SHELTON — The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Shelton have jumped to 17, according to health district officials, and COVID-19 positive tests sit at 129, by far the most in the Valley.

With Seymour reporting its first COVID-19-related death, the Naugatuck Valley Health District states that there have been 18 total deaths at this point. Sixteen of the deaths were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. These deaths have been confirmed through laboratory testing.

“It is evident that we are in the acceleration phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning we are consistently receiving an increasing number of cases,” said NVHD Director Jessica Stelmaszek. “With an increasing number of cases, we can expect that we will continue to have an increased number of COVID-19 related deaths.

“We expect the Valley cases to continue to rise over the next few days,” added Stelmaszek. “We will continue to remain in this phase until we are consistently seeing declining cases, at which point we move into the deceleration phase of the pandemic.”

For public health surveillance, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 associated deaths are defined as patients who tested positive for COVID-19 around the time of death; this is not a determination of the cause of death, she said.

In all, there were 279 residents in the Naugatuck Valley that, as of 7:30 p.m. Monday, had tested positive for the coronavirus. There were 44 in Naugatuck, 38 in Ansonia, 32 in Seymour, 23 in Derby and 13 in Beacon Falls.

Data show that 95, or 34 percent, of the 279 confirmed cases among Valley residents are individuals who currently reside in a nursing home, assisted living facility, group home or similar setting. Eighty of Shelton’s 129 confirmed COVID-19 cases are residents of nursing or assisting living facilities.

Of the Valley deaths, 14 were people 80 and older, three were between 70 and 79, and one was between 60 and 69 years of age.

Three Shelton assisted living facilities — Apple Rehab Shelton Lakes, Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation and Gardner Heights Health Care Center — all were listed as having a worker or individual test positive for the coronavirus, according to state health officials.

More than 50 such facilities across the state have at least one worker or resident who has tested positive for the virus.

Public Safety Director Mike Maglione said earlier this week that several positive cases are in the city’s nursing home community, but the virus is also among the general population. There are five nursing home facilities in Shelton, according to Maglione, housing some 450 residents altogether.

“Positive cases are scattered throughout the city,” said Maglione. “That is why we constantly reinforce social distancing. Stay away from crowds … and wash your hands.”

Statewide, as of April 6, there were more than 6,900 confirmed cases and 206 reported deaths, including the 17 from Shelton. There are 1,221 coronavirus patients hospitalized, up 79 from Sunday, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

Lamont’s executive orders have shuttered all schools until at least April 20 and closed all nonessential businesses until further notice. Gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. The governor said last week that schools may remain closed until the fall.

“Residents should continue to heed the advice of their chief elected officials,” said Stelmaszek, “and stay home as much as possible and continue to practice social distancing to avoid exposure and further spread of the virus.”

The NVHD defines a “person under investigation” as anyone who has been identified as someone who may have the virus that causes COVID-19 or who was under investigation but tested negative.

“The health district has received many requests to report ‘recovery’ statistics,” said Stelmaszek. “Currently, there is no reliable recovery data available. Health district staff will continue to work with patients to determine when an individual meets the CDC’s criteria to come out of self-isolation.”

The state Department of Public Health now publishes a report at www.ct.gov/coronavirus that breaks down positive COVID-19 cases by town.

The NVHD release states that the physician who ordered the coronavirus test for the patient and health district staff will contact individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

“Those individuals will remain in quarantine at their homes,” stated the NVHD release. “Individuals who reside in the same household as a laboratory confirmed positive case will also be required to self-quarantine at their home. Health department staff will work with the patients to investigate and determine if additional individuals need to be notified or require 14-day self-monitoring periods at home. If an individual is inpatient or in a healthcare facility, that facility will lead the investigation.”

Stelmaszek said health district officials are “hopeful that some of our residents will start meeting criteria to come out of self-isolation. Most individuals in Connecticut will not have a test to determine if they are still contagious.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com