COVID cases rise in Connecticut schools, as U.S. surpasses 1 million deaths

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Connecticut reported an additional 25 fatalities Thursday, bringing its total during the pandemic to 10,883.

Connecticut reported an additional 25 fatalities Thursday, bringing its total during the pandemic to 10,883.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Connecticut, state numbers show, as the United States has now surpassed 1 million coronavirus-linked deaths.

Though the use of at-home COVID-19 tests makes it difficult to truly assess the prevalence of the disease, what’s clear is the numbers have trended steadily upward. After averaging as few as 300 daily cases in mid-March, the state has now averaged nearly 1,400 over the past week.

That increase has been particularly sharp in schools, with Connecticut on Thursday reporting 4,732 new COVID-19 cases among students, up from 3,018 last week and the most in a week since January. Additionally, 1,431 staff tested positive, according to the state, also most in a week since January.

After spiking over the winter amid Connecticut’s omicron variant surge, cases among students and staff in schools dipped in February and March — falling below 1,000 weekly cases — before jumping again in late April. Unlike during previous COVID-19 waves, masks are not required in schools statewide, and almost no school districts continue to mandate them locally.

Statewide, Connecticut’s seven-day positivity rate currently stands at 13.2 percent, highest of any time since January, and the state has 291 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, slightly fewer than earlier this week but still more than at previous points this spring.

Though deaths, which tend to lag other metrics by several weeks, have not yet spiked in Connecticut, the state reported an additional 25 fatalities Thursday, bringing its total during the pandemic to 10,883.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday directed all flags in Connecticut to half-staff to recognize the country passing 1 million total COVID deaths.

“To everyone who lost a loved one — whether it be a mother, father, sibling, child, grandparent, friend, neighbor, or other loved one — I offer my deepest condolences and pray for each of them,” Lamont said in a statement. “I urge everyone to remain vigilant against this disease.”

In a statement Thursday, President Joe Biden called the 1 million deaths a “tragic milestone.”

"One million empty chairs around the dinner table," Biden said. "Each leaving behind a family, a community and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic."

In Connecticut, COVID-19 has been increasingly difficult to shake, as the spread of the BA.2 subvariant has corresponded with an extended spike in transmission. This has not only led to an increase in cases and hospitalizations, but also led some experts to question assumptions about the role seasonality plays in coronavirus spread.

“Variants will always undo seasonality,” Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare, said this week.

As of Thursday, 158 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities qualified for the state’s “red alert” distinction, which is triggered when a community records at least 15 daily cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period. Easton has recorded the most per-capita COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks of any town or city, followed by Old Lyme, Guilford, Fairfield, Westport and Woodbridge.

Three Connecticut counties — Hartford, New Haven and Middlesex — qualify as having “high” levels of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the state’s other five counties have “medium” levels. Under the CDC’s alternate COVID-19 transmission map, all eight counties are listed as having “high” transmission.