Connecticut traffic picks up, but still less than in January

Traffic has picked up across much of Connecticut as more businesses reopen and people return to work, but there are still fewer drivers on the roads than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Data compiled by The Associated Press show there are currently about three times the vehicle miles traveled in Connecticut compared to the state's lowest seven-day period in April, shortly after Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont ordered the closing of non-essential businesses and other functions to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

However, travel is still well below normal, down about 34% compared with January. The increases seen in May and June have now slowed to a trickle over the last two weeks and average miles traveled have remained steady at about 62 million per day across Connecticut.

On April 12, which was Easter Sunday, travel was down nearly 87% compared with January, the largest single day drop during the pandemic.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation saw steep drops in other forms of travel during the pandemic as well. In a June 29 briefing for state legislators, DOT said there was a 95% loss in ridership on the New Haven Line, Shoreline East and Hartford Line commuter rail lines during the beginning of the pandemic. By mid June, that had improved slightly to a 90% loss in ridership.

Bus ridership initially experienced a 50% to 60% drop, depending on the community. But DOT said on June 29 that had improved to a 35% reduction from pre-pandemic average ridership.

In other coronavirus related news:

NO NEW DEATHS

For the second time this week, the state on Friday reported no new deaths compared with the previous day. To date, there have been 4,348 COVID-19-associated deaths in Connecticut during the pandemic

Meanwhile, the number of positive cases increased by 78 to 47,287 as of Friday, yet hospitalizations dropped by 13 to a total of 77 patients.

"I’ve always cautioned against reading too much into one or two day’s data, but I’m pleased that as we head into the weekend our numbers remain good,” Lamont said in a written statement, adding that a 0.6% positive test rate, low hospitalizations and zero new deaths show the state's plan is working.

“We are counting on everyone to continue to wear face coverings, keep a distance, follow the guidelines, and get tested if you’re feeling any symptoms,” he said. "Together, we can buck the negative trends we are seeing around the country.”

Despite the state's low infection rate, there were still 47 new cases and 10 COVID-19-associated deaths among nursing home residents from July 1-7, according to new information released Friday. During that period, state officials said there were 38 new infections and one death among nursing home staff, who recently have begun getting tested at many facilities. Those positive cases include staff who were asymptomatic, something state officials said is expected in these early rounds of testing.

At assisted living facilities, where many staff are also being tested for the first time, there were 22 workers who tested positive from July 1-7. The figure includes staff who were asymptomatic. Among residents, there were three positive tests and one death during the same time period.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.

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UCONN TEAMS

The University of Connecticut says the members of its football and men’s basketball teams, who already returned to campus, have all tested negative for the coronavirus.

The school says is has conducted 150 tests on athletes since June and none have come back positive.

“It is my expectation that a future positive test is inevitable but I am confident that the procedures we have in place will mitigate any community spread,” UConn Athletic Director David Benedict said.

Members of UConn’s men’s basketball team returned to campus on June 19, and football players returned on July 1. The women’s basketball team, which had been approved to return, has chosen to come back later this month.

The plan for men’s basketball and football was submitted to state higher education officials as a pilot program, which the school says will allow it to solidify policies and procedures prior to the general student body’s return in mid-August.