to the prevalence of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.

“Back with the (original) virus, the average number of people, across a large population, was each person infected spread it to two other people,” Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief clinical officer for Yale New Haven Health, said in a news conference Thursday. "With the delta variant, that number is six other people.”