Greenwich Hospital shifts policies as it admits more COVID patients who have not been vaccinated

GREENWICH — With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in town, Greenwich Hospital has changed its policy for visitors and has admitted a number patients with the coronavirus who have not been vaccinated, President Diane Kelly said Wednesday.

The hospital was treating six COVID-positive patients as of Wednesday, one of whom was in the intensive care unit, Kelly said in a town update on the coronavirus with First Selectman Fred Camillo. Of those six patients, five of them were not vaccinated against the virus, she said.

Throughout the Yale New Haven Health System, of which Greenwich Hospital is a part, there were 78 COVID-19 patients, with 22 in ICUs and 11 on mechanical ventilators, Kelly said. Of the 78 patients in the five hospitals in the YNHHS, 63 patients had not been vaccinated, she said.

“We continue to have strong evidence that vaccination is the way to protect one’s self from this,” Kelly said. “We are definitely urging people to please get their vaccine.”

As of Wednesday, the town had 55 active cases of COVID-19, Camillo said. Greenwich has seen a total of 5,827 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020. That total is up 50 cases since last week, he said.

Greenwich Hospital is requiring that everyone wear a mask at all times, unless they are alone in a room, Kelly said. It has also adjusted its policy for visitors, with only one visitor allowed to see a patient per day during visiting hours of 2 to 8 p.m., she said. No re-entry or swapping of visitors is allowed, but exemptions will be made for patients with disabilities and those receiving immanent end-of-life care, Kelly said.

The changes are because of the “prevalence of positive cases we’re seeing,” she said.

Vaccines remain “readily available” in town, including at local CVS and Walgreens locations as well as the Greenview Pharmacy on North Water Street and the North Street Pharmacy, Kelly said.

“We are continuing to do outreach throughout the system and throughout the state to encourage people to be vaccinated and offer experts to answer questions,” she said.

Camillo offered anecdotal evidence that residents are taking the variant seriously. He said he had talked to two people in the last few days who had not been vaccinated but were doing so now.

“I think you will see those numbers start to go up.” Camillo said. “The more people get vaccinated the less cases will be out there. We remain optimistic, but we’re still keeping our eye on the ball.”

While he said the town of Greenwich will not join other municipalities in mandating masks for all indoor locations, Camillo said he will continue to review the increasing spread of COVID-19.

As of last Monday, the town is requiring masks for all employees and visitors to town buildings, including Town Hall and the libraries, regardless of vaccination status.

But even as nearby Stamford and Bridgeport have enacted new mask mandates for all buildings, including private businesses, Camillo said Wednesday he was not ready to make that call.

“We’re monitoring everything, and we hope we don’t have to do that,” he said of the broader mask mandates. “But certainly we’re keeping an eye on everything.”

Any changes in mask rules in town would be made by looking at factors such as hospitalization rates, Camillo said.

The mask policy in town-owned building is to “get us through this rough patch” with cases rising due to the highly contagious delta variant, Camillo said. And he raised the possibility of even larger increases in the number of COVID-19 cases in the months ahead.

“It’s hard to predict what’s around the corner,” he said. “We have an idea that in September when everyone is back (in town) and it’s getting a little chillier, we may see a spike in cases. We will adjust accordingly. I don’t want to see events canceled. I don’t want to see capacity limits again. That’s why we’re doing the masks.”

Major events are coming to town in September and October, including the Greenwich Town Party, Putting On The Dog and the Concours d’Elegance car show, which are all scheduled to be held outdoors in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Camillo said he remains in contact with organizers and is committed to having the events go on in a safe manner.

The Greenwich Town Party is requiring that all attendees provide either proof of vaccination, proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event or proof of a negative COVID-19 rapid Antigen test taken on the day of the event.